Youth Require a “Seat at the Table” in Order to Lead the Fight for a Better Future

On Thursday, International Youth Day, the UN head noted that young people are on the “frontlines of the struggle to build a better future”. 

In his statement for the Day, Secretary-General António Guterres outlined how they are tackling inequities in food security, biodiversity loss, environmental risks, and much more. 

He also stated that young people must be “full collaborators in that endeavour,” stating that the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the “dire need for…transformational change”. 

From gender equality to education and skills development, the top UN official emphasised the importance of youth’s energy, creativity, and dedication. 

Young people, he argued, cannot do it alone, and they require allies to ensure that they are involved, included, and understood. 

The United Nations is stepping up its work for and with young people around the world, guided by the UN system-wide youth strategy, Youth2030. 

Mr Guterres calls on everyone to ensure that young people have a seat at the table as they work to create a future that is inclusive, fair, and sustainable for everyone. 

Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), quoted iconic New York author, poet, and musician Patti Smith to emphasise her agency’s message that young people must act for themselves, asking, “Who can know the heart of youth but youth itself?” 

UNESCO is to “explore the idea” of a global grant system to fund research initiatives and grassroots activity led by young people, according to Ms Azoulay. In September, she will host an international symposium on “the impact of the pandemic on young people.” 

Other UNESCO initiatives, such as the Global Youth Community initiative, the Youth UNESCO Climate Action Network, and various programmes to avoid violent extremism, place youth at the centre. 

“These are the best ways to reach them in a relevant and useful way,” she added, encouraging young people to keep participating and civil society to “tap into the immense potential of this unique, productive, and extremely talented” demographic. 

Collen Vixen Kelapile, the newly-elected President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), stated that youth inclusion and participation in critical activities is a high concern. 

He looked forward to hearing from youth around the world on “how we can advance together with the Youth Agenda and implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” while responding to and recovering from COVID-19, stating that “youth are changemakers and their contribution is essential to realising the mandate of the Council.” 

Meanwhile, the Secretary-Envoy General’s on Youth welcomed thousands of young people from around the world to the first-ever, entirely virtual Youth Lead Innovation Festival. 

Participants will debate the role of innovation and technology in achieving the SDGs and supporting COVID-19 recovery over the course of two days. 

“Time and time again, we see young people at the frontlines of developing new solutions and becoming pillars of their communities,” UN Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake said, despite confronting multifaceted obstacles in their daily lives. 

She emphasised that today’s youth are digital natives who regularly contribute to their communities’ resilience by suggesting new solutions, promoting social progress, and motivating transparent and inclusive political reform. 

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