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International Youth Day

1.21 billion. That’s how many young people between 15 - 24 inhabit the earth – 15.5 per cent of the global population, according to estimates in the 2020 United Nations World Youth Report.

To better the world, they stand to inherit, this socially conscious group has unleashed their collective will and might, raising their voices to demand that companies and governments address such issues from gender, racial and socioeconomic inequality to climate change. Without waiting for an invitation or permission, youth activists rally their peers, start and fuel movements, shift loyalties to brands that align with their values, call out political leaders and defy the status quo to help shape a world they want to live in – one in which all can thrive.  

Since being endorsed by the General Assembly in 1999, 12 August has marked International Youth Day to acknowledge and amplify the importance of youth participation in current affairs. UNFPA champions the rights of young people and works toward enabling them to fulfill their potential. 

Throughout the year, UNFPA has banged the bodily autonomy drum as it bears repeating time and again: Individuals have the right to make decisions about their bodies and futures. We know that many are denied it. But we also know that young people are claiming it – adolescents and girls are not only resisting harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child and arranged marriages but they are advocating against it. They’re also bettering their communities in other ways, from educating neighbours on COVID-19 and health and human rights in India, to supporting LGBTQI people in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, to assembling dignity kits for frontline workers in Egypt. 

This year, the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth will host the first fully virtual #YouthLead Innovation Festival, which highlights young people as innovators contributing solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals and COVID-19 response and recovery. We celebrate young people’s efforts and contributions big and small toward righting the world’s wrongs. Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders who know that nothing will change if they stand by; change only happens when they stand up.