The World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted by the General Assembly in 1995, provides the policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the well-being of young people around the world. Member States have repeatedly requested the United Nations system to continue their coordination towards a more coherent, comprehensive and integrated approach to youth development, most recently in General Assembly resolutions 66/121 and 68/130.

Acting on the decision of CEB of April 2012 to take additional steps to improve coordination within the system on youth issues, the High-level Committee on Programmes tasked the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development, under the leadership of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the Secretariat and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), to develop a United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Youth.

The Action Plan on Youth was guided by the World Programme of Action for Youth and focuses on joint action by the United Nations system on the issues of employment, entrepreneurship, political inclusion, civic engagement and protection of rights, education (including comprehensive sexuality education) and health. Within each thematic area, commitments, measures and indicators to monitor implementation have been enumerated and are grounded in mandates received from intergovernmental bodies, including the World Programme of Action for Youth. On the recommendation of the High-level Committee on Programmes, CEB endorsed the United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Youth at its first regular session in April 2013. The United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Youth is expected to deepen the youth focus of new and existing programmes of the United Nations system and to promote joint programmatic work.

The Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development, under the leadership of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and UNFPA, have subsequently developed guidance for implementation of the United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Youth and a communications strategy to widely publicize the Action Plan among United Nations system organizations, including at the country and regional levels.