The theme of this year’s International Youth Day – “Youth Engagement for Global Action” -- spotlights the ways in which the voices and activism of young people are making a difference and moving our world closer to the values and vision of the United Nations Charter.
This year’s Youth Day occurs as the lives and aspirations of young people continue to be upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have lost their lives, and many have seen family members and other loved ones perish.
The vulnerabilities of young refugees, displaced persons, young women and girls and others caught up in conflict or disaster have grown more acute.
A generation’s very formation has been jeopardized, their steps towards adulthood, identity and self-sufficiency thrown off course.
Some have taken on care burdens or are suffering from increased risks of hunger, violence in the home or the prospect of never being able to resume their education.
But this generation is also resilient, resourceful and engaged.
They are the young people who have risen up to demand climate action.
They are mobilizing for racial justice and gender equality and are the champions of a more sustainable world.
They are peacebuilders promoting social cohesion at a time of social distancing, advancing an end to violence globally and advocating harmony at a time of rising hatred.
Many are young women who have been on the frontlines in mobilizing for justice and climate action — while also serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.
Realizing the promise of this generation means investing far more in young people’s inclusion, participation, organizations and initiatives.
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.
Young people are the trail-blazers of progress. As entrepreneurs, activists and community leaders, you not only inspire change – you create it. In the era of COVID-19 and the long-lasting social and economic negative effects it has on youth - and with only 10 years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals - your vision and commitment are paramount to creating a more sustainable and inclusive world.
The 1.2 billion young people living worldwide are both rights bearers and active agents in the realization of our universal human rights. It is your right, and our global responsibility, to ensure that people everywhere have access to just and equitable opportunities to fulfill their rights and aspirations. The potential for humanity to create a peaceful, prosperous future will not be reached as long as inequities and discrimination against youth remain commonplace, and young people lack opportunities to have their voices heard.
As young people, you are uniquely poised to lend a voice to those most vulnerable and help create a better future for our planet. One of the privileges of my position, as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, is the opportunity to meet young activists from all over the world, who always inspire me with their ideas, their passion and determination. In difficult times, your generation has responded with creativity and volunteerism on a scale never seen before. The movements you are driving in your communities and your countries, for economic or social justice, for bolder climate action, and for lasting peace and human rights, are already improving our societies and raising global ambitions, every day.
As we celebrate International Youth Day, let us acknowledge the amazing contribution young people are making to the improvement of our world, and commit to empowering our young citizens to create change at the local, national and global levels.
With this occasion, I encourage young changemakers from all over the world to take part in the upcoming virtual UN75 Youth Plenary, on 9 September 2020, and add your voice to shaping the United Nations for decades ahead. With your innovation and ambition, and guided by the Sustainable Development Goals, I am sure that your generation will effectively transform the world into a more sustainable, inclusive and just place for all.