International Youth Day is dedicated to celebrating young people’s contributions to conflict prevention and transformation, as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace.
The UN World Population Prospects statistics estimate that there are 1.3 billion 15-24 year olds in the world and nearly one billion live in developing countries where conflict is more likely to have taken place. In such demographic realities, the potential youths hold for change and positive action is the subject of a growing research agenda. This is particularly the case with the recent wave of social upheavals and humanitarian crises in different parts of the world.
There are many examples across the world of the contributions that young people make toward peacebuilding: The strengthening of community cohesion and reconciliation in South Sudan; civic awareness for peaceful social relations and development programs in Nepal; trust-building across different ethno-religious groups in Sri Lanka; and community entrepreneurship and livelihoods programs in Burundi. Furthermore, the UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development Report entitled ‘Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding: A Practice Note’ presents a number of policy and program examples from different conflict-affected countries that would facilitate such participation more effectively.
Play for Peace continues to organize programs that focus on the principles of International Youth Day. Through various programs organized by Play for Peace, like ‘Young People for Justice and Peace’, we understand the role today’s youth play in resolving global conflict. These activities promote the legitimization of youths and foster their representation in local and national policymaking processes. Joint workshops, community projects, and other platforms can all help bridge the divide between youths and government officials.
Young people’s inclusion in the peace and security agenda, and in society more broadly, is the key to building and sustaining peace. The process of social inclusion for youth, including participation in decision-making as well as access to quality education, health care and basic services promotes their role as active contributors to society and affords young people with opportunities to reach their potential and achieve their goals.
Shaping the tomorrow we want with tomorrow’s citizens is what we are promoting this International Youth Day!