Think Globally and Act Locally, With Youth, Every Day!

The theme of this year’s International Youth Day is youth engagement for global action, and it seeks to highlight the ways in which the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels is enriching institutions and decision-making processes. At the same time, this International Youth Day is a chance to think about how to improve youth representation and engagement in formal decision-making processes.

By: Katarina Vučković

KV DM

Why do we celebrate International Youth Day?

International Youth Day (IYD) was designated by the United Nation. It’s a day that encourages us to reflect on the importance of young people for the society today. This day is intended to spotlight youth and the cultural and political challenges they face. This day was first celebrated in 2000. It was created in 1999, when the General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth (Lisbon, 8-12 August 1998) that 12 August be declared International Youth Day.

International Youth Day is an opportunity to celebrate young people’s achievements, highlight the importance of youth issues and promote concrete initiatives intended to improve youth engagement and participation in the society. Across the globe, International Youth Day is celebrated through activities designed to recognize the importance of young people’s engagement in political, economic and social life and processes.

Importance of International Youth Day in 2020

The theme of this year’s International Youth Day is youth engagement for global action. it seeks to highlight the ways in which the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels is enriching institutions and decision-making processes. At the same time, this International Youth Day is a chance to think about how to improve youth representation and engagement in formal decision-making processes.

United Nations noted that they’re turning 75 this year, and there’s only 10 years remaining to make the 2030 Agenda a reality for all, trust in public institutions is eroding. On this International Youth Day UN is drawing attention to wavering trust in public institutions and the world is facing major challenges and threats that call for urgent solutions (examples include some of the worst contemporary conflicts and humanitarian emergencies) while also noting the struggle to address global challenges, such as the COVID-19 outbreak and climate change.

UN warns that the world is experiencing an increase in intolerance, nationalism, isolationism, inequality and lack of political and social inclusion. All this leads to fragmentation and polarization among people and limits opportunities for joining together in global action.

Young people are a part of these processes, even if it may not seem so at first glance. Youth often warn that their voices are not heard in social and political processes. If we take a look at election rates around the world, we see that youth comprise more than half of the world population, a mere 2% of members of parliaments around the world are under 30. When it comes to traditional and formal political activity, youth are often dismissed as inexperienced, and funds are not provided for their formal participation  Their actions are not driven by a reluctance to take part in politics - they are disillusioned and frustrated with the system and seek like-minded youth to join forces with them and act on issues they care about in ways they find more acceptable.

There are now movements led by youth people, dedicated to fighting climate change and addressing the Covid-19 pandemic by demanding global solutions. At the same time, many youth-led small scale movements and activities are cropping up, and their simplicity and the speed at which young people communicate quickly propel them beyond their initial local origins.

That is why this International Youth Day is highlighting the activity and engagement of young people at the local, national and global level, in all institution-building processes. This year, the UN is looking forward to seeing youth engagement across three interconnected streams: engagement at the local/community level, engagement at the national level (formulation and implementation of laws, policies), and engagement at the global level. 

How the BiH youth sector can support these efforts and benefit from this important day

Having in mind the institutional foundation of International Youth Day and the importance of the topic it’s promoting, the youth sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina can and should support youth and celebrate this day together with them.

Instead of just paying lip service to the importance of this day, maybe this year we can start working together and launching initiatives in local communities, engaging higher levels of government, and inviting them to work with us.

Although the day is celebrated on August 12, the importance of this year’s theme is an opportunity for every youth worker, youth officer, youth organization, local and other levels of government to show that they are willing and prepared to support real engagement of youth in decision-making processes throughout the year. The results of initiatives launched to commemorate IYD 2020 should be evaluated next year at the latest. Young people want change they can participate in directly, and the youth sector is required to provide that for them.

If you’re a young person, think about how you want to get involved in the development of your community, what you’re interested in, what you want to contribute over the course of next year. When you have three concrete idea, talk to your friends about them and share them with a local youth organization so you can get to work together. Be prepared to manage activities and work on ideas with others.

If you’re a youth worker, think about how young people you work with participate in decision-making processes in your youth organization, youth center and local community. Think about the opportunities and activities that can benefit from engagement over the next 365 days. Give more attention to actual youth involvement in decision-making processes. They will appreciate it.

Give special attention to young people in your local community who are not involved in any way in decision-making processes, who don’t believe in institutional processes, and young people who participate in decision making, such as young assembly members. Design special programs and activities for these two groups, and work on them together.

If you are a youth officer, offer young people support in their activities on this day, and throughout the year as well. Make sure to amplify youth voices so they can be heard during decision-making processes. Work with young people, youth organizations and the government to give youth in your community a chance for a more frequent and stronger involvement in youth-related decision-making processes. Get involved in processes important for youth at higher levels of government.

Let’s give ourselves a chance to understand the needs of young people and their role in today’s society. International Youth Day isn’t and shouldn’t be just a celebration. It’s also a clear call to action in youth work.

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