The United Nations in Cambodia celebrates the International Youth Day on the 12th of August by recognising the central role young people play in the development of Cambodia.
This year’s global theme, “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Production and Consumption”, calls for all decision-makers around the world including Cambodia to actively seek out and support the meaningful participation of young people in the decision-making and implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
International Youth Day in Cambodia is a day dedicated to celebrating young peoples’ views and initiatives. Celebrations take place all around the world to recognise the importance of youth efforts, collaboration and participation in development and poverty eradication.
In the past few years, the United Nations in Cambodia, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and civil society, have tackled worldwide themes such as “Youth Civic Engagement”, “Youth and Mental Health” and “Youth and Migration”.
Last year, United Nations member states, including Cambodia, unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – a universal agenda for transforming the world. Addressing youth globally, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that: “No one knows better than [you] the issues at stake or the best way to respond. That is why I am calling on young people to speak out and urge leaders to listen.”
The future therefore lies in the balance between the needs of the present and future generations. To make the sustainable development agenda a reality, an important transformation is needed. We must make decisions on the allocation of resources while keeping the interests of future generations in mind. We must make investments in social sectors that improve the resilience of individuals and their communities and we must place the fulfilment of human rights at the centre of development.
Today’s Cambodian young people is the generation that will play a critical role in achieving the SDGs by 2030 and in leaving no one behind on that journey. Young people are the change-makers and have the power to innovate, act and mobilise others. Youth volunteerism and activism is on the rise all around the world, thanks to the widespread access to social media and to global information through connectivity.
With the freedom to enjoy their human rights and empowered with this knowledge, young people are equipped to drive positive change in their communities.
To celebrate the International Youth Day this year, the United Nations in Cambodia, through the UN Youth Task Force, has again joined hands with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and with representatives of civil society and youth networks to organise a one-day event at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.
This significant event is organised under the theme of “Creating decent employment for youth towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and will focus, in particular, on areas which are of an immediate concern to young people, such as decent work, career opportunities, access to further education and participating in and benefiting from economic growth, while enjoying gender equality. These topics are unsurprisingly the key pillars to achieving sustainable development in the country.
The discussion will touch upon the role of young people in the labour market, how young people can bring fresh perspectives and innovation to the economy and the need for continuous adapted training to enhance the skills of young people so they may take full advantage of the demographic dividend. Cultural performances, dance and acts by well-known artists will take place alongside engaging talks by young leaders throughout the day.
Young people will share their personal experiences on how they have become better communicators, critical thinkers, and how they have expanded their horizons to access unique opportunities for development and employment in Cambodia.
For the United Nations in Cambodia, the celebration of the International Youth Day is a unique opportunity to reflect on the importance of empowering young people to fulfil their potential by giving them the knowledge and tools to become influential, vocal and productive actors.
Central to these efforts are the promotion of continuous access to education, health services and reproductive health in an environment where all forms of discrimination faced by young people, especially sexual violence and gender inequality, risk disrupting their future. Collective interventions are critical in order to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, strengthen the resilience of populations and seize the opportunities that a growing economy offers the country.
The future looks bright and young Cambodians have started driving innovations in technology, making conscious choices that are drastically influencing patterns of employment, careers, consumption and production and are mobilising public opinion to make companies, organisations and governments more socially responsible. When they can gain access to information, scholarships, mentorship, career-starter opportunities and platforms for collaboration, young Cambodian innovators have already demonstrated their ability to turn their ideas into transformative solutions for the country.
The United Nations in Cambodia calls upon government, policy-makers, and the private sector and development partners in the country to continue their support to policies that promote young people’s development, employment, health and human rights.
Young people must be engaged as driving agents in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as they will be the generation that will eradicate global absolute poverty and ensure a sustainable path for the next generation on the road to 2030 and beyond.
Marie Odile Emond is the UN resident coordinator ad interim on behalf of the United Nations system in Cambodia. Dr Derveeuw Marc GL is the coordinator of the UN Youth Task Force.