International #YouthDay: A Reminder of Our Impact in Local and Global Communities

Around the world, there are about 1.8 billion people between ages 10 and 24 — a group now comprising the largest youth population ever. To recognize the increasingly important role of this segment of the population as global leaders and change makers, the international community annually commemorates International Youth Day on August 12. This year the international day will focus on recognizing the leading role of youth in eradicating poverty, promoting peace and justice, and achieving sustainable consumption and production. This emphasis on youth as key stakeholders is particularly critical as we enter the first year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the UN General Assembly

In developed countries, we’ve harnessed this role as emerging leaders and made good progress. When it comes to sustainable consumption, research demonstrates that millennials are the most socially conscious shoppers yet. Despite economic challenges, three in four millennials said they would pay more for sustainable products. Our generation also expects companies to do well by doing good. This was evident in Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey, which showed that millennials look for companies with a strong sense of purpose beyond profits.

As the world continues to strive for progress and to achieve the sustainable development agenda, young people will be key players. That is because this generation is uniquely positioned to tackle the challenges we face given our ability to connect with one another. Nowadays, the amount of information we carry in our pockets is remarkable. Access to the Internet and its social platforms make it easier for people to share ideas and make informed decisions on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, over four billion people around the world still don’t have Internet access. With this in mind, I cant help but wonder how we can expect people to make informed choices when their countries lack proper infrastructure? And what can young people, like me, in the United States do to help?

Thinking about the complexity of issues like global connectivity can be very overwhelming and at times discourage us from taking action. The phrase Think Globally, Act Locally rings true for me whenever I feel like any action I take would be inconsequential. That is because the world is made up of many local communities. To make change, we must start by looking at our own communities and our own practices. Only then can we share what we learn with others on a bigger scale, a global scale.

When it comes to building a sustainable future, here are some actions we can all take in our own communities:

  • Harness your power as a consumer to affect social change. You can make a difference with your money by choosing to support businesses that are environmentally and socially conscious.
  • Demand transparency! Always make sure you know where a product comes from and how it is made.
  • Encourage businesses and governments to support young, social entrepreneurs who are working to improve local communities.
  • Educate yourself about initiatives that can help get more people access to the Internet. Learn more about campaigns like #ConnectTheWorld and #OnlineBy2020, which are pushing to get 1.5 billion people online by 2020, because the internet belongs to everyone.

As the U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations, I am excited to travel the United States and engage with other young people about these issues over the next year. I am looking forward to learning more about the issues they are working on in their communities and helping bring best practices into to the global conversation. At this pivotal moment in history, we must remember that our strength is collective. Let’s work together to build a brighter, more sustainable future.

About the Author: Nicol Perez is the fifth U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations, representing an American youth voice at the United Nations General Assembly and other UN events throughout the next year.

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