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(Every day is) International Youth Day - Clifton Grima

On August 12, the world celebrates International Youth Day, a special date earmarked to remind us all that our hopes rest on young people.

We strongly believe that every day of the year is International Youth Day, but on this annual occasion we strive to place our youth under a global spotlight. We need to emphasise the important role young people play in every community and the world at large. They represent the present and the future and this special day seeks to remind us all what they stand for and what the world stands to gain from investing in them.

International Youth Day was conceived by the United Nations, and this year’s theme is Safe Spaces for Youth. The youth sector requires the right environment to grow and thrive. We are constantly working to create and to nurture a space where young people may be able to exercise their full potential.

This is not merely a physical space but one with a plethora of layers: social, cultural, personal, emotional, educational and much more. We need a space that promotes active participation and inclusion, social justice and tolerance. This is the kind of environment we want to create and consolidate to allow young people to develop safely and fully, to better our world and to ensure a better future.

The spaces we are mentioning are not homogeneous but diverse. Spaces that allow for diversity to grow and for different cultures to mingle. Spaces that promote employment, health, equality and active citizenship.

We need to ensure that these spaces are safe and tolerant of diversity. To this end, Aġenzija Żgħażagħ incessantly strives to open up such spaces through its vast programme of activities and affiliations. Such events constitute educational and artistic programmes, research and EU-funded initiatives, opportunities for disadvantaged youth, policy discussions and much more.

In this day and age, we must also consider the digital space, where millions of young people spend a good chunk of their time interacting and communicating. This space should be safeguarded to allow young people from different cultures to interact. Like physical space, virtual space needs to be safe and appropriate for engaging in meaningful interactions. The virtual space, especially social media platforms, encourages and facilitates active citizenship and activism in social and political areas.

We are constantly working to create and to nurture a space where young people may be able to exercise their full potential

While the digital space is vast and boundary-less, it exposes gaps among peoples and cultures. While, in itself, technology is a very strong and effective tool for communicating one’s views and ideas, it also exposes the insularity created by the digital divide. Thus, one of the aims of International Youth Day is to remind us that inclusion is key and we must strive to reach marginalised youth whose voices remain muted.

Young people need safe places where they can be free to express themselves and their opinions in a democratic way. We are committed to creating such safe spaces and to protecting young people’s rights to benefit from these crucial spaces that encourage dialogue and participation. They provide an appropriate platform wherein discussions about current issues, for example poverty and sustainability, may thrive and yield positive results. They are also places intended for personal interactions and effective communication among youth from different backgrounds – platforms that safeguard the dignity of young people.

We are committed to creating spaces where sports activities may take place so as to allow for the physical and social development of young people. Likewise, creative spaces that nurture the various artistic abilities of young people, ranging from music to the performing arts, need to be strengthened and supported.

International Youth Day is a worldwide celebration and connects millions of youths around the world through various activities and events. Young people are the agents of change and this yearly celebration is a strong reminder of the power of youth in societies across the globe.

Whereas millions of young people may engage freely in these activities, millions of others are deprived of basic rights and opportunities. Thus, while celebrating International Youth Day, governments, policy makers and the general public need to be reminded that the world is still very much indebted to young people especially those who sit at the fringe and who are never allowed to experience and enjoy the benefits of their counterparts in other parts of the world.

Let us continue to work for the same aim and as we look back at the mammoth achievements along the years, we must also ensure that today’s youth are advantageously located within appropriate spaces aimed to help them overcome the challenges of today’s world and provide them with the necessary support and opportunities to fulfil their dreams.

Today, Malta joins the rest of the world in commemorating this special day.

We are fully committed to keeping the momentum going throughout the rest of the year, because we really believe in our youths.

Clifton Grima is Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sport and Voluntary Organisations.

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