A Call for Youth Engagement and Inter-generational Partnership for Global Action

On 12 August 2021 we again celebrate International Youth Day and joins her voice with others in the international community in celebrating youth and the role they have in their environments and communities at the moment as well as those they will play in the future.

We all know the importance of nurturing, educating, and inspiring young people for the roles they will have as leaders of the future. Though we know it, it remains a challenge to prioritise investment in them with our precious resources of time, energy and indeed funds. Those of us with access to funds and in decision-making roles, let us ask ourselves if we are truly balancing our resources in favour of young people adequately. While not all of us decide the budgets of institutions, all of us have young people in our lives. Are we taking the time to get to know them, encourage them, accompany them and advocate for them in our spheres of influence...?
Taking the next step, more and more of us in the world recognise that while a healthy society always values, nurtures, protects, educates and accompanies its children and youth, the form this call is taking is now changing. Young people understand themselves as, and indeed are, agents of change in their own right. They are stakeholders in the complex challenges of our world. “Youth” is defined by the United Nations as 15-24 year olds and in some communities as reaching into the mid-30s. These young people have unprecedented access to information and contact with their peers from around the world; from this exposure they also have a high level of concern for a sustainable planet. I imagine that the International Youth Day team considered this fact when choosing this year’s theme “Youth Engagement for Global Action.”
Having worked with young people all my life since being a young person, I can testify that young people have meetings and gatherings to take up issues and solve problems that are very similar in character to any other “adult” gathering. In this post-COVID reality, many youth leaders are now working to mobilise young people as drivers of solutions in the new reality we find ourselves in.
Supporting these youth spaces is one agenda item for the larger community because like any group they need them in order to find their voice, identify their priorities, nurture their leadership skills and mobilise action.
That being said, I believe it is also extremely important to focus on inter-generational conversation and spaces and common action. We will all be poorer if we remain ghettoised. Young people have a facility with the rapidly developing technological world that is driving change and development and they have the particular wisdom of their age group and time in life; these gifts need to be put in conversation with the gifts of older adults in order to find the way forward and the momentum to act on it.
To the non-youth, let us invite mutual mentoring. Young people can benefit from the access, wisdom, perspectives and knowledge we have gathered. They will benefit from the encouragement of “elders” to develop their gifts fully and to begin to use them now. At the same time, they have much to teach us and COVID has made it clear that it is no longer really an option that we all continue to develop our skills. We need the support of young people in this process. As stated earlier, they have their own knowledge and access that is needed as a piece in the larger puzzle.
To the youth, as a part of your vision for change, don’t forget that fuller change will be possible by partnering with the elders. Be patient with us when our vision for your involvement is lacking; be insistent that your presence as actors is necessary in our lives and public processes; help us come up to speed in some areas; and be aware that there are things to learn, too, from the things we have lived through and the accompanying knowledge.
To all, courage, steadfastness, wisdom and love as we navigate unprecedented times… let us do it, as far as it is within our power, together.

Christine Housel 
Donor Relations and Strategic Partnerships 

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