12 August was designated as International Youth Day by the UN General Assembly in 1999. It is an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in promoting human rights and development. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges and hardships facing the world’s youth.
Young people are powerful agents of change and progress when they are educated and empowered to participate in decision-making. Yet around the world, too many youth are being left behind. They receive a substandard education, or no education at all, and find few decent employment opportunities. They struggle to access basic sexual and reproductive health information and services. Without these tools, young people – young women, in particular – find themselves grappling with poverty, early pregnancy, disease and other challenges.
UNFPA advocates for the rights of young people, including their right to accurate information and services related to sexual and reproductive health and their right to play a role in decisions affecting them. UNFPA's vision is to create a world where every young person can make their own choices and enjoy their rights.
2020 Theme: Youth Engagement for Global Action
The theme of International Youth Day 2020, “Youth Engagement for Global Action” seeks to highlight the ways in which the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels is enriching national and multilateral institutions and processes, as well as draw lessons on how their representation and engagement in formal institutional politics can be significantly enhanced.
As the United Nations turns 75, and with only 10 years remaining to make the 2030 Agenda a reality for all, trust in public institutions is eroding. At the international level, against the backdrop of an increasingly polarized world, the international system of governance is currently undergoing a crisis of legitimacy and relevance. In particular, this crisis is rooted in the need to strengthen the capacity of the international system to act in concert and implement solutions to pressing challenges and threats (examples include some of the worst contemporary conflicts and humanitarian emergencies, such as Syria and Myanmar, as well as global challenges, such as the COVID-19 outbreak and climate change).
Enabling the engagement of youth in formal political mechanisms does increase the fairness of political processes by reducing democratic deficits, contributes to better and more sustainable policies, and also has symbolic importance that can further contribute to restore trust in public institutions, especially among youth. Moreover, the vast majority of challenges humanity currently faces, such as the COVID-19 outbreak and climate change require concerted global action and the meaningful engagement and participation of young people to be addressed effectively.
This year’s IYD seeks to put the spotlight on youth engagement through the following three interconnected streams:
Engagement at the local/community level;
Engagement at the national level (formulation of laws, policies, and their implementation); and,
Engagement at the global level.
On International Youth Day, we want to hear young people’s voices.
As the #YouthAgainstCOVID19 conversation continues to grow, we want to hear young people speak about how they have been affected and the role this generation will take on in building and becoming leaders in the post-COVID19 ‘new normal’.
Read more about #YouthAgainstCOVID19 and how to participate here.