International Year of Youth: Culmination Celebration, 11 August 2011

International Year of Youth Logo“Educational, memorable, awe-inspiring” these are the words of UN Youth Champion Monique Coleman to describe the six-month long world tour she embarked on at the beginning of 2011 to raise awareness of the International Year of Youth and of the challenges facing young people.

Coleman engaged youth from all horizons in lively debates on such issues as education, MDGs, HIV/AIDS, violence against women, drug abuse or environmental awareness.  “I want to bring the UN Champion to life by meeting with you personally and encouraging you to speak up about your problems and your dreams,” she told cheering crowds of students.  She talked to youth for hours, motivating them to be part of decisions that would impact their lives, make positive contributions to the world at large and start volunteering in their own communities.  In so doing she related to them and told stories about her own experiences.  Coleman herself strived to reach the heights.

She visited schools, projects, refugee camps and witnessed how youth are constructive even in the midst of adversity.  “Take the talent of the youth and sell it outside these walls, the ability to contribute to society will not only empower them but also give them a sense of responsibility,” she declared.  Each setting provided her with a different perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing young people. Acknowledging that she had learnt more during the world tour than in her lifetime, Coleman believes that this amazing experience also allowed her to touch the hearts of many youth and instill rays of hope for a brighter future.

In the past months, Coleman traveled tirelessly from New York to Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Italy Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, and United Kingdom.  At the same time, she used social media – Facebook, Twitter and her online talk show “GimmeMo” which targets young people – to connect youth that are worlds apart.  The world tour presented a unique opportunity to see first hand what they are experiencing, and learn through interaction.  “I choose to give youth empowerment the lead role in my life because I felt it in my heart, if not now, then when? I believe that young people are not just our future, they are the present, and it is our global responsibility to engage, assist and learn” she stated.

The International Year of Youth (IYY) was launched in August 2010.  Under the theme “Dialogue and Mutual Understanding” the world’s youth endeavoured to make their voices heard.  As it comes to closure on 11 August 2011, it will also allow for reflection and looking at the way forward.

International Year of Youth: Culmination Celebration,11 August 2011