Geneva, 15 December 2020. The Big Six – the world’s six largest youth organisations – have called on governments and policymakers to put young people at the heart of the solutions when it comes to pandemic and post-pandemic recovery efforts. They stress that a healthy, vibrant and further strengthened youth sector is vital to ensure that young people thrive and overcome the challenges of the future with the support of those around them.
They made their recommendations in the wake of the COVID pandemic of 2020 which has severely affected young people’s education, employment and mental health, while also being the catalyst for young people to stand up as first responders and solutions providers in their communities.
“The Young People Championing Post-Pandemic Futures Position Paper outlines key policy recommendations which address the challenges that young people all around the world are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic”, said Carlos Sanvee, World YMCA Secretary-General. “It is time to put young people at centre stage in the great global ‘reset’ which is the result of a virus which has laid bare so many inequalities and injustices in our societies. We celebrate young people, and we empower them.”
The Big 6 (World YMCA, World YWCA, World Organisation of the Scout Movement, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, Duke of Edinburgh International Award, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) engage over 250 million young people globally every year, and have all been directly involved through their member associations in COVID-19 resilience and recovery efforts.
On 14 December, the World Health Organization announced that it will partner with the Big 6 and the UN Foundation in the Global Youth Mobilisation for ‘Generation Disrupted’, a new $5 million initiative to source and seed-fund youth-led solutions, and to organise national projects to encourage young people to lead Covid recovery efforts.
The challenges of young people globally have mounted during the pandemic, and reached a critical point with school closures, mental health difficulties, rising youth unemployment, and stigma surrounding alleged youth involvement in the spread of the virus. The Big 6 Youth Organisations have therefore started a global effort to unify advocacy positions and speak with a single voice on the issues that young people are facing, and identifying potential policy solutions for addressing them.
The Young People Championing Post-Pandemic Futures Position Paper is aimed at governmental and intergovernmental institutions and policymakers, and at the member national and local movements of each of the Big 6 organisations, which can use it to inform their own dealings with government and policy makers.
The Big Six Youth Organisations have issued the following key calls to action for policymakers:
- Ensure that children and young people from diverse backgrounds play a direct, active and powerful role in making decisions and developing policies that affect them and their future.
- Ensure equal access to healthcare for children and young people, regardless of background or employment status, with mental health as a key priority. If suitable approved vaccines will be made available, ensure free or low-cost vaccination schemes for vulnerable children and youth.
- Invest in more user-friendly, low-cost/high-efficiency systems to ensure children and young people have inclusive access to education, as well as in promoting digital inclusion and online safety.
- Promote digital safety and privacy as a fundamental human right, ensuring and maintaining a safe space for everyone irrespective of race, region, gender, sexual orientation, age, economic background and any other attributes.
- Prioritise upskilling and reskilling educational paths which promote skill development and vocational learning that will help future-proof careers. This includes competences around financial education, digital skills and civic skills.
- Promote active investment in building strong and resilient communities as a core element of public policies and programmes, with meaningful engagement of young people in this process.
- Ensure that children and young people are at the forefront of COVID-19 recovery programmes and policies, and that they are not disproportionately affected by budget cuts.
- Support youth- serving organisations at all levels (including grassroots organisations) during and after the COVID-19 crisis with increased funding or alternative funding schemes (including potential institutional support), ensuring the survival of the youth work sector.
- Adapt national and local youth policy to the new realities of digital and blended youth work.