International Youth Day 2020: History, significance and theme of the day

International Youth Day was designated by the United Nations (UN) in the year 1999, in an attempt to raise awareness regarding the cultural and legal issue concerning youth. The first IYD was observed on 12 August 2000 and has been observed annually ever since. In 1999, the General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made the ‘World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth’, and subsequently International Youth Day came to be celebrated annually.


This day is meant to signify and highlight the importance of young people, not just as a future generation, but also as the current driving force of change in the world. Various activities like concerts, workshops, cultural events and meetings are organised to engage the youth and in order to bring their voices, actions, and initiatives to the mainstream. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the UN is commemorating IYD with a podcast-style discussion that will be hosted by the youth for the youth.

Each year, the observance of International Youth Day is marked with a theme, relevant to the times. The theme for 2020 is ‘Youth Engagement for Global Action’, and this has never been of more significance, than during the current conditions. The theme seeks to shed light on “the ways in which the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels is enriching national and multilateral institutions and processes.” It highlights the importance of the influence that youth can have over where the future is headed and how their political and social involvement can aid in creating better, more sustainable policies for the world as a whole.

It is also important to note that the current challenges that humanity is facing can only be tackled with global action. From the Covid-19 pandemic that has brought the world to a standstill, to the Black Lives Matter Movement – the youth, globally, is unabashedly representing their ideologies and beliefs for better living and societal conditions.

With internet effectively joining every single person on earth in an expansive digital space, the call for global action is easily heard and answered by the youth all over the world. At this point in history they can literally ‘start a revolution from their beds.’

In observance of the day, the UN has launched a social media campaign, #31DaysOfYouth, that is celebrating young people all throughout the month of August, leading up to and following International Youth Day. It is meant to spread awareness and initiate conversations surrounding ‘Youth Engagement for Global Action’.


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