The International Year of Youth, which began on 12 August last year, drew to a close today in New York. The UN system’s activities for the Year had three main objectives; to increase commitment and investment in youth; to encourage partnerships with young people and intensify their participation in society and in decision-making processes, and to foster dialogue and mutual understanding among youth.
This focus reflects the significance of the youth population. Young adults aged between 15 and 24 number 1.2 billion people, and make up nearly a fifth of the global population. It is also noteworthy that 87% of youth live in developing countries and face limited access to education and employment opportunities.
In view of these circumstances, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon summed up aims of the Year of Youth saying “youth deserve our full commitment – full access to education, adequate healthcare, employment opportunities…and full participation in public life.”
By highlighting the importance of public life, the UN Secretary-General also alluded to the great value of young people and their contributions to society. The Year of Youth also therefore celebrated the way young people demonstrate leadership, for example, by practicing environmental responsibility and developing innovative uses of new technologies.
The ability of social media to connect people was also crucial to the success of UN Youth Champion Monique Coleman’s endeavours. Ms. Coleman’s role was to engage in dialogue with young people and raise awareness of the challenges they face. In addition to her tireless travelling (26 countries in six months), she conversed daily with youth through Facebook, Twitter and her online chat show “Gimme Mo”. Today’s event was shaped through these efforts.
The Culmination Celebrations, bringing together UN departments and International Year of Youth partners, paid particular attention to the achievements of young women in community roles and the point was emphasized that long term social progress is a goal we can achieve through nurturing the aspirations of young people. As Ms. Coleman says “You can’t talk about the power of the youth without mentioning the power that youth have when they come together for change.”