International Youth Day is marked annually on Aug. 12 to raise awareness of issues young people face and offer courses of action to help mitigate their impact.
In a message to commemorate the day, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres celebrated the world’s youth for being “on the frontlines leading the charge for climate justice.”
“The unrelenting conviction of young people is central to keeping climate goals within reach, kicking the world’s addiction to fossil fuels and delivering climate justice,” Guterres said.
However, youth are up against challenges that threaten their future and the planet.
In a video statement, Jayathma Wickramanayake, the U.N. secretary-general's envoy on youth, underscored the importance of addressing the global climate crisis urgently.
“As current and future custodians of our planet, young people stand to lose the most if societies become more insecure and unequal and if the triple planetary crisis continues unabated,” she said.
The triple planetary crisis refers to climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss.
This year, extreme weather events linked to climate change have intensified concerns. Youth are at least two times more likely to experience extreme climate events in their lifetimes, the U.N. warned.
Additionally, around 60% of youth will lack the skills necessary in a green economy. The U.N. identifies green skills as the “knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society.”
Disparities related to digital skills, gender and education must also be addressed to promote a sustainable future, it said.
"I hope that decision-makers everywhere join me in recognizing these important contributions of young people everywhere, redoubling support and investments for youth-led initiatives," Wickramanayake said.
Praising youth for promoting change around the world, she recognized their role in "social mobilization, pushing for climate action, seeking racial justice, promoting gender equality and demanding dignity for all."
Paul Ndhlovu, communications associate at a Harare-based HIV advocacy organization, Zvandiri, told VOA young people want to be part of the solution.
"This is a special day of recognizing that … as young people, as youth, we are capable, we are able to do more, more than just enough," Ndhlovu, who is also a U.N. young leader for the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), said.
"(International Youth Day) recognizes us that as youth we need the knowledge, we need the skills. And … we need the opportunities to implement the various strategies that we have," he added.
This year’s International Youth Day theme seeks to boost the SDGs adopted by all U.N. member states in 2015, which provides a blueprint for global peace and prosperity.
VOA's Anthony LaBruto contributed to this report compiled by Leah Seyoum.