Youth Programs at the United Nations

Beginning in 1965 with the Declaration on the Promotion among Youth of the Ideals of Peace, Mutual Respect and Understanding between Peoples, the United Nations (UN) has continued to deepen its commitment to addressing the needs of Youth, defined as individuals between the ages of 15 and 24. Composing 18% of the global population, Youth face many challenges due to limited access to resources, healthcare, education, training, and economic opportunities. However, by aiming their energy and imagination at society’s most pressing issues, Youth can also be a vital part of the solution.

International Year of Youth

In December 2009, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 64/134 proclaiming August 12th, 2010, to August 11th, 2011, as the International Year of Youth (IYY). The Year’s designation signified the importance the international community places on integrating youth-related issues into global, regional, and national development agendas. Under the theme Dialogue and Mutual Understanding, the Year aimed to promote the ideals of peace, respect for human rights and solidarity across generations, cultures, religions and civilizations. In addition to hosting panels and discussions, the United Nations also encouraged member states to hold national events to promote awareness of the important contributions of Youth to their countries’ development, as well as to review their national youth development policies and programs. At the more local level, the United Nations encouraged grass roots organizing.

United Nations Programme on Youth

Held in 1985, the first International Year of Youth sought to raise awareness of the importance of both addressing the needs of Youth, and of including young people in decision-making. Ten years later, the United Nations adopted an international strategy aimed at concretely addressing these issues; the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond provides a framework of practical guidelines that encourages governments to be more responsive to Youth, and to increase national capacity in the field. Through the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development, the United Nations Programme on Youth serves as a focal point on Youth at the UN. It coordinates analytical research and policy making to strengthen collaboration and increase the effectiveness of the UN’s work on Youth development.

United Nations Population Fund

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is an international development agency that supports the use of population data by governments, other agencies and civil society to implement effective policies and programs that work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The UNFPA’s Framework for Action on Adolescents and Youth adapts the UNFPA’s core areas of focus on reproductive health, gender equality, and population and development strategies, to address the diverse circumstances of young people. The UNFPA partners with UNAIDS to improve young people’s utilization of HIV Prevention, treatment and care services through the Inter-agency Task Team on HIV and Young People. In all its efforts, the UNFPA calls for upholding the rights of young people, including marginalized groups and adolescent girls.

United Nations Environment Programme

The United Nations Environment Programme recognizes the vital relationship between caring for the environment and ensuring quality of life for future generations. Across the world, Youth have proven to be an active force of leadership in the process of inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to address the challenges of climate change, disaster and conflict, ecosystem management, environmental governance, harmful substances and resource efficiency. In 2003, the Governing Council of UNEP created Tunza, a new strategy to engage young people in environmental advocacy. By providing activities in the areas of building capacity, improving awareness, and exchanging information, Tunza hopes to foster informed and assertive environmentally conscious world citizens of tomorrow.

Youth and United Nations Global Alliance

The objective of the Youth and United Nations Global Alliance (YUNGA) is to bring together and to coordinate the efforts of UN agencies, schools, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society groups and governments to engage Youth in addressing local and international issues. Only recently launched, YUNGA will establish collaborative local, regional and global networks, through which partners may promote activities and distribute resources. Under the spirit of the One United Nations initiative, this approach will seek to reduce fragmentation and harness the full capacity of the UN system in support of facilitating the involvement of young people in environmental, humanitarian and cultural exchange projects.

United Nations International Children’s Fund

In 1989 the United Nations created the Convention on the Rights of Children, the first legally binding international instrument to protect the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights of children. United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) focuses on ensuring that the rights of every child are recognized. It focuses on promoting gender equality through basic education, improving child survival and development through nutrition and environmental interventions, preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and protecting children from violence, exploitation and abuse. UNICEF is also a key player in providing life-saving assistance in response to emergencies, both natural and man-made. In 2002, UNICEF launched the Global Movement for Children, an advocacy campaign that aims to unify and coordinate the efforts of organizations, people, and children to influence public opinion and organize collective action. Individuals and groups that join the Global Movement are free to use the name, logo and principles as a means of displaying solidarity.

Additional United Nations Resources