Young people are powerful agents of positive change

International Youth Day 2016

Message from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

Young people are not only our future -- they are our present. Our planet has never been so young, with 1.8 billion young women and men. They are the most connected, the most outspoken and the most open-minded generation the world has ever seen.

  I call upon all Member States and UNESCO partners to support their initiatives, to give them voice, to let them grow ...     

Irina Bokova
UNESCO Director-General
International Youth Day

They are powerful agents of positive change, essential to taking forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It is not enough to hope for a better tomorrow -- we must act now. Change is underway, and millions of citizens are already transforming the way we produce, consume, behave and communicate. Young people, such as our #YouthofUNESCO sustainable consumption advocate, Ms Lauren Singer, show us the way towards a zero-waste life-style, fitting all of her refuse produced over the past four years into one small jar! This is an inspiration for this year’s celebration -- The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Production and Consumption.

There are countless initiatives like this, all giving shape to a new humanism, to new forms of solidarity and citizenship to combat poverty, marginalization and despair.

Optimism and confidence do not mean we minimize the challenges ahead. Most young people live today in least developed countries, and shoulder the heaviest burden of conflicts and poverty. There can be no sustainable development if they remain on the side-lines, and I call upon all Member States and UNESCO partners to support their initiatives, to give them voice, to let them grow, to shape together the future of dignity that we are building today.

Networks of Mediterranean Youth (NET-MED Youth)


  • NET-MED Youth is a unique three-year project implemented by UNESCO and funded by the European Union with the aim of building the capacities of youth, enhancing networking among them, engaging them in dialogue with national stakeholders and in the development and revision of public policies.

What do we mean by "youth"?

When carrying out its Youth Strategy, UNESCO uses different definitions of youth depending on the context.

For activities at the international or regional level, UNESCO uses the United Nations’ universal definition which defines “youth” as persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years. This is to ensure statistical consistency across regions.

For activities at the national level, for example when implementing a local community youth programme, “youth” may be understood in a more flexible manner. UNESCO will then adopt the definition of “youth” as used by a particular Member State.


9th UNESCO Youth Forum

UNESCO Paris, France, 26-28 October 2015

The 2015 edition’s theme was “Young Global Citizens for a Sustainable Planet”, to allow discussion of sustainable development challenges in the post-2015 context, while also maintaining a focus on climate change and related global debates around the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21).

The Forum was an integral part of the 38th session of the UNESCO General Conference.

More information ...

Join the celebration

  • Use social media: celebrate International Youth Day by joining us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Use #YouthDay and #UN4Youth.

  • Make it fun: organize a concert or festival to promote International Youth Day. Invite your local musicians.

  • Engage your community: create an “info point” about youth civic engagement-related issues in your town/village, at your high school, youth club or university.

  • Advocate: reach out to your school, group, organization or faith community to strengthen programmes for youth to engage in civic activities.

  • Engage Media: contact popular local/national radio or TV stations to request a slot to have a discussion with distinguished individuals working on youth civic engagement. Speak out and take action to influence positive change.

  • Use art: get permission to use a public space for an arts exhibit, which showcases the challenges of young people today.

  • Be Active! Participate in social activism through theatre and games with social messages or role playing exercises. You can also volunteer at the local level or involve with civic groups or activities.