Today, 12th August 2020 marks International Youth Day (IYD), a day celebrated annually across the globe since 1999, when declared so by the United Nations General Assembly.
The theme for this year is ‘Youth Engagement for Global Action’, with the intention to showcase how youth can play a pivotal role in representing, and engaging in formal institutional politics at local, national, and global levels. There is growing recognition that when meaningfully engaged, youth can enrich institutions and processes.
But what is meaningful youth engagement?
Youth, our advocates for key development issues are ‘meaningfully engaged’ when they feel valued in addressing and making decisions about issues that affect them personally and/or that they believe to be important. It is facilitated by inclusive, mutually respectful environments where power dynamics are equal.
You can learn more by watching the video here on Healthy Voices, World Obesity’s youth facing website that was launched to coincide with IYD in 2019. The website exploits the results and learning from both the STOP and CO-CREATE project and sustains positive youth-engagement. It is an educational and capacity-building platform and provides a space for blogs and discussions. It aims to provide young people with some tools and expertise about how to become actively involved in shaping their environments and become agents of change.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an eye-opener, with growing recognition that youth should be a key component of national responses, be it through youth groups, youth led governance processes, youth voices & opinions, youth-led implementation and advocacy, youth leadership programmes, and youth-led innovative approaches. Learn more on how youth can get involved in the COVID-19 pandemic response here.
Spotlight on the Caribbean
On this IYD, we would like to congratulate our colleagues in the Carribean who have done excellent work amplifying youth voices, including getting children involved in advocating for school policies.
‘On this International Youth Day, I am calling for governments across the world to meaningfully engage youth in their building back processes, particularly in the health space. Governments need to introduce comprehensive school nutrition policies, policies to ban marketing of unhealthy food to children as well as the mandatory front of package labelling’ – Pierre Cooke, Technical Adviser at the Healthy Caribbean Coalition.
Christopher Laurie, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados, calls for better recognition of youth’ health, and for their involvement in addressing overweight and obesity, those affected by the disease.
‘We must engage youth purposefully and meaningfully in all policy decisions and interventions. We must legitimise youth input in building better, healthier futures. We need to work with our youth, for our youth’. – Christopher Laurie, Health researcher, health & wellness advocate.