1.21 billion. That’s how many young people between 15 - 24 inhabit the earth – 15.5 per cent of the global population, according to estimates in the 2020 United Nations World Youth Report.
To better the world they stand to inherit, this socially conscious group has unleashed their collective will and might, raising their voices to demand that companies and governments address such issues from gender, racial and socioeconomic inequality to climate change. Without waiting for an invitation or permission, youth activists rally their peers, start and fuel movements, shift loyalties to entities that align with their values, call out political leaders and defy the status quo to help shape a world they want to live in – one in which all can thrive.
Since being endorsed by the General Assembly in 1999, 12 August has marked International Youth Day to acknowledge and amplify the importance of youth participation in current affairs. UNFPA champions the rights of young people and works toward enabling them to fulfill their potential.
This year’s theme is “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages” to combat ageism and build bridges between generations. From the wisdom of youth to the energy and idealism of the elderly, we must welcome and leverage the gifts people of all ages bring and ensure no one is left behind. The world’s problems are too vast for entire generations to be absent from helping address them.
Ageism manifests in discrimination, which often intersects with sexism and racism, and can have deleterious effects on health and participation in various spheres. UNFPA works toward a world where every person’s potential is fulfilled. For young people, that means they have access to comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health care to exercise bodily autonomy and make informed decisions about their bodies, lives and futures. Such a right is fundamental to self-actualization.
We celebrate young people’s efforts and contributions big and small toward righting the world’s wrongs and pulling others along with them. Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders who know that nothing will change if they stand by; change only happens when they stand up. UNFPA, which works in bringing rights and choices to all, empowers them to do so.