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August 12, 2007 - International Youth Day – A time to reflect, a time to take action

The theme for this year’s celebration of International Youth Day is “Be seen, be heard: youth participation for development”.

This motto highlights the importance of youth participation for development and draws attention to the mechanisms and opportunities for ensuring their participation, while empowering them to participate in decisions that affect their lives.

International Youth Day is a time to recognize the potential of the 1.2 billion young people in the world today, to celebrate their achievements, and plan for ways to increase their engagement in all areas of society.

The idea for International Youth Day was first proposed in 1991 by the young people who were gathered in Vienna, Austria, for the first session of the World Youth Forum of the United Nations System. The Forum recommended that an International Youth Day be declared, especially for fund-raising and promotional purposes, to support the United Nations Youth Fund and the work of youth organizations.

International Youth Day was endorsed by the General Assembly (resolution 54/120) in 1999 following the recommendation of the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth in Lisbon. In declaring 12 August as International Youth Day, the General Assembly recommended that public information activities be organized to promote better awareness of youth development issues and especially the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY), a blueprint for comprehensive youth policy.

The first International Youth Day (IYD) was commemorated on 12 August 2000. In his message on that day, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for greater awareness of the WPAY and for Governments to become more responsive to the aspirations of youth for a better world. He noted that youth were calling out to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. He also pointed out that in order for youth to deal effectively with the impact of globalization on their lives, they must start preparing for the future immediately and not wait for Governments to tell them what to do.

© UNICEF/ChrisSchuepp/2004
Denis from Ukraine working on the VOY website at the 4th World Summit on Media for Children 2004 in Rio.

Since the first commemoration of IYD, yearly themes have addressed health and unemployment; called for youth action on sustainable development; sought to find decent and productive work for young people; highlighted the importance of solidarity among generations; reminded Governments to make their commitments to youth matter; and rallied young people to tackle poverty together along with Governments and other stakeholders.

Each year, on International Youth Day, young people around the world have initiated and led commemoration activities along with other partners including local Governments, United Nations local and regional offices, UN agencies, country offices and information centres, National Youth Councils and Committees, as well as neighbourhood youth groups. Rallies, discussions, youth forums, seminars and workshops have been held to highlight the theme of the Day or an issue of concern to the local youth population. Youth activities have also been conducted ranging from youth service, such as cleaning up local communities to awareness-raising on HIV/AIDS issues to promoting the rights of girls and young women.

The creativity and dynamism of young people have also added colour to the activities of International Youth Day. For example, last year, the National Youth Council of Mauritius organized a National Youth Forum that included a Voice of Youth project, which gathered messages from young people and presented them to Government officials. In a town in Italy, young people went on a bus tour and conducted discussions with experts and public administrators on public services, especially resources and public spaces available for leisure time-activities for young people. In New York City, the Mayor issued a proclamation that adopted 12 August as International Youth Day in the city. Local activities begin months in advance and include a city-wide basketball and soccer tournament that culminate in final matches played on 12 August in the presence of sports celebrities and city officials.

For more information on International Youth Day 2007 or to review events around the world including past commemorations, please click here.



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