12 August marks International Youth Day

In 1999, the UN General Assembly declared 12 August International Youth Day to emphasize the importance of investing in youth, protecting the young people’s rights, and better equipping them to adapt to changes and deliver solutions on the issues that affect them.

There are more young people between the ages of 10 and 24 today than at any other time in human history (today’s generation of young people numbers slightly over than 1.8 billion in a world population of 7.3 billion). Many youth, mostly in developing economies, are still facing an array of challenges such as lack of access to quality and affordable education and health services, unemployment, becoming victims of various types of discrimination. To offer a broad range of benefits to young people, the first United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Youth Development was endorsed in 2013, calling on the UN Member States to involve youth as collaborators, team members, leaders and decision makers in addressing the critical issues (e.g. employment, entrepreneurship, social inclusion, engagement and protection of rights, education, and health).

The needs and potential of youth are increasingly recognized in the international community. Young people are essential to the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its accompanying 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Unanimously adopted at the UN Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2015 in New York, the Agenda aims at “leaving no one behind” and supports youth empowerment, participation and well-being. It also requires that governments and development actors pay closer attention to producing better quality data and knowledge, and to engaging people from all walks of life in implementing and monitoring the goals, in particular to empower youth, as agents of their own development.

According to ILO’s 2015 Global Employment Trends for Youth Report, almost 43 per cent of the global youth labour force is either unemployed, or working, yet living in poverty. To promote green jobs, create quality apprenticeships, expand digital skills and build tech hubs, the United Nations launched a Global Initiative on Decent Jobs, with the hope that young people will not only fill jobs but be the entrepreneurs who create them. A newly introduced pioneering partnership and interactive platform, the Youth Gateway | Global Youth Partnership for the Sustainable Development Goals, helps engage young people in the implementation of the new 2030 Agenda in innovative ways, connecting young people to take action for contributing to global development, locally and internationally, and also linking together education, implementation and evaluation of the SDGs by youth and for youth.

Many young men and women face barriers to certain green consumption and sustainable production, which include the high prices of goods and services and a lack of information about the available choices. To address the challenge faced by youth, this year’s theme of International Youth Day is “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production” and focuses on the leading role of young people in ensuring poverty eradication and achieving sustainable development, which entails the use of products and services that meet the basic needs of communities as well as the development and promotion of individual choices and actions that increase the eco-efficiency of consumption and minimize waste and pollution, which is critical to achieving equitable socio-economic development. In his message on celebrating the 2016 International Youth Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urges the UN Member States “to join this global push for progress and empower young people with the resources, backing and space they need to create lasting change in the world”.

The Government of Azerbaijan is committed to promoting youth participation and empowerment, and this year is special for national/global youth engagement efforts. The country hosted the 7th Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations (26-28 April), which was entitled “Living Together in Inclusive Societies: A Challenge and a Goal” and focused on peace and security, human rights, and development, engaging young participants in a dialogue with key stakeholders and experts to help them gain greater access to the global youth movement for peace and social inclusion. The European Youth Forum was opened in Ganja, European Youth Capital 2016, with a special focus on several priorities including volunteering, youth employment, social cohesion, active participation, and education.

Azerbaijan hosted the First Global Forum on Youth Policies (28-30 October 2014), which was co-convened by the Office of the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, UNDP, UNESCO, and the Council of Europe. The Forum adopted The Baku Commitment to Youth Policies, recognizing that, at all levels, youth policies should promote a set of key guiding principles, which are indispensable to meaningful and inclusive youth policy development and implementation.

The United Nations System in Azerbaijan stands ready to provide support to the Government in promoting youth empowerment and participation through the implementation of the newly signed UN-Azerbaijan Partnership Framework (UNAPF) 2016-2020, which is aligned with national priorities articulated in ‘Vision 2020’ strategy and Sustainable Development Goals. The State Youth Development Programme (2015-2025) also opens up new avenues for building multi-stakeholder partnerships. The United Nations Agencies will act together to raise awareness on SDGs among youth at large, in both urban and rural areas, and involve them in advancing the 2030 Development Agenda, in partnership with the government, non-state actors, and other stakeholders.

Sustained economic growth and social progress will depend on all young people benefiting from the development successes to date. No young person should be left behind. We firmly believe that investing in young people is not only right in principle, but right in practice – if we invest in and nurture these most important national assets today, the dividends will trickle down from generation to generation.

Today as we celebrate International Youth Day, let us intensify our joint efforts to ensure that youth, particularly the most vulnerable, are equipped with necessary skills and provided with resources to meet their aspirations and lead the world to a more sustainable future.