On 20 November, the United Nations invites the world to acknowledge and celebrate Universal Children’s Day. During the early years of development in life, humans are most adaptable, open-minded, curious, creative, playful and resilient as children and youth. Younger generations offer a unique perspective into the future. In the words of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “Youth should be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making of local, national and global levels.” I couldn’t agree more.
I believe the health of future generations is entirely dependent on the individual and collective choices that we are making today. Investing in young people as learners, leaders, peer educators and role models is the foundation of a more prosperous society and economy. As recognized by the Global Agenda Council on Youth Unemployment (http://www.weforum.org/content/global-agenda-council-youth-unemployment-2012), youth is one of the world’s most precious resources. This means that creating meaningful opportunities for youth to grow and develop can only expand to have a positive impact on human development overall, as this investment establishes a framework for a more engaged society as a whole. We need to instil in today’s children the empowering knowledge that their ideas and actions can and will have an impact, which is why capacity building from a young age is so critical for a prosperous future. Access to education and health is instrumental for poverty reduction and to ensure economic growth and social sustainability.
With that in mind, we need to ask ourselves a few questions as we embark on designing the future. How are we creating safe environments that are inclusive, positive and nourishing that enable children to feel empowered and to take charge of shaping the world they will inherit? Secondly, how can we foster 21st century skills and cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset as a way to tackle rising unemployment? Thirdly, are we spotlighting successful young leaders who are embodying healthy choices in different domains of their life – as learners, as environmental stewards, as peer educators? We need to deeply reflect on the values displayed by the people we showcase as models of success. When we recognize the importance of incorporating principles such as treating oneself and one another with dignity (visit GlobalDignity.org), we are by extension contributing to a healthier society.
My line of work has reinforced my belief that human development can be secured if we create spaces that value the voices, experiences and ideas offered by all generations. If young people were actively engaged to be included decision-makers in society, I believe we would put an end to poverty, unemployment, substance abuse and crime, to name a few (check out YouthEffect.org). It is our responsibility to listen to and collaborate with youth now as partners and key contributors to our communities and society at large.
Jennifer Corriero is the Executive Director of TakingITGlobal, an international non-profit organization that empowers youth to understand and act on the world’s greatest challenges. She was also named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2005. Follow her work @jenergy and at tigweb.org.
Photo Credit: TakingITGlobal