The Youth, Our Future

We have entered the Decade of the Youth, and on 12 August 2010 we will enter the Year of the Youth.

The youth is in crisis. About that there can be no doubt. The quest is to find out why, and more important to chart a course that will solve this crisis. Here you can find a collection of background information related to this very important issue.

Calendar of Events 2010

  • 31 July 2010 – 13 August 2010 – Fifth World Youth Congress, Istanbul
  • 12 August 2010 – 11 August 2011 – International Year of Youth
  • 14 August 2010 – 26 August 2010 – Youth Olympic Games, Singapore
  • 24 August 2010 – 27 August 2010 – World Conference for Youth, Mexico City

The African Youth Charter

“The Youth Charter creates a legally binding framework for governments to develop supportive policies and programmes for young people, and serves to fast-track the implementation of such policies and programmes. It also provides a platform for youth to assert their rights and fulfil their responsibility of contributing to the continent’s development.

This is only the first milestone along the road to advancing youth development. Much depends on governments, youth advocates, and other stakeholders to create awareness of the charter and to lobby for its ratification and implementation.”  Dr Saadhna Panday

Download it here.  African Youth Charter

Process of the African Youth Charter

After the year of youth marked by the United Nations in 1985, various youth issues have been integrated into policy making and international development frameworks. Although it is argued that the level of youth involvement in these processes is often tokenistic, these have been great steps towards achieving the desired level of youth participation policy and decision-making in processes.

Download document here.   The Long Road to Banjul and Beyond

Making Commitments Matter

A toolkit for young people to evaluate national youth policies.

This Toolkit is meant for national youth organizations and/or representatives working with youth. It can be used as a tool to:

  • Assess your country’s progress in reaching the WPAY goals;
  • Prioritize your organization’s work, based on your findings;
  • Initiate actions at the national level.

This Toolkit should be used as a starting point for determining what your government, and civil society, has done to better the lives of young people, since 1995. In addition to providing methods for evaluating this progress, the Toolkit also contains concrete tools to further your youth work. As such, we hope that you will find it both informative and useful, and a good resource for your organization.

Download it here.   Making Commitments Matter

Flag of the Commonwealth of NationsThe Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment

When we commenced the review of PAYE 2000-2005 some time ago, we wanted to know how it had succeeded in helping governments to implement youth development programmes. We also wanted to hear from young people themselves whether they felt that PAYE was effective in providing them with a platform for engagement and participation in development at the national level. The fifth Commonwealth Youth Forum (Malta 2005), in which Commonwealth youth representatives played a leading role, was one opportunity to test the waters. So was a survey of Commonwealth youth networks.

Download the document here.   The Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment

Youth in Crisis

Across the globe, a generation of youth is rapidly reaching adulthood bearing the tragic consequences of their nations’ worst problems. In this ‘Youth in Crisis’ In-Depth, IRIN traces the impact of the events shaping their lives, from the illegal forced marriage of teenage girls in Afghanistan and Ethiopia, to the tripling of school fees and the deteriorating education system in Zimbabwe.

Download the report here:  Youth in Crisis

International Year of Youth

Celebrate the International Year of Youth (12 August 2010 – 11 August 2011)

There are more than 1.2 billion young people aged between 15 and 24 years in the world, accounting for about 18% of the world population. The International Year of Youth presents an opportunity to highlight the contributions that youth are making to society, and to advance the full and effective participation of youth in all aspects of society.

What is it?

International Years are proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly to raise awareness and promote progress in a particular topic or area. On 18 December 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the International Year of Youth starting on 12 August 2010 (International Youth Day). The official document proclaiming the International Year of Youth (General Assembly resolution 64/134) invites UN Member States, the UN system and youth organizations to take advantage of the International Year to promote actions at all levels aimed at disseminating among youth the ideals of peace, freedom, progress, solidarity and dedication to the objectives and goals of progress and development, including the Millennium Development Goals.

The theme of the Year is “Dialogue and Mutual Understanding”. It is a broad theme which can be applied to the specific contexts of countries and local communities. The International Year of Youth is an occasion to raise awareness about the situation of young people around the world (in particular, of marginalized youth), increase youth participation in decision-making processes, promote intercultural and intergenerational understanding, and increase investment in youth.

What happens during the International Year of Youth?

At the global level:

A number of global events are taking place to celebrate the International Year of Youth. These include the World Youth Congress in Turkey, the first Youth Olympic Games in Singapore and the World Youth Conference in Mexico. A UN World Youth Conference is being planned for 2011.

Within the UN system:

The United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development was established in February 2010 in order to increase the effectiveness of UN work in youth development by strengthening collaboration and exchange among all UN entities working on youth. The Inter-Agency Network is coordinating the activities of the UN system for the International Year of Youth.

The UN Programme on Youth, as the Focal Point on Youth for the UN System, has been conducting a series of public consultations with young people on Facebook. The first consultation was on a slogan for the International Year of Youth. Young people from all over the world participated online and suggested nearly 500 slogans.

The official slogan is in the final stages of the approval process, and once finalized, it will become available for organizers of events addressing the Year’s purpose and theme. More information will be posted on the official website of the International Year of Youth (

At the national level:

International Years are customarily celebrated at the national level, steered by national committees, which usually comprise government entities (e.g. Ministry of Youth or Ministry of Education), civil society organizations (e.g. national youth councils), representatives of the UN system and other relevant stakeholders. To find out whether a National Committee has been established in your country, please contact the UN Programme on Youth or relevant governmental offices and civil society organizations.

At the community level: Celebrate the International Year of Youth!

There are several ways to get involved.

Participate in the monthly public consultation on Facebook

Following the aforementioned slogan consultation, a consultation on “What can you(th) do to celebrate the International Year of Youth: Low-Cost Ideas for Activities” was conducted from 15 February to 15 March 2010. It was followed by a consultation on “What are the ways to make youth participation and representation effective in your community?” (open until 15 April 2010). Throughout the preparation phase and during the International Year of Youth, the UN Programme on Youth will organize a consultation with young people each month. Results will be published in the UN Programme on Youth’s monthly newsletter Youth Flash and on the official website for the Year. All are invited to participate through the consultation page on Facebook (follow the link on

Organize activities in your community

Low-cost ideas contributed by young people during the consultation include organizing talks, debates and workshops to discuss the situation of youth and young people’s contributions to global issues. Round table discussions among adults and young people can also be organized to promote intergenerational understanding. A youth forum to exchange ideas and information, and discuss cultural backgrounds can help young people to accept others and to popularize a culture of non-violence among youth.

Other suggested activities include: inviting distinguished individuals from the private sector, government, sport, or science to inspire youth to make positive changes in their communities; organizing training to enhance livelihood skills for youth; approaching local authorities to have one day dedicated to youth, where youth can benefit from a discount on local museums, libraries, transportations, and cinemas; creating an “info point” about youth-related issues or young people’s views in the center of town/village, at high schools, or at university centers, as well as organizing a cycle rally, youth march, or an exhibition of talents by young people in the domains of culture, arts and music.

Young people can also write to their Ministers of Youth to inform them about the challenges they face in their daily lives and to suggest solutions. A list of Ministers of Youth can be found at

The importance of involving both young men and young women was also pointed out, and the usefulness of having local/national media coverage of these activities was suggested.

Use the Activities Kit to organize activities

In addition to these ideas contributed by young people, there will be an Activities Kit available for download at the official website of the International Year of Youth. Please check the official website of the Year regularly for updates.

Register youth-related events and use the logo

When the official slogan and logo are confirmed at the UN, they will be made available for use at events to celebrate the International Year of Youth. Fill in the Event Registration Form, sign a Disclaimer/Liability for logo use, and once approved, your youth-related event will be listed in the calendar of events to celebrate the International Year of Youth. After the event, submit the Event Outcome Form to report how the event contributed to youth development and the Year’s theme “dialogue and mutual understanding”. Please check the official website regularly for more information.


International Year of Youth
Facebook (for the monthly public consultation): Please follow the link from the website above.
Facebook (for the Year): (or search for “United Nations International Year of Youth”)

UN Programme on Youth
13th Floor, 2 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017, USA
Fax: +1 212 963 0111
(or search for “UnitedNations ProgrammeonYouth”)
Youth Flash :

Effective and Meaningful Youth Participation at the Community Level

International Year of Youth

Throughout the preparation phase and during the International Year of Youth, the UN Programme on Youth will organize an online consultation through Facebook with young people each month. The responses will inform the feature articles for Youth Flash. The consultation topic for last month (March 15 – April 15) was “What are the ways to make youth participation and representation effective in your community?”.

Why is Youth participation important?

There are more than 1.2 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years in the world, accounting for about 18% of the global population. Due to the increasing importance of youth for all countries, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed resolution 50/81 “the World Programme of Action for Youth” in 1995, which calls for full and effective participation of youth in the life of society and in decision-making.

Young people strive to be active members of their communities and take responsibility for shaping their future. Young people in all countries are both a major human resource for development and key agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation. Young people have proven themselves as agents of change in their societies. They have been advocates for the environment, fighting poverty and hunger, stemming the HIV/AIDS pandemic and have fought for the recognition of civil and human rights. The empowerment of youth depends on and reinforces the empowerment of society at large. Yet in many societies there are institutional, cultural and social barriers to effective and meaningful youth participation. As a result, the vast potential for young people to contribute to their communities goes largely untapped.

To find answers to overcome these obstacles and unleash the potential of young people, the consultation topic therefore addressed the issue of youth participation at the grass-roots level. The consultation served as a platform for young people from around the globe to exchange ideas and best practices on how to be effective in your own community.

What does participation mean?

Contributions to the online consultation addressed the concept of participation and what meaningful participation is. Most young people agreed that it entails the active, informed and voluntary involvement of people in decision-making and the life of their communities on a local and global level. It was stressed that young people are deeply rooted in the context where they lead their everyday lives, and are therefore well placed to understand the specific needs of young people in their communities. Participation means work with and by young people, not merely work for them. In order to participate effectively, young people must be given the tools to do so, such as education about and access to their civil rights. At an operational level, participation is about the integrated process of information-sharing, consultation, decision–making, and implementation on issues related to youth.


Many contributions addressed the challenges that young people face based on misconceptions about youth. They include cultural norms that still favor hierarchical relationships between the old and the young. Judgmental attitudes based on age perpetuate the view that young people are too emotional, naïve and unreliable. Youth are considered to lack commitment and the necessary experience to contribute to development of policies and programmes.

In countries where there is little or no tradition of democratic forms of government, accountability mechanisms by which young people can hold their governments responsible for their actions or inactions are typically non existent. Youth lack direct access to institutional systems and structures of governments, the media and private and civil society sectors. This severely impedes their ability to advocate for their rights. In other cases participation may be limited and is often only at a superficial level, for example, when young people are often included in one-off discussions.

Other challenges include the lack of access to technology and therefore lack of access to information as an empowering tool to learn about their rights as well as access to knowledge about channels of youth participation.

The lack of financial means also poses an obstacle for many young people around the world to engage in activities other than income-generating ones. Their adverse economic circumstances place limitations on the ability to travel and to convene meetings that require young people to cross long distances.


The consultation yielded some valuable suggestions and innovative approaches on how to be effective in participating in civic life through youth engagement such as volunteerism, community service, service-learning, despite the many obstacles that still exist. There have been some ideas on how youth can empower themselves and develop leadership skills and play a decisive role in their communities.

There are multiple channels through which young people can make their voices heard.

Contributions included the act of voting both at the local and national as the most direct channel of youth participation on policy development in countries with democratic systems of government. Serving as members of youth committees in local governments and offering their views on community issues or participating in student governments are other ways of influencing youth policy.

Most countries have National Youth Councils, which are umbrella organizations for youth organizations in a given state. In some countries, they are the highest decision-making body on youth issues, while in others they may have a purely symbolic status. National Youth Councils may facilitate youth participation in national policy processes and serve as a platform for youth organizations to share information. They may work on specific issues relevant to local youth and hold local workshops.

At the community level, youth can establish university or school clubs aimed at educating each other by holding seminars on youth rights and civic education. Many contributors advised to set up internet fora and discussion groups for young people to exchange ideas and inspire each other to take action in their respective communities.

Young people can act as peer educators and mentors to other young people in order to enable and train each other to get involved in civic actions such as environmental protection, child rights, and substance abuse and HIV/AIDS prevention. For instance, an environmental group could organize clean up campaigns in their community, initiate panel discussions at schools about responsible waste management, and promote other responsible environmental behavior.

At the international level, there are a number of youth fora and conferences organized by young people like the World Youth Congresses. Young people may also participate in international and UN policy processes by becoming youth delegates to the General Assembly, the Commission on Sustainable Development or the Commission for Social Development.

The United Nations has long recognized young people’s agency and dynamism. In response, UN agencies have established various youth consultation boards and fora. Some of these are the UNEP Youth Advisory Council, the UNESCO Youth Forum, UNFPA’s Global Youth Advisory Panel, UNAOC’s Youth Advisory Committee, the World Bank’s Youthink! forum or the UNICEF Voices of Youth.

These are just few ideas on how young people can contribute their energy, and unique perspective to the development of their communities and beyond. You may contribute your ideas and suggestions by emailing to

For more information on youth participation please refer to the links below:

Information on how to become a youth delegate:

UNESCO Guide on designing and implementing national legislation and strategies focused on youth:
Empowering Youth through National Policies: UNESCO’s contribution

Information on how to evaluate national youth policies:
Making Commitments Matter: A Toolkit for young people to evaluate national youth policy

UNICEF Adolescent Task Force on youth participation:
The Participation Rights of Adolescents: A strategic approach

Guide by the International Youth Foundation:
What works in Youth participation: Case studies from around the World

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