Wednesday, 20 January 2021

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Sustainable youth: a message of hope

Young people from a local NGO in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Photo: UN/Ollivier Grand

12.08.2016 – This is the day we celebrate and recognise the power of youth, and raise awareness of the issues affecting the world’s young people.

Focusing on Sustainable Development Goal 12 with a view to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the theme of this year’s International Youth Day is “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production”.

Poverty is more than the lack of income and resources to ensure a sustainable livelihood. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making. Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality.

Sustainable consumption entails the use of products and services that meet the basic needs of communities while safeguarding the needs of future generations. The development and promotion of individual choices and actions that increase the eco-efficiency of consumption of all and minimise waste and pollution is critical to achieving equitable socioeconomic development. Young people have a leading role in ensuring poverty eradication and achieving sustainable development through sustainable consumption and production.

UNRIC interns holding the Sustainable Development Goals. Photo: UNRIC/Claudia Shute

Here at UNRIC where 22 European countries are represented, we asked young people working for the UN how they see the role of youth in addressing today’s problems:

“Besides my work here at UNRIC, I am also involved in Young European Leadership. One of our main projects is the organisation of the Young European Council, a conference in Brussels where we bring together young people from all over Europe. With these projects, we do not only empower the young generation, but also give them the opportunity to deliver one common message, and, by doing so, trigger action on terrains that matter for our generation.”

“Young people can and should play an important role in realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As young people make up half of the world’s population and as today’s challenges directly affect our future life, jobs and climate, young people can act as critical agents in realising sustainable development.” They “think globally and should be asked about their opinions more often because when they think of solutions to problems, they have the future in mind - their future, and that’s a very valuable point-of-view.”

“If given a voice and the ability to grow, young people can possess a powerful role in making positive changes and creating a better present and future. With their global knowledge and abilities also comes the responsibility to help promote sustainable development and equality.” “So many brilliant, generous and strong-willed youngsters use [their power for change] for the common good – volunteering, advocating for social justice, contributing to open-access technologies.”

“What could young people do? A single tree might appear to be insignificant within a forest; however it is the addition of single trees that defines a forest… since we have capacities, we must act to build a better and more united world. What is important is that we should be the bearers and communicators of that message, which is in any case, a message of hope”.


On this International Youth Day special events abound, from the #SustainableYouth photo contest on Twitter (@UNYouthEnvoy, @ZeroHunger) and Instagram (@unyouthenvoy, @zerohungerchallenge) to today’s Facebook chat at 14.30 CET with Youth Envoy Ahmad Alhendawi, and discussions with young leaders taking place in New York. An event in Rio de Janeiro on Monday 15 August will be streamed live at and You can see and hear Ban Ki-moon address International Youth Day here. UNESCO provides more information including articles and ways to take action here.

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