Youth engagement drives global change #InternationalYouthDay
In 1999 the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 54/120, which declared 12 August International Youth Day. At the General Assembly that year was Australia’s inaugural Youth Representative to the United Nations, Andrew Husdon.
“I remember feeling very lonely in New York as the first Youth Rep,” Andrew told UN Youth in an interview in 2019. “I had to clearly demarcate the role and value add of the youth rep, which ruffled some feathers in New York and Canberra.”
“Establishing the role was a classic advocacy campaign. The inclusion of youth representatives in government delegations had been a recommendation of several UN reports and Youth Conferences. At a meeting with then foreign minister Alexander Downer, I asked him if he thought a Youth Representative was a good idea. He said yes and we then used that commitment to follow up with DFAT until they gave in!”
Australia, thanks in large part to the advocacy of UN Youth, was one of the first countries in the world to send a Youth Representative to the UN. Resolution 54/120 heavily emphasised that other countries should consider doing the same, many now do.
Australia has proudly sent a Youth Representative each year since then and we will keep advocating the voices of Young Australians at the international stage for many years to come.
The theme of International Youth Day in 2020 is made in that spirit, Youth Engagement for Global Action.
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.
“This year’s Youth Day occurs as the lives and aspirations of young people continue to be upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. A generation’s very formation has been jeopardized, their steps towards adulthood, identity and self-sufficiency thrown off course,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
“But this generation is also resilient, resourceful and engaged. They are the young people who have risen up to demand climate action. They are mobilizing for racial justice and gender equality and are the champions of a more sustainable world. They are peacebuilders promoting social cohesion at a time of social distancing, advancing an end to violence globally and advocating harmony at a time of rising hatred”.
The vast majority of challenges humanity currently faces, such as the COVID-19 outbreak and climate change require concerted global action and the meaningful engagement and participation of young people to be addressed effectively.
Enabling the engagement of youth in formal political mechanisms increases 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.
To young people across Australia and the world, Happy International Youth Day, your engagement can truly lead to global action.