“Today, there are more young people than ever before. Youth voices matter because no one is more convincing to define the future through innovation, but the largest population.”
It was a young leader from Egypt, Nana Abuelsoud – the 2016 World Contraception Day Ambassador – who said this, rightly summing up the right way forward for the world; young people in the world need more agency and representation in world forums. The youth makes up 16% of the global population, yet only 2% of world MPs are people under 30. As a result, youth issues often remain ignored in most countries. The gender ratio of youth representation too is skewed in favour of men, and thus affairs concerning a large part of a population are never acknowledged. The voices of people whom policies might affect the most are hardly heard.
These hard realisations are being witnessed more strongly in the current times, with the COVID pandemic exposing the stark inequalities in our society; be it access to healthcare to bare the systematic and structural disparities in race, class, caste, gender, sexuality and their intersections; further fuelled by capitalism. As resources become scarce and climate change becomes a more hard-hitting reality, the need to work towards a better, greener, and a more inclusive world for our future becomes all the more pressing.
The biggest stakeholder of our future is the youth; which is why the theme for this year’s International Youth Day on August 12th is ‘Youth Engagement for Global Action’. According to the UN committee’s concept note, the theme ‘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.’
It was in 1999 that the decision to declare August 12 as International Youth Day was endorsed by the General Assembly on the recommendations made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth. With the United Nations turning 75 this year, the 2020 International Youth Day is quite important, especially with the UN 2030 agenda being just 10 years away. Making it a reality seems challenging, with trust in public institutions and governance eroding the world over. Humanitarian crisis and conflicts are on the rise fuelled by communalisation and polarisation, development models and the legitimacy of public policy seem to be crumbling in the pandemic; especially in countries governed by the far right.
The current challenges call for a united and a concerted global effort, meaningful engagement, and participation of young people. Thus, the celebration of this year’s IYD is through three interconnected streams that are
1. Engagement at the local/community level;
2. Engagement at the national level (formulation of laws, policies, and their implementation);
3. Engagement at the global level.
The UN believes that “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 restoring trust in public institutions, especially among youth.” In resonance with this vision, there are several events organised for IYD; that keeping in mind the pandemic will be held online; mostly in podcast-like formats between UN Youth delegates and young participants that are engaged in political processes at the local, national, and global levels.
Thus, UNDESA and the IANYD (Inter-agency Network of Youth and Development) Youth Caucus, partners for IYD 2020 are calling for young people, youth structures, civil society and other relevant stakeholders to come together and celebrate the theme Youth Engagement for Global Action through a variety of ways: By joining one of their many ongoing online campaigns from ‘Climate Action’, ‘End Human Trafficking’ to ‘Heath Care Access for Everyone’ and sharing and increasing their social media engagement; organising events such as panel discussions, seminars, round table discussions, peer to peer debates on respective youth issues; live stream events, and discussions being organised by others. These include spoken word poetry, music and dance performances, multi-media and art exhibitions etc that have already begun and will continue to happen until August 12th.
Participants and youth leaders across the world are also being encouraged to create an ‘Info Point’ on the kinds of youth issues affecting the community alongside ‘Take-Away packages’ to ‘identify specific and actionable items that include the kinds of institutional engagement that can benefit their community.’ Moreover, there’s a call to write letters to respective Youth ministers to ensure top-bottom engagement. The IYD 2020 has also launched a Trello Board that can be used to access information, dates details of events as well as seek collaborations/brainstorm for future youth projects and campaigns.
As the world faces unprecedented challenges; International Youth Day 2020 is an opportunity to make and feel empowered, get our voices heard and our contributions acknowledged on a global platform.
For more information, visit the IYD 2020 website here.
Download the IYD 2020 Events Toolkit here.
Devyani Nighoskar is a 24-year-old SOAS Digital Ambassador from India. A former journalist, she is currently pursuing her MA in Critical Media and Cultural Studies. You may check out her work on Instagram @runawayjojo