12 August 2021 is the International Day of Youth, celebrating the vital role of youth in food systems transformation. Youth accounts for one out of every six people worldwide, and, especially in rural Africa, millions of them are engaged in agriculture. The importance that rural development plays for poverty reduction and social inclusion entails bringing rural youth with their aspirations and ideas on board and to the table for decision making.

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The role of youth for rural transformations has been uplifted at international arenas in the last couple of years. At the G20 Summit in 2017 an Initiative on Rural Youth Employment was launched as a political commitment of the international community. The Global Donor Platform recognised this initiative and committed to the topic by establishing a thematic working group. The working group on Rural Youth Employment is a donor-catalysed working group with significant youth participation to dialogue and advise donors, governments, and civil society organizations on the most effective ways to support and empower youth, allowing them to productively contribute to and benefit from sustainable rural livelihoods and food value chain systems.

The empowerment of youth should allow them to voice their experiences and ideas, and creating the means for them to connect, share and develop solutions for the challenges they face. At the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit on 28 July, Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammad, emphasized the need for youth representation across all action tracks and coalitions of the Summit. Youth should be at the table, negotiating their own future as active participants.

The theme of the International Youth Day 2021, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”, comes to show how the food systems transformations will require inclusion of youth. At the same time, youth will be catalysts for ensuring a sustainable transformation. United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) will be hosting a webinar and discussion on the day.

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