They are said to be more militant than their elders, more open to the world or more sensitive to environmental issues. Like the highly exposed Greta Thunberg – who is only 16 but is already spearheading the fight against climate change – are the under 25s all therefore at the forefront of the commitment faced with the major societal challenges?
One thing is certain, young people are less confident than their elders in the ability of traditional actors to address these challenges. According to a survey carried out by IPSOS for Agence Française de Développement and released in March 2018, when they are asked who are the actors capable of “making a positive change to the world”, the under 25s place citizens like themselves first (59%), just ahead of NGOs (43%) and far, very far, ahead of politicians, who only obtain 33% of votes, but also stars and celebrities (27%).
The logical consequence of this result is that two-thirds of young French people are committed or say that they want to commit themselves. What form does this commitment take? According to another survey carried out by CSA for AFD and released in March 2019, petitions are seeing continuing success: it is the form of commitment that comes first for the under 25s (71% of them have already signed one), just ahead of donations to solidarity associations (44% have already made one).
More willing… but poorly informed
Young people are willing to get involved in causes that they consider as priorities, but does this mean that they are better informed than the over 25s about the causes that matter to them? Not necessarily. In France, only 40% of them have heard about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN to ensure peace and prosperity for people and the planet.
However, this relative unfamiliarity with development issues does not stop them from being generally more in favor of Official Development Assistance than their elders: 84% against 79%. These two surveys tell us that the vast majority of young people are aware of the close links that now exist between each part of the world: 62% of the under 25s recognize that in this global world, what happens in countries in the South could have an impact on their own lives in France.
But at the same time, 76% of them consider that they are “poorly informed” about the Official Development Assistance Policy implemented by France and 43% say that they are unaware of the share of the State budget actually allocated to it.
“Young people show greater support in principle for development assistance, support for disadvantaged people, for taking environmental issues into account”, analyzes Clotilde Combe, Deputy Director of the Society Unit at CSA. “But they say that they are less informed about French and international actions and initiatives in this area, particularly about the aspects which interest them, such as the SDGs. The challenge lies in managing to turn the value of their sensitivity to these issues into a real driver for long-term commitment.”
Africa and the fight against hunger... a priority
At the global level, their first priority is for everyone to be able to satisfy their hunger and have access to water and healthcare. For 46% of the under 25s, Sub-Saharan Africa also continues to be the area of operation where France should focus its Official Development Assistance policy as a priority.
Finally, as a consequence of the growing awareness of climate issues, the majority of young French people interviewed consider that the transition towards a more sustainable model of life must be the objective of Official Development Assistance. 46% of the under 25s also consider that the fight against inequalities and the fight for the protection of the environment are now inseparable.
These two surveys therefore indicate that young people are aware but concerned for the future. These are young people who believe in the role that citizens can play and want to commit themselves, with a keen awareness of global issues, of their interconnection, and therefore of our common destiny.