02/11/2012 11:52 GMT | Updated 02/01/2013 05:12 GMT

Roll Up, Roll Up for World Leaders' Balancing Act

The High Level Panel meeting in London today has to perform a high wire act. In full public view they are balancing the interests of governments, private sector and civil society to get agreement on a new set of development goals for the world.

If they succeed we will have a way forward to end world poverty. If they fail, the whole development framework could crash to the ground or retreat with a whimper, like recent failed climate change summits. In recognition of the UK's leadership on global development, our Prime Minister has the high honour of leading the panel. Along with the Presidents of Indonesia and Liberia, his challenge is to put a deal on development to the UN in September 2013.

So the questions to be solved in London today are:

1. How do we ensure that all people, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized, have the food, water, energy, health care and education they need?

2. What works in empowering people to have a decent standard of living and employment?

3. What have we learnt since the last set of Millennium Goals were agreed in 2000?

The world has changed since 2000. Then, the UN decided to concentrate on the one to two billion people living in poverty, not the whole seven billion world population. Now, some of the poorest countries in the world in sub Saharan Africa are growing fast at an average five per cent (albeit from a low base) and the financial crash means European citizens in Spain and Greece are missing out on basic services.

And much has been learned since 2000 about the benefits for us all of investing in the most excluded. The sweet spot where the global argument for human rights and the economic argument for growth comes together is shown in the case of adolescent girls.

A poor urban girl in Pakistan is 16 times less likely to go to school than a rich boy living in the city. For every pound the Government of Pakistan spends on keeping teenage girls in school, it saves three on a health service that does not have to deal with dangerous early pregnancies and child deaths. Just a one per cent increase in the number of girls who complete secondary education can increase annual per capita economic growth in some African countries by 0.3% - so securing the right to education and health for the poorest benefits everyone.

Investing in young people gives the greatest return over the years of their lifetime. We have the chance of a demographic dividend from the largest ever generation of young people - half the world is under 25 - but only if we invest in them. Right now, 75 million young people are unemployed and more than a quarter (26%) are underemployed - working but not earning enough to survive. The 26 young people who are delegates to today's conference have a personal and urgent interest in ensuring that we get development right.

Earlier this year, I was sitting under a baobab tree in Tanzania with a group of young people running their own village savings group as part of our Banking on Change project with CARE and Barclays. They had the same concerns as young British girls and boys, such as making their schools environmentally friendly. They want the opportunity to make a decent living and a sustainable future.

They will measure the success of the High Level Panel not by the wording of deals or declarations but by what happens in their local community. On whether they can call their governments to account for giving every young person the education and health care they need to move from poverty to opportunity.

That's the world that the 10 million young people that Plan works with want. If you want it too, make your views heard at: