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The World Conference on Youth

Welcome to the World Conference on Youth (WCY)! This unique conference focuses on the importance of engaging young people around the world to be active in international solutions by bringing civic, community and youth non-governmental organizations together. The United Nations hosts these conferences approximately every four years.

Following the International Youth Year of 1985, the General Assembly directed the UN Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development to hold four gatherings of youth organizations to discuss youth-centered goals for the upcoming millennium. As a result, the first UN World Youth Forum was held in Vienna, Austria in 1991. The notion of a conference dedicated to youth was borne out of the progress made at the World Youth Forums, and the first meeting of the WCY was held in Lisbon, Portugal in 1998. Concurrently, the General Assembly passed the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) in 1995. This document served as the UN’s recognition of the importance that youth from all socioeconomic backgrounds play in the development of social change and working toward peace. The WPAY also established clear goals for the year 2000 and beyond to actively engage youth in the international decision making process.

The third meeting of the World Youth Forum, held in Braga, Portugal in 1998, called upon States to expand and grow the WPAY. Representatives to Braga established the Braga Youth Plan, which listed thirty specifications in ten focus areas for future United Nations  consideration. Some examples of the ten areas include:

  •       Integrated Cross-Sectoral Youth Policies
  •       Participation of ALL Young People
  •       Education for the 21st Century
  •       Youth Rights Charter and a Special Rapporteur on Youth Rights

International leaders have taken significant steps to focus on youth-driven issues since the first WCY in 1998. Youth played an important role in the development of the Millenium Development Goals of 2000, a set of eight goals that all Member States agreed to try to achieve by 2015. Other bodies within the United Nations have focused their attention on youth engagement and activism. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) created the Operational Strategy on Youth in 2012 to focus on making youth-related issues a clear priority. The strategy runs from 2014 to 2021.

The most recent WCY was held in 2014 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The outcome of the conference focused on post-2015 development areas for improvement, such as food and nutrition security, equal access to a quality education, and access to health care. Going forward, the body resolved to work for clear and precise indicators regarding future inclusivity, implementing the WPAY, considering adequate funds for programming and creating youth-driven indexes.

The UN Envoy on Youth created Youth2030 in September, 2018. This initiative aims to increase dialogue, create learning opportunities, invest in effective solutions and provide accountability for youth involvement, empowerment and inclusion going into the future.

For more information about the World Conference on Youth, the UN’s involvement in this subject, or simply about issues affecting the world’s youth today, click here.

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