“That is why I am calling on young people to speak out – and I am urging leaders to listen.”
As the world changes with unprecedented speed, young people are proving to be invaluable partners who can advance meaningful solutions, the Secretary-General stated in a message issued for the Day, observed each year on 12 August.
“Youth movements and student groups are challenging traditional power structures and advocating a new social contract between States and societies. Young leaders have contributed fresh ideas, taken proactive measures, and mobilized through social media as never before,” said Ban.
This year's theme – 'Youth Civic Engagement' – emphasizes the involvement and inclusion of young people in building social cohesion and collective well-being, underlined Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in her message on the Day.
“From social entrepreneurs to journalists, from voluntary workers to members of community organizations, young people contribute to shaping society to lead it towards political, cultural and economic renewal,” she stressed.
As world leaders prepare to adopt a bold new vision for sustainable development next September, the engagement of youth is more valuable than ever, assured the Secretary-General. “At this critical moment in history, I call on young people to demand and foster the dramatic progress so urgently needed in our world.”
Describing volunteerism as an “ideal” way to improve society, Ban also encouraged youth to join forces with the UN, as Member States move from forging the new sustainable development goals to implementing them. “I stand with the world's young people in calling for measures to secure human rights, economic progress, environmental stewardship and social inclusion.”
In support of their aims, the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, is working to mobilize the “largest generation of young people in history to turn the world we want into the world we deserve”, Ban noted, while Bokova observed that young people must be considered as “drivers of change,” and not only beneficiaries or targets.
Today, Alhendawi is in the Philippines to open the 3rd Asian Youth Forum. He will also join the Filipino National Youth Day Celebration with 1,000 young people from the country, UN officials, government representatives, legislators, civil society partners, and donor organizations.
At the UN Headquarters in New York, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), with the support of the UN Inter-agency Network on Youth Development, is organizing an event to commemorate International Youth Day.