Press Releases

11 August 2005

International Youth Day 2005: Making Commitments Matter

VIENNA, 11 August (UN Information Service) -- "Making Commitments Matter: Reviewing Ten Years of the World Programme of Action on Youth" is the theme of the 5th International Youth Day, which is observed by the United Nations on 12 August.

In his message to mark the occasion, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) would help to improve the situation of the majority of the world's youth: "Every day, almost 30,000 children die of poverty. And 7,000 young people become infected with HIV/AIDS. All that can be changed, if we work together to meet the Millennium Development Goals". Addressing world youth, he said: "Please make sure your voices are heard. Make sure your generation is the one to defeat poverty."

The year 2005 is important for youth at the United Nations, not only because the achievements of the World Programme of Action on Youth (WPAY) will be assessed, but also because the United Nations General Assembly will hold special meetings on youth issues in October, after world leaders have met for the 2005 World Summit at the United Nations in September.

The World Programme of Action on Youth is an international strategy adopted by the United Nations in 1995 to strengthen its commitment to young people, to be able to address the problems of young people more effectively and to increase opportunities for their participation in society. The Programme's overall themes are participation, development and peace. It provides a policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation of youth. The WPAY has 10 priority areas for action: education, employment, hunger and poverty, health, environment, drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, leisure time activities, girls and young women and the full and effective participation of youth in society and in decision-making.

According to data from the World Youth Report 2005, the global youth population (persons aged 15 to 24) has grown from 1.02 billion to 1.15 billion between 1995 and 2005. Young people currently comprise 18 per cent of the world's population; 85 per cent of the world's youths live in developing countries, of which 209 million survive on less than US$ 1 a day and 515 million on less than US$ 2 a day. At the moment, 10 million young persons live with HIV/AIDS. Though the current generation of youth is the best educated to date, 113 million children are not in school, which compares with the current cohort of 130 million youth who are illiterate.

Although the youth are receiving more education, youth unemployment in the world has increased and has touched record levels. According to Eurostat figures for June 2005, youth unemployment in Austria has increased by 1 per cent over the last year and is currently at around 10 per cent. Hungary (16 per cent), Slovakia (25 per cent) and Slovenia (13 per cent) are facing even higher youth unemployment figures. There is increased pressure on young people to compete in a globalizing labour market, but at the same time, the World Youth Report concludes that youth are most flexible and perhaps best able to adapt to and make use of new opportunities offered by globalization. Although there has been greater awareness of gender issues among governments, equal access to higher education and labour markets continues to be a concern in some countries. The past decade has also seen growing recognition of the importance of youth participation in decision-making.

The General Assembly decided in 1999 to declare 12 August as International Youth Day, on the basis of a recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, to promote better awareness of the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond.

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