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European Year of Youth: Creating new pathways for young people

03.02.2022

The European Union designated 2022 as the Year of Youth to bring young people’s voices and needs back to the centre of the EU’s policies and actions. The Year of Youth recognizes the toll COVID-19 policies had on their education, access to jobs and mental health, and aims to create new opportunities for young people in Europe. The EU also works hand in hand with the UN to promote youth participation.

After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, young people continue to face economic, social and mental health challenges. COVID-19 regulations often ignored the needs and perspectives of young people, and many lost hope. This year, the European Union is bringing young people back to the centre of EU politics. In this spirit, the European Commission designated 2022 as the European Year of Youth.

Together with NextGenerationEU, the Year of Youth aims to change young people’s perspectives on their future by creating quality employment, education and training opportunities, as well as by opening up political spaces to young people. The Year of Youth builds on previous EU efforts dedicated to promoting youth, including Erasmus+, the European Solidarity Corps, the Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative.

The EU is committed to creating a better, more inclusive, and democratic European society, where young people take part in decisions that impact their present and future. The EU and member states are working towards systematically including youth in decision-making processes not just at the regional, national and EU level, but also at the UN level.

Youth at the UN

With a growing global youth population, building meaningful partnerships with young people is fundamental to build stronger, more legitimate, inclusive, peaceful and democratic societies, where human rights and the rule of law are respected. This is clearly recognised in the Council Conclusions on Youth in External Action, as well as in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024.

At the UN, the EU promotes the participation of youth in UN events and conferences through the organisation of side events. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the EU has hosted with the UN SG's Youth Envoy a yearly dialogue with Youth Delegates in the margins of the General Assembly Third Committee. The EU organises regular consultations with young people ahead of UN conferences and negotiations.

EU member states are strong supporters of the UN Youth Delegate Programme, where young people can participate in intergovernmental meetings at the UN. In the past, youth delegates have participated in meetings of the General Assembly, the Commission of the Economic and Social Council, the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Human Rights Council and others. The EU hopes that by leading by example, more UN member states will follow suit in reserving delegate seats at UN meetings to young people. The EU is exploring ways to launch the EU/UN Youth Delegates Programme, which will give two young Europeans the opportunity to engage in the work of the EU at the UN every year.

The EU recognises the particular challenges faced by youth of the Global South. This is why, the EU is the main financial contributor to the Youth Fellowship of HOPE, which was launched in November 2021 by the President at the 76th session of the General Assembly and aims to integrate young people from the Global South into the work of the UN.

The EU Delegation to the UN also takes part in the EU Junior Professionals in Delegations programme. Two Junior Professionals in Delegations are currently part of the EU team in New York, working on humanitarian affairs and budgetary issues.

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