It’s hard to ignore the recent groundswell of activism being forged by the rising voices of young people across the world.
After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, it was the students of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School that jumped into action. Their resolve and strength were the spark that set ablaze a tinderbox of frustration targeted at politicians that promise change but deliver no results.
That spark spread across America, culminating in over one million students walking out of school, not in hate, but in hope that their actions would bring change and start a new chapter of the gun control debate. They have made it clear; they will not stop until it does.
As a father of 2 girls this age, I need to post an excerpt of the speech made by a very passionate Emma Gonzalez, a student & survivor at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fl. #WeCallBS pic.twitter.com/LsirGBXpzK
— Harness Replays (@HarnessReplays) February 19, 2018
But they are far from the only young people who are making a difference around the world today. There are countless more that we don’t hear about in the headlines, but whose impact in their communities is changing lives.
Of course, young people being the face of change is nothing new. The younger generation has been dragging society – sometimes kicking and screaming – into the next stage of development for millennia.
The Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs Board of Ed was a direct result of student protests and walkouts. Time and time again, our nation and our world have been made better by students standing up — and walking out — for what’s right. #Enough #NationalWalkoutDay #WalkoutWednesday pic.twitter.com/qfyd7x7Hbp
— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) March 14, 2018
But the events of the last few months have shaken up an older generation who offensively dismissed the school kids of today as lazy, entitled snowflakes.
Pouncing on this momentum and giving an international platform to the next generation of leaders is the Youth Forum of the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development, taking place on March 23 and 24 in Bangkok, Thailand.
This year will be the second time the annual gathering has taken place and will bring together 75 youth activists, advocates and representatives from youth-led, youth-serving and youth-allied organisations from diverse social movements across Asia Pacific.
We are living in a world faced with huge challenges, and it is this generation that will have to deal with the brunt of their predecessor’s mistakes. Those attending the forum are tackling that challenge head-on through collective examination of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and consideration of key topics, such as poverty, hunger, lack of health, education, water and sanitation, gender equality and violation of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
— SANGEET KAYASTHA (@sangeetkayastha) March 25, 2017
And their combined voice carries significant influence. Young people in the Asia-Pacific region constitute 60 percent of the world’s youth population. That makes a whopping 750 million people aged between 15 to 24 years. As Sai Jyothirmai Racherla, Programme Director at the Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) says, “governments cannot afford to neglect their needs.”
“Governments have to integrate young people meaningfully in the implementation of the sustainable development agenda in Asia-Pacific if we are really serious about eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in the region,” Sai said.
Once the youth forum concludes, the participants are handed the mic and given a world stage that demands attention.
The call to action developed over the two-day session is presented to the United Nations’ Forum on Sustainable Development.
With the commitment of young people such as these around the world, it’s hard not to be optimistic. Over the next decade and beyond, if we are to solve the most pressing issues of our time, we need to tap into the dynamism of youth movements, for they have the potential to disrupt inertia and be the most creative forces for social change. Most importantly, we need to make sure we listen when they speak out.
The widespread misconception that young people shouldn’t have a say when it comes to dealing with the world’s problems is an outdated and dangerous one. Let’s change it.