I had the opportunity to participate in two recent events leading up to the G-20 Summit in Toronto, which engaged youth on the global stage—the G(irls) 20 Summit and MY SUMMIT. These delegates demonstrated an intuitive understanding of today’s global challenges and offered solutions to governments. The G(irls) Summit urged leaders to take specific actions to expand the access of girls and women to education, healthcare and economic opportunities.  At MY SUMMIT, youth issued a communiqué on global security, economic recovery, and climate change.

Young people’s voices are critical to our global dialogue. As the G-20 leaders gather to map out strategies for global economic recovery, I hope they seriously consider the recommendations made by youth leaders. Why? Because the world’s youth population—1.1 billion young people ages 15 to 25—is the largest in history. Eighty-five percent of them live in developing countries. Their voices count as they will face the consequences of our actions today.

We should not lose sight of the opportunities presented by this “youth-bulge”. The global financial crisis has compounded the challenges in many developing countries. Unemployment rates in Africa increased and disproportionately affected youth.  The sheer numbers of young people entering the workforce mean that they will play a pivotal role in enabling sustainable economic recovery. For this to happen, we must invest in their potential.

When we listen to youth from developing countries talk about what they need to succeed in today’s global economy, they point to market-relevant skills, access to financial services and technology, and opportunities to contribute to their communities. Many of them are already economically active. Education, entrepreneurship and employment of youth will spur economic growth and social progress. Investment in these areas should be addressed by our G-20 leaders in the plans for global economic recovery and poverty reduction.

It’s terrific that young people are engaged in discussions at the G-20 Summit. I hope that world leaders are inspired and motivated by the ideas, experiences and leadership of these young people. Youth are shaping today’s global economy. They want to contribute to the future they will inherit.