International Youth Day

The UN endorsed the recommendation that August 12 be declared as International Youth Day from 1998, urging the participation and solidarity of young adults on various issues of international society.

Definition of youth age group varies in each country, depending on cultural, systematical, and political factors. Thus, although there is no universally agreed international definition of the youth age group, for statistical purposes, however, the United Nations defines ‘youth’ as people between the ages of 15 and 24. Today, there are 1.2 billion young people aged 15 to 24 years, accounting for 16% of the global population. By 2030—the target date for the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] that make up the 2030 Agenda—the number of youth is projected to have grown by 7%, to nearly 1.3 billion.

History of International Youth Day

In 1965, the UN endorsed the Declaration on the Promotion among Youth of the Ideals of Peace, Mutual Respect and Understanding between Peoples, recognizing that the imagination, ideals and energy of young people are vital for the continuing development of the societies in which they live.

Twenty decades later, the UN General Assembly observed 1985 as the International Youth Year. Celebration of the Year drew international attention to the important role that young people play in the world, and, in particular, to their potential. In 1995, on the tenth anniversary of the International Youth Year, the United Nations strengthened its commitment to young people. It adopted an international strategy: the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond, which directed the international community’s attention and channeled its response to the challenges that would be faced by youth in the next millennium.

In December 1999, the General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth that August 12 be declared as International Youth Day. With a different focus each year, International Youth Day helps bring youth issues to the attention of the international community and celebrates the potential of youth as future generation in today’s global society.

UN World Programme of Action for Youth

The United Nations is carrying out the World Programme of Action for Youth through the Department of Economic and Social Affairs [DESA]. This program helps young people to raise awareness of the global situation, promote their rights and aspirations, and participate in decision-making to achieve peace and development. DESA also publishes the World Youth Report, a biennial report that highlights key areas of youth development.

The ECOSOC Youth Forum is an annual event that provides an opportunity for young people to express their needs and concerns through informal dialogues with other stakeholders, especially UN Member States to explore how to promote youth development at all levels. This forum is a representative event where young people can directly participate in UN deliberations, and it is an important means of mobilizing their support to implement the 2030 Agenda.

The United Nations youth agenda is guided by the World Programme of Action for Youth [WPAY]. The WPAY covers fifteen youth priority areas and contains proposals for action in each of these areas. The fifteen fields of action identified by the international community are education, employment, hunger and poverty, health, environment, substance abuse, juvenile justice, leisure-time activities, girls and young women and the full and effective participation of youth in the life of society and in decision-making, as well as globalization, information and communication technologies, HIV/AIDS, armed conflict, and intergenerational issues. The WPAY, adopted by the General Assembly in 1995, provides a policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation of young people around the world.

Implementation of the Programme of Action requires the full enjoyment by young people of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and also requires that governments take effective action against violations of these rights and freedoms and promote non-discrimination, tolerance, respect for diversity, with full respect for various religious and ethical values, cultural backgrounds and philosophical convictions of their young people, equality of opportunity, solidarity, security and participation of all young people.

Youth and the SDGs

A core principle of the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] is to assure that “no one is left behind.” The SDGs are for all countries, people of all ages, and all societies. A universal feature of the 2030 Agenda means that all goals must consider youth, too. All the SDGs are important to youth development, but the realization of the goals in education and employment is highlighted as the cornerstone of overall youth development in the latest edition of the World Youth Report.

Young adults play a pivotal role not only as the beneficiaries of the SDGs, but also as partners and participants in the implementation of the policies. Young people are acknowledged as agents of change, and they have a responsibility to realize their potential and to create the world for future generations. Indeed, young people have been part of designing the 2030 agenda, and continued to participate in frameworks and processes that support its implementation, follow-up and review.

Youth well-being, their participation and empowerment are key drivers of sustainable development and peace around the world. Achieving the SDGs requires strong and inclusive partnerships between young people and all stakeholders. Therefore, young people play the crucial role in addressing challenges they face (unemployment, political exclusion, access to education, and health problems) and developing the current state.

Theme for 2023: Green Skills for Youth: Toward a Sustainable World

Today, the world is embarking on a green transition. The UN has established the SDGs to achieve balanced development and create a better earth for present and future generations to enjoy peace and prosperity. For this, green skills are essential. The UN defines green skills as knowledge, abilities, values, and attitudes needed to live in, develop, and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society.

Green skills are related to people of all ages, but they are more important for young people who need to endure climate change over longer periods of time and can contribute to the green transition. To officially commemorate the International Youth Day 2023, the UN DESA organized a global webinar on decent jobs for youth on August 11, 2023. In addition, the Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] Director-General Qu Dongyu announced that the FAO plans to establish a new Office for Youth and Women to strengthen institutional co-ordination, overall planning, and service work to pave the way for its future development.

“Climate change is the fight of our lives—and young people have been on the frontlines leading the charge for climate justice. The unrelenting conviction of young people is central to keeping climate goals within reach, kicking the world’s addiction to fossil fuels, and delivering climate justice.”

– Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General