Second HRC Youth Forum delegates creating statements with images during one of the Skills Labs. 

Today, the world celebrates International Youth Day, a day that recognizes the important role of youth as agents and leaders of change and provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges they face. This year’s theme “Youth Building Peace” emphasizes that youth are essential contributors to peacebuilding and conflict prevention.

As the World YWCA, a global movement working for young women’s empowerment, leadership and rights, we celebrate the contributions girls and young women make to their communities, countries and the world. Yet on this day, we also wish to draw attention to the lack of youth representation and participation within decision-making processes.

Currently there are 1.8 billion young people in the world between the ages of 10 and 24 (UNFPA). This number is higher than at any other point in history, and this reality calls on decision makers to urgently address young peoples’ concerns and wishes. If we don’t reach youth with policies and programmes, we risk losing them as drivers of social and economic prosperity. To guarantee that they are well equipped to seize opportunities and drive positive change, it is critical that young people have a voice in major decision-making processes.

First HRC Youht Forum participants at the Headquarters of the United Nations, Geneva.

This is why, in 2016, the World YWCA and its partners launched a Youth Forum at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The HRC is one of the most important international mechanisms for promoting and protecting human rights, and the HRC Youth Forum provides a much needed platform for young people to discuss human rights issues and influence decision-makers.

In June 2017, about 100 young people from around the globe came together for the second HRC Youth Forum preceding HRC35. These young advocates engaged with human rights experts and activists and drafted a declaration to present their recommendations on how to meaningfully engage youth. The declaration asked decision-makers to:

  1. Guarantee that preconditions for meaningful youth participation are met, including notably by protecting the right to freedom of opinion and expression, right to freedom of assembly and association, freedom of movement and non-discrimination;
  2. Adequately resource youth voices at the HRC through an annual Youth Forum as an integrated component of the HRC, and ensure that priorities outlined in the Youth Forum are included in the decisions of the HRC;
  3. Systematically include youth representatives from a wide constituency in delegations of member states and create enabling conditions for them to meaningfully participate;
  4. Engage and consult with the widest representative scope of youth and youth organisations in all HRC processes, including but not limited to, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reporting and implementation of recommendations, at the international and national level ;
  5. Encourage UN Special Rapporteurs to meet with youth in all of their diversities during their country visits;
  6. Appoint a Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Youth to analyse and provide guidance to remedy human rights issues specifically impacting youth, and
  7. Guarantee funding for youth from all regions to have access to the HRC.

On International Youth Day, we celebrate youth and advocate for their rights, but let’s not limit the advocacy to one day only. Let’s make it a daily plan so we can reach our goal of a just, inclusive and more peaceful world.

Mark the day by spreading the word using the #YouForHumanRights

Download the HRC Youth Forum Declaration in: