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Growing Up Global: The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries
sense of self and a sense of personal competence—are all part of effective citizenship in its best sense. Furthermore, the rights and opportunities that young people are granted and the agency they develop as part of the transition to adult citizenship are often closely linked to the outcomes of other important transitions to adulthood, including health, schooling, work, and the acquisition of adult roles in the family, as well as the range of social spaces they are ultimately able to inhabit.
In this chapter, we examine the practice of citizenship among young people as well as the institutions, policies, and programs that can foster effective citizenship in the developing world. We define citizenship broadly to encompass not only legal rights and obligations in formal political processes but also engagement with diverse social, cultural, and economic institutions and integration and full participation in families and communities. The nature of citizenship can range widely: at the most constructive end of the spectrum, it is characterized by the guarantee of voice, the development of agency, and the ability to exercise leadership in governing social and political structures; at the other end, it may be characterized by exclusion and repression. Individuals who experience successful transitions to adult citizenship feel invested and engaged; those who don’t often feel isolated and powerless. Individuals excluded from full citizenship may express apathy toward civic involvement, while others may turn to violence in a struggle, either to disrupt the system that denies them full rights and status or to create alternative social orders in which they find belonging and opportunities for participation.
Given the enormous political changes that have occurred in many countries in the developing world over the past few decades, we pay particular attention to the ways in which citizenship and community participation may be changing, especially as the “communities” with which young people can engage expand and evolve. Globalization provides them with new opportunities to participate as world citizens. Citizenship is not defined solely by national boundaries or relationships to state governments, but increasingly by interaction with global and local institutions. Young people growing up throughout the world, and especially in developing countries, must be able to negotiate a world with immense political and economic inequities and with societies torn by ethnic or religious conflict. International conventions and agreements have enshrined a set of human rights, state responsibilities, and principles for democratic governance. The young people of today and the leaders of tomorrow will be responsible for promoting, realizing, and enforcing these ideals. As the world is interconnected in ways never before, adults in the twenty-first century need to be prepared to act as global and local citizens who can effectively communicate and cooperate on such issues as the economy, the environment, and security.
Although there is a growing body of literature on young people and