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Young people are the current and future custodians of democracy

An engaged, well-educated electorate is at the heart of strong democratic societies. Creating an environment in which young people feel their voice counts is crucial.

Young people must navigate a world in which democracies are under threat from factors ranging from the proliferation of online mis- and disinformation, to rising populism, and the destabilizing effects of the climate crisis. It is important everyone is able to meaningfully participate in the decisions that affect their lives now, and in years to come.

Unresolved conflicts, the rising threat of climate change and financial turmoil pose a constant threat to democracies around the world. “The walls are closing in on civic spaces,” warns United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on the International Day of Democracy.

In his message marking the day, the UN chief blames the current spread of mis- and disinformation that is “poisoning public discourse, polarizing communities, and eroding trust in institutions”.

Given the damaging effect that this flood of false information can have on young people, this year's International Day of Democracy is dedicated to "Empowering the Next Generation" by focusing on the critical role of children and youngsters in ensuring democracy “today and in the future.”

Climate justice and democracy

The effects of the climate crisis on the physical environment are today impossible to ignore, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that it is a challenge to democracy: growing food insecurity, migration, water scarcity, and extreme weather events are driving conflict and weighing on the minds of voters.

Young people around the world have shown that they are extremely concerned about the climate crisis; in recent years hundreds of thousands of school age children, frustrated by the pace of negotiations to cut fossil fuel emissions, have taken part in large-scale marches, strikes, and protests.

Calls for climate justice have also been a feature of these demonstrations: young people realize that they are likely to suffer the consequences of an increasingly unstable climate, caused by the activities of earlier generations.

The United Nations recognizes the importance of empowering young people to take leadership roles on issues of international importance; the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth convenes the Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals, a group of 17 changemakers whose leadership is catalyzing the  achievement of the SDGs, and the Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change ensures that the Secretary-General hears directly from young climate activists, who can share strategies for advancing climate action.

The UN Democracy Fund (UNDEF) finances projects that empower civil society, promote human rights, and encourage the participation of all groups in democratic processes, including youth.

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