COVID-19 has profoundly uprooted global norms. While the pandemic affects people across the globe, the impacts are different based on where you live and who you are. For the under-30s of the world, we will be hit hardest by long-term economic, social, and emotional stressors, and we will bear the brunt of the fallout if leaders fail to act on pandemic preparedness. With crises like global conflict, climate change, and potentially another deadly pandemic on the horizon, youth voices must be prioritized in change-making.
Global leaders should engage and support youth in response to the current crises while advocating for future pandemic preparedness. Around the globe, 40% of 18 to 29 year-olds feel left out of designing or reforming public benefits and services. It is time to make space for new thought leadership, equip youth with the tools to address and mitigate pandemics, and invite them to the decision making tables. The onus is on youth to rebuild a more resilient global paradigm. Here’s how global leaders can support us:
- Tailor youth programming
Use an intergenerational lens with youth-led and -designed programming to engage younger generations in responding to COVID-19 and working to prevent future pandemics. People under 30 account for half of the world’s population, so it’s important to engage with youth perspectives in pandemic programming. Review your organization’s pandemic preparedness and response initiatives to identify where you can incorporate youth voices and leadership to deliver on your goals more effectively.
- Step up and share the decision making power
Two out of three countries do not consult young people as part of national development plans. This is an appeal to established leaders to give precedent for youth counsel. Advocating for the world to take pandemics seriously means providing youth-centered policy development and decision-making opportunities to support transparency, cooperation, and international disease monitoring and response structures. While established leaders must make space for younger leaders, this is also a call for youth to step up to the plate, advocate for pandemic preparedness across platforms, and hold international leaders accountable to their policy commitments. We need your voices to demand that future generations be spared from the impact of pandemic threats!
- Capitalize on youth social media savvy for pandemic response and preparedness
We know that Gen Z is the first fully-global generation connected by digital devices and engaged in social media. But young people are more than just connected: they are savvy and have the potential to use their platforms to advance social good. Think about the K-POP fans who have organized around political activism. Now is the time to use the power and creativity of youth networks and partnerships to creatively break through, combat misinformation, and engage a broader audience on pandemic preparedness and response.
- Take action and amplify these youth engagement tools:
- Circulate or join the Pandemic Action Ambassadors program. This group of diverse advocates leverage personal storytelling to support policy and advocacy goals that will help to end the COVID crisis and prevent the next pandemic.
- Amplify and register for the May 2022 World Bank Group Youth Summit 2022: Unlocking the Power of Inclusion for Equitable Growth. The Summit competition seeks innovative and action-oriented youth proposals for “Unlocking the Power of Inclusion for Equitable Growth”.
- Share the Local Solution’s Global Youth Mobilization international funding call for young people to submit their innovative ideas to address COVID-19 challenges.
- Identify African youth leaders with remarkable potential for the paid, year-long Global Citizen Fellowship Program for African Youth, powered by BeyGOOD.
- Focus your energy on becoming a mentor with Global Health Me to connect with young global health professionals and students for a five-month mentoring opportunity.
Every revolution in history has been led by young people. –Aya Chebbi