International Youth Day - Compassion International

International Youth Day
Help equip young men and women with the education and skills they need to overcome poverty and earn a sustainable income.
International Youth Day: Celebrating Hope for the Future

August 12 marks the annual celebration of International Youth Day. It is an international day of awareness, recognizing youth across the globe and empowering the world's youth to make positive contributions to their communities and nations. The day primarily focuses on celebrating young people and their efforts in conflict prevention, inclusion, social justice, and peace across the globe.

The United Nations (UN) celebrated the first ever International Year of Youth in 1985. A decade later, the UN General Assembly adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth, a set of policies and guidelines for nations to look to in improving the situation of the world's youth. However, it was not until 2000 that the world celebrated the first International Youth Day.

In recent years, the General Assembly has adopted 15 Priority Areas relating to action for youth. Each priority area addresses principle issues, specific objectives, and actions to be taken by governments to achieve full inclusion of youth. The 15 Priority Areas are:

  • Education
  • Employment
  • Hunger and poverty
  • Health
  • Environment
  • Drug Abuse
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Leisure-time activities
  • Girls and young women
  • Participation
  • Globalization
  • Information and communication technologies
  • Youth and conflict
  • Intergenerational relations

International Youth Day is not to be confused with World Youth Day. World Youth Day was founded by Pope John Paul II in 1986 as an invitation for youth to respond to the call to bring the love of Christ to the world. World Youth Day is celebrated on Palm Sunday.

International Youth Day is a United Nations supported celebration, while World Youth Day is a celebration founded within the Catholic tradition. Though technically different celebrations, both International Youth Day and World Youth Day recognize the value of young people across the world.

Understanding the World Programme of Action for Youth

In 1995, the United Nations decided to increase its commitment to the youth of the world by adopting the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY), a strategic framework of policies and guidelines to guide nations in supporting, empowering, and improving the conditions of young people. The focus of the WPAY is to encourage national actions to improve the number of quality opportunities for youth, ultimately encouraging them to be active and effective participants in society.

The program also encourages youth around the world to gather and create awareness about the realities young people face within their own nation. The hope is that this will spark change.

Three smiling and confident Indonesian girls.

Interestingly, the UN adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth five years before the induction of the first International Youth Day. The values and celebrations of International Youth Day are heavily influenced by the core principles of the WPAY.

The Impact Potential of Youth

The world currently holds the largest generation of youth in history. Young people represent hope for the future. However, they are more than just that.

In a message about International Youth Day, Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, writes, “Young people are not only our future—they are our present…They are the most connected, the most outspoken and the most open-minded generation the world has ever seen.” Today’s youth have potential to shape the world both in the present and in the future.

Sadly, this potential for impact is often inhibited. The realistic tragedy is that many young people around the world battle the suffocating grip of poverty, disease, lack of resources, education, and more. The progress, dreams, and world-changing abilities are restricted for many young people. International Youth Day also helps raise awareness for these issues. But there is more that we can do.

International Youth Day Themes

Three smiling Indonesian girls

  • 2017: Youth Building Peace
  • 2016: Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainability
  • 2015: Youth Civic Engagement
  • 2014: Mental Health Matters
  • 2013: Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward
  • 2012: Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth
  • 2011: Change Our World
  • 2010: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding
  • 2009: Sustainability: Our Challenge. Our Future
  • 2008: Youth and Climate Change: Time for Action
  • 2007: Be Seen, Be Heard: Youth Participation for Development
  • 2006: Tackling Poverty Together
  • 2005: WPAY+10: Making Commitments Matter
  • 2004: Youth in an Intergenerational Society
  • 2003: Finding Decent and Productive Work for Young People Everywhere
  • 2002: Now and for the Future: Youth Action for Sustainable Development
  • 2001: Addressing Health and Unemployment
  • 2000: First Observance of International Youth Day

International Youth Day Prayers

Lord Jesus, thank you for young people and the impact they have on the world. We pray that they would feel empowered by your Holy Spirit and by the people in their lives to be a force of change. We ask that you would allow the youth to become a generation that brings light, hope, and courage to the world. For the youth in poverty, release them. For the youth in slavery, free them. For the youth who do not know you, reveal yourself to them. Raise up a generation of difference makers for Your glory. Amen.

  • Pray that youth around the world feel empowered to be leaders and difference makers in their families, communities, and nations.
  • Pray that young people living in poverty would encounter opportunities to receive an education or vocational training that will allow them to break the cycle of poverty in their lives.
  • Pray that young people would set a Christ-like example for both younger and older generations. Pray that the examples they set will be accepted and encouraged.

1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

A young girl from Honduras bites her thumbnail in shyness.


Youth and You


Just as those involved in International Youth Day are dedicated to the growth and engagement of young people, you too can invest in the lives of youth by partnering with us.

The destructive nature of poverty often follows children out of their childhood and into their youth. Many young people around the world lack basic literary, reading, and writing skills. Without an opportunity for education, many teenagers in poverty are forced to get involved with trafficking, gang violence, drugs, and other dangerous activities.

At Compassion, we want the lives of youth across the world to tell a different story. We want better stories. And we want you to be a part of it.

Education changes everything. Our work with youth development provides young people ages 12 and older with customized training and educational paths according to their unique God-given talents and potential. Our goal is for youth to be prepared, equipped, and able to support themselves while contributing positively to their families and communities. By partnering with us, your donation may support formal education, non-formal education (like vocational training or apprenticeships), or income generation training.

Empowerment through education has the ability to bring positive change to the lives of young people and release them from the grip of poverty.


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