The International Youth Day logo. Photo by: UN

The global economic crisis’ toll on today’s generation of youth — the largest the world has known — has been hard-hitting, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said ahead of International Youth Day. He called for intervention to avoid creating a “‘lost generation’ of squandered talent and dreams.”

International Youth Day has been marked through worldwide grass-roots events, which people can track and submit on an interactive online map. This year’s celebration, themed “Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth,” falls at a particularly trying time.

The 2012 U.N. World Youth Report, released in February, found that the global youth unemployment rate saw its largest annual increase in 2009 — at its peak, 75.8 million young people were unemployed. In 2010, the global youth unemployment rate was 12.6 percent, topping the global adult unemployment rate of 4.8 percent.

“I call on Governments, the private sector, civil society and academia to open doors for young people and strengthen partnerships with youth-led organizations,” Ban said in his remarks.

The needs — and “transformative force”— of the youth have been recognized by some foundations, like the U.N. Foundation, which invests in projects for adolescent girls worldwide through its Girl Up campaign.

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah also acknowledged the youth’s power to effect change. In his speech given ahead of the event, Shah stressed the importance of forming partnerships with the youth “to solve some of the greatest challenges in global development.”

“When we start empowering youth, we simply can’t predict what they can achieve or what we can accomplish together,” said Shah, who also urged the youth to share what partnership means to them by tweeting @USAID and @rajshah using #usaidyouth or by leaving a comment on USAID’s Facebook page.

But progress on the youth-oriented education and health Millennium Development Goals, a set of seven development targets countries have pledged to reach by 2015, remains mixed and, in certain regions, continues to lag, according to the 2012 Millennium Development Goals Report.

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About the author

  • Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is an award-winning journalist based in New York City. Her coverage on politics, social justice issues, development and climate change has appeared in a variety of international news outlets, including The Guardian, Slate and The Atlantic. She has reported from the U.N. Headquarters, in addition to nine countries outside of the U.S. Amy received her master of arts degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in May 2014. Last year she completed a yearlong fellowship on the oil industry and climate change and co-published her findings with a team in the Los Angeles Times.