August 12 marks International Youth Day. Established on December 17, 1999, by the United Nations, the event aims to acknowledge the efforts of young individuals in working towards a more progressive future. The current theme for 2022 is “Intergenerational solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages.” Its main objective is to raise awareness of ageism, which is defined as discrimination on the basis of one’s age, as well as prompt the participation of people “across all generations” in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Initiatives taken by the UN in regard to the youth are based on the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY). The WPAY is divided into 15 “youth priority areas” which detail issues that the youth are facing in aspects such as education, girls and young women, environment, hunger, and poverty. It also includes suggestions on how to improve and act on those topics which often include urging governments to dedicate more resources for the betterment of the youth. Ultimately, International Youth Day is dedicated to highlighting the potential that youths have and empowering them to create meaningful change.
The Importance of Youth Participation
Today, the youth make up a significant portion of the globe, with half of the world’s population falling below the age of 30. Moreover, the number of people from the ages of 15 to 24 currently amounts to 1.2 billion but will rise by 7% in 2030. This is significant, considering that the SDGs are meant to be achieved by the same year. Despite their numbers, the youth make up a mere minority of political figures. In fact, they only account for “2.6% of parliamentarians are under 30 years old,” and the number falls to under 1% for women. Evidently, younger generations are underrepresented in vital decision-making processes.
The risks that the youth face is also often overlooked. They are, for example, likelier to face unemployment compared to adults. Moreover, their ability to partake in politics is often hindered by sociocultural barriers and financial challenges as well as political threats and pressures. Another significant obstacle for young people is the threat of climate change as research predicts that current climate trends will only worsen if no changes are made – a harsh reality that the youth today will have to shoulder in the future. It is crucial, therefore, that they have a say in how their present and future are shaped.
How Can the Youth Contribute to Progress?
Despite the numerous barriers standing in the way of youth empowerment, there are still several ways they can create societal progress. The Global Report on Protecting Young People in Civic Space urges young people to “build networks […] with other youth initiatives and organizations” that help vulnerable communities such as LGBTQAI+ youth. In creating these networks, they can raise greater awareness of the issues that younger generations face whilst mobilizing their collective efforts and reinforcing their influence on the international stage and amongst organizations such as the UN.
The youth are also encouraged to conduct their own research on matters relevant to them. By personally analyzing how certain issues impact them. The youth can guarantee that their perspectives and experiences are not disregarded. Moreover, they can work with international organizations and NGOs to ensure the incorporation of their findings into policy-making, thereby including the youth in decision-making processes.
However, these efforts can not be made alone. Rather, governments, international organizations, and civil society organizations must, for example, establish effective and “independent protection [mechanisms] for youth” using input collected through “consultations with a diverse group of youth.” In situations where the civil rights of young people are infringed upon, these mechanisms can help safeguard their security by providing them with “legal, political, financial and psychological support.” These institutions should also dedicate resources to financially supporting youth-led organizations to promote their efforts in social progress. Ultimately, the empowerment of youths requires the combined efforts of young individuals, governments, and civil society.
– Isabelle Amurao
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