Giving Young People the Priority They Deserve

  • 12 August 2010

Today marks the 25th International Youth Day, which is also the launch at the United Nations of the International Year of Youth. The year-long commemoration, whose theme is dialogue and mutual understanding, aims to encourage the full and effective participation of youth in all aspects of society. UNFPA is sponsoring activities throughout the year to ensure that young people's voices are heard at the highest levels, including at the September Millennium Development Goals Summit.

The voices of young people – 1.8 billion of them are now between the ages of 10 and 24 – have never been stronger. Around the world, young people are changing the media landscape, forging an international youth culture, embracing diversity and speaking up for human rights. Later this month, a major international conference will give young leaders a chance to help shape development priorities, and their agreements will feed into the MDG review process.

Young people are natural leaders, UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid noted in her statement for International Youth Day, which she will deliver at the United Nations. "They are leading the HIV prevention revolution," she stated. "They are leading the use of new technology to network, create and speak out for change. They are challenging traditional gender roles and paving the way for equity and equality in the 21st century." She also noted, however, that too many young people are denied the opportunities they need to reach their full potential, and called on decision makers to enter into an intergenerational partnership:

"Today, as we launch the International Year of Youth, on the eve of the World Youth Conference in Mexico, I am calling on decision makers to listen to the needs of young people and respond to them. I call on governments to enter meaningful dialogue with young people to develop a mutual understanding on how to jointly address the development challenges facing us. Let us enter a partnership across generations to fulfill the promise of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals to create a more peaceful and just world."

Throughout the year, UNFPA will be capturing and amplifying the voices of youth in many ways. Planned events include a global creative contest, a video project, and the training of young journalists to serve as bloggers and as guest editors for Conversations for a Better World and other social networking platforms. Several workshops are also being offered to developing leaders to help them become more effective advocates for youth.

UN opens International Year of Youth with call to tap into youngsters' talent, idealism

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