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Young people are effective agents of change. Enthusiastic and creative, they contribute to development by addressing society’s most challenging issues, such as combating poverty and hunger in their communities, stemming the HIV/AIDS pandemic through peer education and championing the protection of the environment. Youth often lead by example by practicing green and healthy lifestyles and promoting innovative new technologies, like online social networks.

In 1985, the UN celebrated the first International Year of Youth. On its tenth anniversary, the General Assembly adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth, setting a policy framework and guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation of young people. Twenty-five years later, in 2010, the UN reiterated the importance of this issue by proclaiming the second International Year of Youth under the theme “Dialogue and Mutual Understanding”. The Year, which runs from August 2010-2011, aims to promote the ideals of peace, respect for human rights and solidarity across generations, cultures and civilizations.

Countries that invest in their young people reap the benefits through greater growth and social well-being for generations to come. It is more effective to invest early than to repair later, when badly-equipped adults turn out to be unskilled, unemployed or unhealthy. Governments should make children and youth part of their national investment strategies and provide sufficient resources for proven policies and programmes. This would allow them to achieve their intended goals with the greatest impact per dollar cost.

Video: International Year of Youth PSA

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"Let us acknowledge and celebrate what youth can do to build a safer, more just world. Let us strengthen our efforts to include young people in policies, programmes and decision-making processes that benefit their futures and ours." Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon message on International Youth Day, 12 August 2010