Message from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO
International Youth Day is an opportunity to celebrate the creative force and the innovative impetus that young people bring to every society. This year’s theme – “Youth Civic Engagement” – emphasizes the role played by the involvement and inclusion of young people in building social cohesion and collective well-being.
From social entrepreneurs to journalists, from voluntary workers to members of community organizations, young people contribute to shaping society to lead it towards political, cultural and economic renewal.
We must support their civic engagement at every level, beginning with recognizing that young people form a separate social group with specific characteristics and expectations. Civic engagement is a way to exploit this potential to enrich society, further human rights and enable improved living conditions for all.
These goals are at the core of UNESCO’s projects, to offer young people the space and skills they need to develop, which reflects on all societies.
That is the spirit of UNESCO’s project to strengthen youth networks in the Mediterranean. Young people must be considered the drivers of change, and not only beneficiaries or targets. That involves reinforcing exchanges and cooperation between generations to ensure that young people are actually involved in developing the policies intended for them. The ninth UNESCO Youth Forum, held in October, will provide a unique platform to convey this message, and I invite young people from all over the world to attend and make their voices heard, to shape the action of world leaders. These voices carry the hope of half of the planet, for a sustainable future for all.
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
This edition’s theme is “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 is an integral part of the 38th session of the UNESCO General Conference.
Join the celebration
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.
- UN Interagency Network on Youth development
- UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth
- UN Secretary-General's Five-Year Action Agenda
- World Heritage Volunteers, to mobilize and involve young people in World Heritage preservation and promotion
- The World We Want (Post-2015 Development Agenda)
- The World We Want: Youth and Post-2015
- Young People Today, an initiative to improve the health and wellbeing of young people in Eastern and Southern Africa