This white paper, co-written with Y20, explores four main questions: (1) what is youth empowerment and why is it important? (2) What is the current state of youth leadership and empowerment? (3) Why do youth choose to engage (or not engage) in leadership roles? And (4) How can those in positions of power enable youth empowerment? This work was informed by a large-scale multi-methods project, including surveys with over 10,000 youth from 20 countries, interviews with 21 current youth leaders, and working sessions with Y20 delegates.

Findings suggested that most youth are interested in being a leader and most current youth leaders feel empowered in their leadership roles. Among the primary supports for youth to pursue leadership were having access to leadership development experiences and recognizing leadership as an opportunity to help others in their community. Among the primary barriers to being a leader were inequitable opportunities for youth to lead in their country, low perceived psychological safety in being a leader, and high perceived stress of being in a leadership position. The paper concludes with ten recommendations for supporting youth empowerment, inspired by findings and recommendations from current youth leaders.

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