Observed annually on August 12, International Youth Day serves to raise awareness around the world of the challenges faced by the younger generations.

From a British perspective, this year seems particularly fitting, considering the possible negative impact a no-deal Brexit could have on younger generations – along with a host of other issues that Britain’s out-of-touch political class is inflicting on us. The International Youth Day provides an opportunity to celebrate young people’s successes and shine a light on how politics is failing them.

The socially conscious generation

In the UK, we have a generation of young people growing up that face surging house prices, rising student debt, mental ill-health, rising levels of knife crime, and climate change. However, young people have not been deterred. We should all be inspired by this socially conscious generation in Britain and beyond.

Just think of all those who have joined in Greta Thunberg’s fight to address the climate emergency. Or think of Malala Yousafzai who as a teenager became the symbol of the campaign for girls’ education.

The youngest member of the House of Commons, Mhairi Black, has also used her voice on International Youth Day to urge Boris Johnson not to make young people pay the price for Brexit. “Boris Johnson must take stock of the life-changing opportunities that thousands of young people will miss out on if he continues to bulldoze ahead with his damaging ‘do or die’ Brexit”, she said in an interview with The National.

Britain’s young generation is committed to fairness, social justice and welfare. We respect the rights of all people, regardless of whether they are UK or EU citizens. We young people do not want to lose the opportunities and rights that EU membership gives us. We cannot let our politics fail young people: we must continue to fight to protect the rights of our youth.

The EU cares about young people

Photo: © European Union 2018 – European Parliament

Young people are at the heart of EU policies, including programmes focusing on the needs of young people in education, skills development and job creation. Initiatives such as the Young Leaders Programme and EU-African Union Youth Plug-In Initiative inspire decision-making and empowerment among the youth – just to give a couple of examples.

The EU Commission proposes an even stronger youth focus in the EU’s next long-term budget 2021-2027, with its plan to double the famous Erasmus+ budget to €30 billion.

Now is a more important time than ever to empower young people and raise awareness about the importance of youth civic engagement and its benefit to society.

Given that a General Election is looming, the next step is for young people to get their names on the electoral register. If there was ever a time when young British people had to fight for their rights and make their voices heard, it’s now.

Like the EU Commissioners said in a joint statement today, “investing in the potential of young people is an investment in our society”. Wouldn’t it be nice if Britain had leaders who thought the same way? No matter. With an election in the offing, young people will have a chance to de-throne our current crop of dismal leaders. It’s time to seize the moment.

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