UN International Youth Day: Promoting civic engagement in a pivotal year

“In this landmark year, as leaders prepare to adopt a bold new vision for sustainable development, the engagement of youth is more valuable than ever. At this critical moment in history, I call on young people to demand and foster the dramatic progress so urgently needed in our world.”

-Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Message for International Youth Day 2015

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12: In a momentous year for concerns about both the environment and youth—nations around the world are elevating young people and recognizing their crucial role in a sustainable human existence. It’s the United Nations’ International Youth Day.

From New York to the Philippines, from Cuba to Qatar and through India, events aim to engage youth in politics, economics and decision-making. The 2015 theme, “Youth Civic Engagement,” arrives on the 30th anniversary of the first International Year of Youth and two decades after the implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth. Today, the World Programme of Action for Youth plays prominently in UN youth development efforts, increasing opportunities for young people to actively participate in society. Live events, videos, Twitter exchanges and more mobilize youth objectives.


Today, the world holds the largest generation of young people in history. Yet as the world rapidly develops and changes, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has voiced the need for young people in both decision-making and the execution of programs and solutions. Social media have allowed immediate sharing of ideas and global communications on grassroots levels.

In December of 1999, the UN General Assembly endorsed the recommendation that August 12 be declared International Youth Day. Later, the World Programme of Action for Youth was created, intending to highlight specific areas of priority such as education, health, hunger and poverty, environment, drug abuse, participation, conflict and intergenerational relations.


UN Headquarters: On August 12, events will be underway at the UN Headquarters. Learn more here.

Organizing an event? Communities, schools, clubs and more can find ideas for celebrating International Youth Day in this toolkit. Events can be registered by sending a email to [email protected].

Looking for an event? Check out the official International Youth Day activities map.

Interested in the IYD Digital Surge? Between 9 a.m. EST and 3 p.m. EST, join the Digital Surge, using #YouthDay and #YouthNow. Click here for details.

Searching for inspiration? Inspiring quotes that celebrate youth, spoken or written by world leaders and UN Officials, will be on Twitter @UNYouthEnvoy.

Global Young Leaders in Times Square: From August 3-August 17, a video featuring the faces of youth making a difference in their communities will be featured on the LG screens in Times Square, in New York City.

Who is the Envoy on Youth—and where will he be on IYD? The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy for Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, will speak at a Youth Forum in the Philippines on International Youth Day 2015. Alhendawi will also join 1,000 young people for the country’s Youth Day celebrations, meet with government officials and exchange ideas with youth advocates from civil society organizations that represent marginalized sectors.

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: Raising awareness, voices

“The interests of the indigenous peoples must be part of the new development agenda in order for it to succeed. … Let us work even harder to empower them and support their aspirations.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

SUNDAY, AUGUST 9: This year, headlines are bursting with news for the United Nations’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: Pope Francis is issuing apologies, Aztec teens are taking hip-hop by storm and recently, IP Day was officially adopted in the Philippines.

Born of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, the UN declared in 1994 that each August 9 would be the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This year, efforts will focus on the theme “Ensuring indigenous people’s health and well-being.” (Learn more here.) Events at UN Headquarters and around the world will draw particular attention to healthcare access for indigenous groups.

Interested in viewing the observance at UN Headquarters? Events will take place Monday, Aug. 10, from 3-6 p.m. View the live webcast here.

In December 1994, the General Assembly of the United Nations first announced the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. In 1995, the first International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People launched, ending in 2004; the next year, the second International Decade began, which lasts through 2015. The Decade and the International Day is observed to advance and defend the rights of the world’s indigenous populations, while also recognizing the contributions and achievements of indigenous individuals.


Pope Francis apologizes: Last month, Pope Francis delivered an hour-long speech to indigenous peoples in Bolivia, asking forgiveness for the Church’s sins against Latin America’s indigenous communities and encouraging the crowd to promote environmental change. (CBS News reported.) Human greed has been primary factor in the planet’s destruction, the Pope said, adding that protecting Mother Earth may be “perhaps the most important task facing us today.” In anticipation of the Pontiff’s visit and speech, the Bolivian government declared the day a national holiday, so that everyone could attend.

Aztec teens, Earth Guardians: A 14-year-old Colorado resident and his younger brother have been catching news headlines with Earth Guardians, an environmental nonprofit, and their hip-hop music that inspires youth to tackle climate change. Having been raised with an Aztec understanding of connection with natural surroundings, the 14-year-old urges all young persons to explore their talents and realize awareness of every action—and its impact on the environment.

Senate approves bill: In the Philippines, a bill was recently approved that declared Aug. 9 as National Indigenous Peoples Day. (Read more here.) UN experts advise the government of the Philippines to follow through with its commitments as internally displaced persons still require “more durable solutions” within the country.

In Bangladesh, more than 200 indigenous people recently lined up to appeal to the government that their constitutional rights be recognized. (UCA News has the story.) Persecution and a lack of protection within the legal system were cited issues, and the people also demanded the government to recognize International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.