On this International Youth Day, we recognize the power of youth worldwide to shift political landscapes and the ongoing need to empower youth voices globally.
Swedish youth delegate to the United Nations, Joanna Blossner, in remarks to the UN, stated: “There can be no peace, no prosperity, and no progress, without the full and equal participation of young people all over the world.” Her statement distills the essence of the Youth Delegate program to the UN to its most basic components: full inclusivity and youth participation.
Young people worldwide have the passion and drive to establish and pursue their own agendas. Political roadblocks and a lack of social networks at times hinder impassioned youth as they work to access social services, solidify the right of free speech, and promote equality between the sexes. For youth with an Internet connection, the barriers to implementing their agendas are sometimes lower. Online social networks and communities allow young people opportunities to network and connect with like-minded individuals worldwide.
Over the course of the year, the youth delegates at the UN have coordinated efforts to advance their country- and region-specific agendas. I encourage you(th) to collude with like-minded individuals in order to promote the social, political, and environmental causes that resonate with them.
As a well-known proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
For young people searching for opportunities to work with the UN, the UN Major Group for Children and Youth has excellent resources and announcements to further your cause(s). Similarly, the World Program of Action for Youth outlines 10 initiatives that can serve as a basis and motive for working with the UN to advance your mandate(s).
Regional and global non-governmental organizations (NGO) also offer opportunities to explore for motivated young people. Although some young people have started NGOs in the absence of seasoned support, exploring the existing structure of support can serve as a means to propel youth agendas forward and catalyze action.
The UN Envoy on Youth to the Secretary-General, Ahmed Alhendawi, has said: “Young people drive change, but [we] are not in the driver’s seat.” How do we create a future of opportunity, equality, and prosperity when youth do not share the driver’s seat? We need a license to direct society toward the future and opportunities we need.
As you work for the causes that shake your conscience, explore existing opportunities and structures of support to promote the social and structural change you desire. Garner support from like-minded individuals with connections that broaden your social circles. Frame the issues in economic terms, and look for parallel support in the work of the UN.
On this International Youth Day, celebrate the role youth have to play in promoting social, environmental, and political progress while working to transform your ideas of change into reality.
The UN can serve as a column of support for youth; but to do so, we must recognize the opportunity, ingenuity, and space the UN has to offer young people in their search for the driver’s seat.