The UN International Year of Youth – Are Young People Valued?

January 2011 marks the fifth month of the United Nations International Year of Youth. The year commenced on August 12 2010, and represents an effort to ‘harness the energy, imagination and initiative of the world’s youth in overcoming the challenges facing humankind, from enhancing peace to boosting economic development’ (UN 2011).

The three key focus areas of the programme aim to: create awareness, mobilize and engage young people through participation and partnerships, and to increase intercultural understanding amongst youth.

Almost half way through the Year of Youth, more momentum is needed if the project is to achieve its goals. Having said that, initiatives like The DFID Civil Society Organisations Youth working Group, a network of young people and organizations concerned with youth involvement in international development, provide a good forum for these issues.

On the 15th of September 2010, a group of young people met with Nick Clegg and the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, to discuss the importance of young people in pushing forward the development agenda.

Young people creatively campaign with Ctrl.Alt.Shift to raise awareness of the 50 million women missing in India.

In a letter written in November 2010, Mr Mitchell commented on how the event “clearly demonstrated that young people are strong advocates for development”. He also mentioned the need for young people to take part in online consultations which he would ‘value’ through DFID on Facebook and Twitter.
‘It’s time that international organizations, governments and young people themselves start to recognize the importance of the perspective of those growing up into our brave new globalised world’.

On the awareness raising side of things, the launch of the International Citizen Service, which will be an ‘exciting opportunity for young people to contribute’ will begin its pilot in April this year. It will focus mainly on 18 – 22 year olds who will work on projects aimed at improving the lives of some of the poorest people in the world (DFID October 2010).

Personally, I recognize the effort made by various organizations since the meeting, though I believe still more should be done actively to promote the involvement and awareness of global issues amongst young people during the Year of Youth. The DFID Civil Society Youth working group is a great idea, yet without the resources and conscious effort from governments, young people and organizations, the UN Year of Youth will end without engaging people as many levels as it should, and could leave many unaware it has ever happened.

The prospect of the UN Year of Youth is to be raised later on this year  in the House of Lords by Baroness Morris who has proposed  a debate ‘to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will support the UN International Year of Youth; and, if so, how.’. This effort is appreciated, yet time is running out for much-needed support on the engagement of young people in the UN Year of Youth and beyond.

It’s time that international organizations, governments and young people themselves start to recognize the importance of the perspective of those growing up into our brave new globalised world. Young people are the future; they’re a source of fresh ideas and vibrant enthusiasm. Their engagement in global issues is vital if we’re going to progress toward a fairer more equal world.

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