By Emily Bare / GICJ
"Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society's margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies." – Kofi Annan
12th August marks the annual day to bring youth issues to the attention of the international community and celebrate the potential of youth as partners in the present global society. It is a day to commit to youth around the world and address many areas of priority, namely: education, employment, hunger and poverty, health, participation, youth and conflict, and intergenerational relations . The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution endorsing the 12 August as "International Youth Day'' and recommended that public information activities be organised at all levels to support the Day and promote awareness, especially among youth . This year's theme is "Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages."
Over time, the recognition of youth and their impact on society started to come to the attention of the international community. In 1965, the United Nations (UN) defined youth as being between the ages of 15 and 24 and acknowledged their contributions as essential for the development of society .
30 years later, in 1995, the UN strengthened its commitment to young people by adopting the "World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY)", which provides a policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation of young people by increasing their access to opportunities for constructive participation in society .
Finally, in 1998, a resolution proclaiming 12 August as International Youth Day was adopted by the first session of the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth . That recommendation was subsequently endorsed by the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly in its resolution 54/120 on 17 December 1999.
This year, International Youth Day takes place right after the 60th session Commission for Social Development (7 to 16 February 2022) and the 11th Edition of the ECOSOC Youth Forum (19 and 20 April 2022). The Commission for Social Development focused on the importance of ensuring access to basic services for everybody, including quality education, healthcare, and employment. The ECOSOC Youth Forum highlighted the UN's commitment to strengthening solidarity with the world's young people and advancing the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 Agenda.
This year's theme: "Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for all Ages" presents the idea that to achieve the SDGs 2030 Agenda, the world needs to leverage the full potential of all generations. The theme sheds light on the fact that solidarity across generations is key for sustainable development. All countries must come together so that the world is a better place in the future for our youth.
In 2021, the UN Secretary-General put forward new recommendations on intergenerational solidarity. These recommendations ensured that policy and budget decisions would account for better political representation of youth and transformation in education, skills training, and lifelong learning practices . However, many challenges remain in achieving intergenerational solidarity.
Notably, ageism continues to present a significant challenge to fostering collaboration and solidarity across age groups. The World Health Organization defines ageism as “the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) directed towards others or oneself, based on age” . Youth continue to report age-related barriers in various spheres of their lives such as employment, political participation, and health. Globally, young people report more (perceived) age discrimination than other age group.
In terms of employment, youth have reported ageism in terms of pay and benefits received as well as being generally perceived as incompetent because they look young. Ageism also may force younger workers out of employment. A three-year study from Australia showed that 1,259 employees between the ages of 15 to 24 were dismissed from employment, with 8% of them being due to age-based discrimination .
Regarding political participation, there is a tendency to doubt, deny or dismiss the voices of youth and limit their efforts in political advocacy movements because of underlying ageism. Studies examining mayoral elections found that the age of political candidates had more influence on voting behaviour than sex, gender, or race, and middle-aged candidates were preferred over younger candidates .
In accessing healthcare, youth between the ages of 18 to 24 are legally adults and may transition out of the paediatric system. However, this age group possesses some unique needs that the adult system does not currently accommodate. Ageism interferes with adequate communication between the youth and the healthcare professional, where there is often failure to provide effective, age appropriate and respectful communication between the two. In addition, there are cost, transport, and confidentiality concerns for youth who may be seeking autonomy . Despite these barriers, there has been a lack of support for young people in accessing healthcare.
On an individual level, these age-related obstacles can deeply impact wellbeing and livelihoods from youth into adulthood. On a societal level, ageism prevents us from thinking and creating policies and social services that are fair for all ages.
Fostering intergenerational solidarity between generations is more than ever necessary to ensure an inclusive and sustainable recovery. As we navigate forward, it is especially important to recognise and address these age-related barriers to “build back better” in a manner that leverages all generations’ strengths and knowledge.
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) celebrates the endeavour for intergenerational solidarity, yet we are alarmed by the number of youth that face age-related barriers in employment, political participation, and access to healthcare services. We continue to condemn all forms of age-based discrimination and show our support for youth, intergenerational solidarity, and coordination to achieve the SDGs 2030 Agenda. GICJ actively recognises their importance for societal development and calls for an end to age-based discrimination against youth.
International Youth Day, Youth, Ageism, Intergenerational, Solidarity, Justice, Geneva, geneva4justice, GICJ, Geneva International Centre for Justice
Image source: (Flickr) https://flic.kr/p/24zTsPg
Day of Remembrance Articles by GICJ:
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