Young people are on the “frontlines of the struggle to build a better future”, the UN chief said on Thursday, International Youth Day.

“They are tackling inequities in food security, biodiversity loss, threats to our environment and much more”, Secretary-General António Guterres spelled out in his message for the day.

And noting that COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the “dire need for…transformational change”, he upheld that young people must be “full partners in that effort”.

Stand with youth​

From gender equality to education and skills development, the top UN official highlighted that youth exhibit drive, creativity, and commitment.

“But young people cannot do it on their own”, he stated. “They need allies to make sure they are engaged, included and understood”.

Guided by the UN system-wide youth strategy, Youth2030, the Organization is strengthening its work for and with young people worldwide.

“I urge everyone to guarantee young people a seat at the table as we build a world based on inclusive, fair, and sustainable development for all”, said Mr. Guterres.

Tap into youth​

UN cultural agency (UNESCO) chief, Audrey Azoulay quoted iconic New York author, poet and musician, Patti Smith, to underscore her agency’s message that young people must act for themselves, asking: “Who can know the heart of youth but youth itself?”

Ms. Azoulay explained that UNESCO intends to “explore the idea” of a global grant system, to finance research projects and grassroots action, led by young people. She’s convening an international conference on “the impact of the pandemic on young people” during September.

Youth are also at the heart of other agency intiatives, including the UNESCO Global Youth Community initiative, Youth UNESCO Climate Action Network and various projects to prevent violent extremism.

“These are the best means to reach them in a relevant and useful way”, she said, inviting young people to continue to engage and for all of civil society to “tap into the immense potential of this unique, productive and incredibly capable” group.


The newly-elected President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Collen Vixen Kelapile, said that the inclusion and involvement of youth in key activities, is a top priority.

Pointing out that “youth are changemakers and their contribution is essential to realizing the mandate of the Council”, he looked forward to hearing from youth around the world on “how we can advance together the Youth Agenda and implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDSGs)” while responding and recovering from COVID-19.

Youth festival​

Meanwhile, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth welcomed thousands of young people from across the globe as it kicked off the first-ever, all virtual Youth Lead Innovation Festival.

Over two days, participants will be discussing the importance of innovation and technology to achieve the SDGs and support COVID-19 recovery.

Despite facing multidimensional challenges in their day-to-day lives, UN Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake said, “time and time again we see young people at the frontlines of developing new solutions and becoming pillars of their communities”.

“Young people of today are digital natives that routinely contribute to the resilience of their communities, proposing innovative solutions, driving social progress and inspiring transparent and inclusive political change”, she highlighted.