Every August 12, people across the globe celebrate International Youth Day, recognizing the obstacles and triumphs of young people worldwide. It also spotlights young people's pivotal role in social and economic development, urging us to invest in their education, health, and future. Read on to learn more.
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History and Background of International Youth Day
On December 17, 1999, the UN General Assembly, through Resolution 54/120, supported the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth's recommendation to designate August 12 as International Youth Day2. This critical occasion acknowledges young people's challenges and recognizes their role in driving societal evolution.
The first International Youth Day happened on August 12, 2000, with the theme "Youth: The Next Generation," recognizing the potential of the world's youth to elevate global development.
Since then, each year's theme has reflected contemporary issues, including health, poverty, cultural diversity, and youth in conflict.
In 2010, International Youth Day was part of the world programme of the International Year of Youth, with celebrations worldwide centered on the invaluable contributions of youth to society.
In 2015, the UN launched the 'Youth and Civic Engagement' initiative, highlighting the youth's pivotal role in realizing sustainable development goals.
The event has received support from prominent figures such as former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who championed youth participation in global dialogues.
In 2023, the theme is "Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World.” It encourages youth leaders to facilitate environmentally sustainable decisions like working green jobs, especially amid the global climate crisis.
The Cause and Its Challenges
As future leaders, young people push boundaries and strive for a better tomorrow. However, they face significant challenges.
For instance, the International Labour Organization says the global unemployment rate for young people1 (15-24 years old) is 13.6%. This is three times higher than the rate for adults. This arises from both their limited work history and systemic barriers impeding their transition into the workforce.
Moreover, there is a significant regional variation, with under 9% in North America and 30% in North Africa. Unemployment is also more common among young women.
Approximately 41 million youths are potentially employable but are not actively seeking jobs, often due to discouragement or not immediately available to start work.
Even when young people do find work, their circumstances are uncertain. Among the 429 million young workers worldwide, 55 million live in extreme poverty.
Technology, while providing opportunities, also threatens their job security. Despite being tech-savvy, young people worry that automation might replace their jobs. Automation mainly affects jobs young people fill, further reducing their job prospects.
Lastly, more than promoting higher education will be needed to fix youth unemployment. Universities need to offer high-quality programs that meet market needs. There is a growing mismatch between the number of degree holders and the availability of high-skilled jobs, reducing the financial benefits of tertiary education.
Efforts and Initiatives
Numerous international organizations, including the UN, lead the charge in giving youth a say in world affairs. For instance, the UN has implemented the "Youth 2030: The United Nations Youth Strategy" initiative to connect younger generations with decision-making processes critical to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
On the other hand, the World Bank and the International Labour Organization have launched youth-focused initiatives. The World Bank hosts an annual "Youth Summit" conference, which brings together young minds to propose creative solutions to address urgent global issues.
Meanwhile, the International Labour Organization's "Decent Jobs for Youth" initiative also addresses youth employment challenges under the 2030 Agenda.
Non-profit organizations are also making an impact in this field. For example, ECO-UNESCO in Ireland has introduced the "Youth for Sustainable Development" program, encouraging young individuals to lead action projects on issues relevant to their local communities.
How to Get Involved and Support International Youth Day
- Join local community events like concerts and seminars can help create positive change. These global events ignite a passion for advocacy to empower youth and address issues.
- Amplify youth voices on social media using the day's hashtag. Share youth stories, articles, or even quotes to raise awareness.
- Donate to local organizations supporting youth development projects.
- Volunteer time to mentor a young person.
- Encourage open dialogues within communities and government officials to discuss youth issues and solutions.
Youth, central to our future, are met with disproportionate challenges, including unemployment and under-representation. To mark International Youth Day, support the cause by participating in events, advocacy, and educating others about their struggles, fostering an environment for their voices to be heard.
Fight for the cause not only on August 12 but every day to create a brighter and better tomorrow for future generations.
International Youth Day FAQs
It is an annual celebration designated by the UN to promote the importance of youth engagement and empowerment worldwide. It happens every August 12.
This day is essential because it raises awareness about the challenges and issues faced by young people globally and highlights the need to involve youth in decision-making processes.
Key challenges include unemployment, lack of access to quality education, discrimination, poverty, mental health issues, and limited opportunities for civic participation.
Volunteer with youth organizations, advocate for youth-friendly policies, mentor young individuals, provide educational and skill-building opportunities, and promote inclusive and diverse environments for youth engagement.
International Labour Organization. (2020). Global Employment Trends for Youth 2020: Technology and the Future of Jobs.
General Assembly resolution 54/120, Policies and programmes involving youth, A/RES/54/120 (17 December 1999), available from https://undocs.org/A/RES/54/120