Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of the International Youth Day
12 August 2021
Although youth is a wonderful period marked by encounters, first commitments and new horizons, it is also sometimes wrought with instability and vulnerability.
The crisis brought about by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is a stark reminder of this. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), after women, young people have been the hardest hit by job losses. Youth employment fell by 8.7% in 2020, compared to a 3.7% drop for people over 24 years of age.
The COVID-19 crisis has generated a mental health and education crisis for young people, and its consequences may well last for many years.
We therefore have a responsibility to act on behalf of these young people, who are the future of the world. To do this, we can rely on their formidable inventiveness, because young people are often the first to invent solutions to the problems that concern them.
The Youth as Researchers initiative, launched by UNESCO in 2020, harnesses this resilience and aims to support youth-led research projects on the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is also why UNESCO intends to explore the idea of a global system of grants to finance research projects and grassroots action led by young people. This shall be done during an international conference on the impact of the pandemic on young people that we are organizing in September.
In reality, this need for young people to act for themselves applies to our entire mandate because, as Patti Smith notes in her novel Just Kids, "Who can know the heart of youth but youth itself?" Young people are thus involved in developing UNESCO's actions, for example with the Global Youth Community, the Youth UNESCO Climate Action Network (YoU-CAN) and projects to prevent violent extremism. These are the best means to reach them in a relevant and useful way.
On this International Youth Day, UNESCO therefore invites young people to continue to engage and invites all of civil society to tap into the immense potential of this unique, productive and incredibly capable youth.