Photo:UN Women/Amanda Voisard
Young people led millions around the world in marches demanding action on climate change days before the UN Climate Action Summit (23 September 2019). UN Women/Amanda Voisard

In 1999, the General Assembly 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.

International Youth Day (IYD) gives an opportunity to celebrate and mainstream young peoples’ voices, actions and initiatives, as well as their meaningful, universal and equitable engagement. The commemoration will take the form of a podcast-style discussion that is hosted by youth for youth, together with independently organized commemorations around the world that recognize the importance of youth participation in political, economic and social life and processes.

 

2020 Theme: Youth Engagement for Global Action

The theme of International Youth Day 2020, “Youth Engagement for Global Action” seeks to highlight the ways in which the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels is enriching national and multilateral institutions and processes, as well as draw lessons on how their representation and engagement in formal institutional politics can be significantly enhanced.

As the United Nations turns 75, and with only 10 years remaining to make the 2030 Agenda a reality for all, trust in public institutions is eroding. At the international level, against the backdrop of an increasingly polarized world, the international system of governance is currently undergoing a crisis of legitimacy and relevance. In particular, this crisis is rooted in the need to strengthen the capacity of the international system to act in concert and implement solutions to pressing challenges and threats (examples include some of the worst contemporary conflicts and humanitarian emergencies, such as Syria and Myanmar, as well as global challenges, such as the COVID-19 outbreak and climate change).

Enabling the engagement of youth in formal political mechanisms does increase the fairness of political processes by reducing democratic deficits, contributes to better and more sustainable policies, and also has symbolic importance that can further contribute to restore trust in public institutions, especially among youth. Moreover, the vast majority of challenges humanity currently faces, such as the COVID-19 outbreak and climate change require concerted global action and the meaningful engagement and participation of young people to be addressed effectively.

Join #31DaysOfYOUth, a social media campaign that will celebrate young people throughout the month of August, leading up and following International Day, to help spread the word and strike up a conversation surrounding youth engagement for global action!

This year’s IYD seeks to put the spotlight on youth engagement through the following three interconnected streams:

  • Engagement at the local/community level;
  • Engagement at the national level (formulation of laws, policies, and their implementation); and,
  • Engagement at the global level.

 

Two Kyrgyzstani girls walk in the center of Bishkek.

Protecting and mobilizing youth in COVID-19 responses

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in severe economic and social impacts around the world. Young people are particularly vulnerable to the disruptions the pandemic has caused. Young people will form a key element in an inclusive recovery and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) during this Decade of Action. 

Youth Responses to COVID-19

COVID-19 affects all segments of the population, with young people playing a key role in the management of this outbreak and the recovery following the outbreak. Though much is still unknown on how the disease affects young people, governments are mandated in the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) to ensure their services meet the needs of young people. In these circumstances, it is important to ensure that youth are heard alongside other community and patient voices in the rollout of health and non-health interventions in response to COVID-19.

Building up the capacity of youth to be able to make their own decisions on health and to take responsibility for health is also a key element of WPAY. In this context, health education, public health promotion, and evidence-based information are critical in combating the spread and effects of COVID-19, especially to challenge the spread of disinformation online. The role of governments as well as youth organizations and community groups will be essential to ensure that trustworthy public health information is disseminated. Young people themselves are also utilizing online technologies to spread public health information in engaging ways such as videos to promote effective handwashing or explain how social distancing can save lives.

Young innovators are already responding to the virus through social impact innovation. Around the world, a number of initiatives are being developed to leverage young people’s efforts to generate and deliver support to at-risk populations or populations affected by the pandemic. Whilst most of these initiatives are on a voluntary basis (e.g. young people offering to shop for and deliver food to elders or at-risk people), they can also take the shape of social enterprises. Many youth-driven technology innovation hubs are supporting startups to develop effective solutions to address COVID-19. For example, CcHUB (an open living lab and pre-incubation space) in Nigeria is offering to provide financial, research and design support for projects related to COVID-19.

 

Live Event

Generation Equality celebrates International Youth Day 2020

UN Women celebrates and recognizes the contributions of youth around the world, particularly during these difficult times of COVID-19. Hosted by Miss Universe 2019, Zozibini Tunzi or “Zozi”, this virtual event features musical performances by Maia Reficco Viqueira, Manizha, Malkia the band, 25 May Movement, and Maria Brodskaya. Join thousands of youth voices around the world in saying "Enough! I am Generation Equality. My vision now."

I call on leaders and adults everywhere to do everything possible to enable the world’s youth to enjoy lives of safety, dignity and opportunity and contribute to the fullest of their great potential.

António Guterres
International Youth Day 2020 Logo

Youth can be a positive force for development when provided with the knowledge and opportunities they need to thrive. Today, there are 1.2 billion young people aged 15 to 24 years, accounting for 16 per cent of the global population . By 2030—the target date for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that make up the 2030 Agenda—the number of youth is projected to have grown by 7 per cent, to nearly 1.3 billion.

Youth Social Entrepreneurship and the 2030 Agenda seeks to contribute to the understanding of how youth social entrepreneurship can both support youth development and help accelerate the implementation of the SDGs. The report called on governments to put in place policies and regulatory frameworks that promote skills development, ensure the availability of adapted financial capital and services, generate relevant technical support and infrastructure as well as open networks and markets to young social entrepreneurs.

Geometric illustration with the Secretariat building at UNHQ, New York.

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.