International Youth Day: A Call to Action for Central America

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Press Release – US Embassy

“International Youth Day: A Call to Action for Central America”

Partnering with Youth. Credit: UNICEF/Pirozzi

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton believes that young people are at the heart of today’s great opportunities and challenges, from rebuilding the global economy to combating gang violence to building sustainable democracies.  Over half the world’s population is under the age of 30 and more than half of Central America is under 25. Yet it’s not just the sheer numbers that makes youth a priority.  Young people are transforming societies every day across the world; that’s why youth engagement is a top foreign policy priority for the United States.

As Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, I coordinate our global youth engagement.  In my many trips across Central America, I have met young people from Guatemala to Panama who are taking back their countries. I recall one comment by Gilberto, a youth activist in Progreso, Honduras who works with the Organization for Youth Empowerment (OYE). “Before becoming active in my community, all I wanted to do was leave my country. But now my friends and I can study, learn and grow in a safe place through the work we do with OYE.  I see a better future for myself and my family in Honduras, and I want to be a part of helping my country.

As the United States celebrates International Youth Day on August 12,we join the thousands of young people like Gilberto, and urge even more young Central American youth to stand with us.

Secretary Clinton has appointed a Special Adviser for Global Youth Issues and our embassies are setting up Youth Councils across Central America. These councils will provide fresh perspectives from youth on a range of policy issues.  Youth in our Gang Resistance Education and Training programs and community outreach centers harness vocational training and English language learning to build self-esteem, increase employability, and break the cycles of violence and crime. The Youth Movement against Violence in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala is mobilizing an entire generation to create a culture of peace.

But too many young people in Central America remain isolated and fearful, not able to see the promise of a future in which they can make a difference.  They need educational, social, political, and economic opportunities to be good citizens and strong parents to the next generation.  They need to have a stake in their countries’ future.  They need our help.

International Youth Day is a day to reaffirm our shared commitment to supporting the aspirations of the next generation.  There is no alternative.  As Secretary Clinton said “the world ignores youth at its peril.”


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