International Youth Day 2009

International Youth Day, 12 August 2009

“Sustainability: Our Challenge. Our Future.”

Message of the Secretary General on IYD2009
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The theme of this year’s International Youth Day – “Sustainability: Our Challenge. Our Future” – is a global call to action for young men and women.

Our world faces multiple, interconnected crises with severe and far-reaching impacts that fall disproportionately on the young.

In 2007, for example, youth comprised 25 per cent of the world’s working age population yet accounted for 40 per cent of the unemployed.  The global economic downturn means that, in the near term, youth unemployment will continue to climb.  Unemployment rates tell only part of the story, especially for the vast majority of youth who live in developing countries.  For them, informal, insecure and low-wage employment is the norm, not the exception.

Climate change, meanwhile, continues to compromise economies and threaten tremendous upheaval, saddling young people everywhere with an unjust “ecological debt”.  This is a potentially crushing burden.  At the same time, I am encouraged by the contributions that young people have made to the debate on climate change mitigation and adaptation.  Their views and proposals can help build the momentum necessary to “seal the deal” in Copenhagen later this year.

Indeed, young people have proven themselves to be key partners in sustainable development.  They have gotten involved in international forums such as the Commission on Sustainable Development, and have helped their Governments and communities to formulate poverty reduction strategies, entrepreneurial schemes and many other policies and initiatives.

Young people often lead by example: practicing green and healthy lifestyles, or promoting innovative uses of new technologies, such as mobile devices and on-line social networks.  They deserve our full commitment — full access to education, adequate healthcare, employment opportunities, financial services and full participation in public life.  On International Youth Day, let us renew our pledge to support young people in their development.  Sustainability is the most promising path forward, and youth can lead the way.

What is happening around the world to mark the day *

International Youth Day at United Nations Headquarters

Youth Showcase Their Answers to the Challenge
Youth gathered together at United Nations headquarters in New York (UNHQ) to share their solutions to the challenge of sustainability.

In commemoration of International Youth Day 2009, the United Nations Programme on Youth in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs worked together with the United Nations Department of Public Information and Discovery Education to host a showcase at UNHQ. The showcase featured three students who worked with their teacher as “Team Dead Weight”, to win the ” We Can Change the World Challenge”. Also part of the showcase was Jonathan Hiles of the youth network of the United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office of North America, who presented his work, and the work of his network in promoting student-led education in climate change and sustainable development. Members of the youth programme, Directions for our Youth, also took the stage, showing their use of creative expression in advocating that youth take on the challenge of sustainability.

Youth present at the showcase also heard how other sectors of society plan to help them take on the challenge. Representatives of the Discovery Education shared their youth-focused initiatives, and statements were be made by representatives of the Permanent Mission of the United States and of the United Nations.

For more information on the event, please contact the United Nations Programme on Youth at Click here to see a webcast of the full event. A shorter version is also available on YouTube.

Sustainability Through Youth Lenses
In commemoration of International Youth Day 2009, the United Nations Programme on Youth, in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, partnered with the Shoot Nations global photography competition to host a photo exhibition at headquarters in New York.

The exhbition runs 4-14 August, 2009 and features 50 photographs that explore the challenge of sustainability in the modern age, through the varied lenses of young women and young men around the world. They show how each gender experiences economic, environmental and social life, and display varied reflections on the challenges ahead.

Shoot Nations is the result of a partnership between Plan, an international children’s charity,and Shoot Experience, an experiential photography organisation. Shoot Nations is a participatory global project for young people between the ages of 11 and 25, and utilizes photography as a medium for cross-cultural communication. For young people without a camera or access to the internet, drawings were accepted via the Plan network of country offices.

For more information, please contact the United Nations Programme on Youth at

Global Initiatives

Shoot Nations Photo Competition!
To commemorate the Day, young people (11 to 25) from all around the world can submit photographs and drawings to participate in a global photography competition “Shoot Nations”. A selection of photographs will be presented to the United Nations and displayed at UN Headquarters from 4-14 August in commemoration of International Youth Day. For more information, please visit Shoot Nations or email:

How you can celebrate the day

Team up! It is a great opportunity to rally support and get key actors involved – Governments, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, businesses, and young people – to focus on what has been done to further the World Programme of Action for Youth.

Organize! Hold forums, public discussions and information campaigns in support of young people focusing on youth issues and how they can be addressed.

Celebrate! Plan and organize performances everywhere to showcase – and celebrate – the fact that youth contribute to the societies in which they live. Convene exchanges and dialogues focusing on the rich and varied skills, interests and aspirations of young people.

Take action! A major focus of the Day is practical action to further encourage the empowerment and participation of youth in the processes and decisions that affect their lives. The media have especially important role to play in support of the observance of the Day to promote public awareness of youth issues.

The United Nations Programme on Youth is encouraging youth organisations around the world to host community barter fairs for International Youth Day. Remember, with bartering there is no money involved, only pure exchange of goods and services.

Email us your plans and ideas on how you will be commemorating International Youth Day in your country:

Background of International Youth Day

The General Assembly on 17 December 1999 in its resolution 54/120, endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth (Lisbon, 8-12 August 1998) that 12 August be declared International Youth Day.

The Assembly recommended that public information activities be organized to support the Day as a way to promote better awareness of the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond, adopted by the General Assembly in 1995 (resolution 50/81).