Since the year 2000, the United Nations (UN) has celebrated International Youth Day annually on August 12. This year, the International Youth Day is aptly titled “Building A Better World, Partnering With Youth“. This is in recognition of the need to encourage youth to be ambitious and recommendations to the older generation to partner with young people to achieve their goals. In addition, the UN is showcasing outstanding work done by young people around the world whilst also emphasising the need to improve and strengthen connections with them in order to advance their quality of life.
International Youth Day 2012 is geared towards providing opportunities for the improvement of youth organisations and for UN Member States worldwide to fortify partnerships with the youth through diverse and innovative means. This would include exploring the ways through which the United Nations, Member States, civil society, the private sector, the academic sector and humanitarians could team up and work with young people to improve their living standards as well as improve their education, employment opportunities, entrepreneurship, citizenship and, most importantly, human rights.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is quoted as saying that, “to unleash the power of young people, we need to partner with them”. Also, in an address by Kofi Annan, United Nations-Arab League joint special envoy for Syria and seventh UN Secretary-General, on International Youth Day in 2004, he urged the international communities and nations, saying, ‘to prepare for the future, we must promote solidarity between generations today’. Consequently, countries across the globe are devoting resources to youth development to ensure that their youth are adequately trained and prepared to address personal, organizational and societal challenges. The case should be no different in Nigeria. There is an urgent need for the government to invest in youth to create a sustainable and successful future, most especially to survive in a competitive and changing world that we live in.
In order to effectively alleviate global challenges faced by the youth, such as poverty, gender discrimination, human trafficking, drug abuse, high illiteracy and unemployment there is an urgent need for stakeholders to work together. This underscores the importance of establishing a global strategy to build a better world; a world that is free and fair. A world that recognises that if the youth are constructively engaged, they will emerge as great leaders and become useful resources to their nations.
It is germaine to mention that there are organisations in Nigeria that are dedicated to working to achieve this year’s theme. One such organisation is Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability & Professionalism (LEAP) Africa, a non-profit organisation that is committed to developing dynamic, innovative and principled leaders. For the past decade, LEAP has trained more than 20, 000 youth and partnered with many youth-led organisations in an attempt to amplify their leadership capacity. The organisation also offers training programmes targeted at disadvantaged youth aged between 14-35 years through its various leadership programmes such as the Leadership, Ethics & Civics (LEC) Programme, Employability Programme and Values and Leadership Skills Programme.
LEAP’s beneficiaries have initiated high impact social change projects in their local communities across Nigeria and Africa. These young innovators are championing global discussions in areas such as climate change resolution. Locally, they are also contributing to national issues including agriculture, corruption, human rights, and providing basic health care to the underserved – in an attempt to alleviate social and economic problems in the society. Beyond these activities, the LEAP beneficiaries and Alumni, hold seminars to impart knowledge to their peers and young adults on topical issues ranging from teenage pregnancies to entrepreneurship.
The actions of these young people demonstrate that leadership is not a position but an act that clearly defies the belief that only successful and influential individuals can positively transform lives and influence situations in their community.
To celebrate International Youth Day 2012, the United Nations and LEAP Africa urge non-governmental organisations, the government, private sector and well-meaning citizens to partner with and support young people in the key areas of need such as employment, entrepreneurship, political inclusion, citizenship and protection of rights, education and sexual/reproductive health.
The dedicated and collective efforts of organisations and citizens towards establishing positive and strategic youth engagement on a national scale would eventually lead to improvements in the global state of affairs.