Young people are not the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders we need right now

Young people around the world are facing different realities of violence and deprivation, yet in a new wave of human rights activism they are bravely standing up against injustice and calling for change, said Amnesty International ahead of this year’s One Young World global summit.

One Young World, which takes place in the Netherlands from 17-20 October, will see young people from around the world join forces with global leaders to discuss the world’s most pressing issues. This year, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Kumi Naidoo, will be attending the event, alongside Vibha Venkatesha, a member of Amnesty International’s Global Youth Collective.

“Young people are not the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders we need here and now. One Young World is an opportunity to bring young people together and provide a platform so they can make their voices heard,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.  

“From tackling gun violence and unlawful use of force by the police, to sexual violence and harassment, young people are not shying away from standing up to power even when they are being called naïve or idealistic. These are the bold role models we need today.

“We need fresh, open minds to challenge the many problems the world is facing today, to look at new ways of organizing and to rethink our current methods of civil disobedience to bring human rights change.

“Yet, young people continue to face discrimination because of a combination of factors, such as age, race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. As Amnesty International continues to build a bigger, bolder and more inclusive movement, we want to make sure young people, in all their diversity, are at the forefront of it.”

In many countries, young people are unable to participate in public decision-making or are silenced because they fear the repercussions of speaking out. Twenty-four-year-old Venezuelan human rights defender, Geraldine Chacon, was arrested, arbitrarily detained in appalling conditions for four months and intimidated solely on the basis of her peaceful work with young people in Caracas. Though conditionally released in June 2018, she can’t leave the country and could be arrested again at any time.

Passionate, active young members of society should be celebrated, not silenced. Amnesty International is committed to campaigning on behalf of Geraldine Chacon and many others who remain imprisoned or otherwise threatened for speaking up. Young people should be able to work in an environment where they feel safe and supported to promote and defend human rights.

Vibha Venkatesha is a member of Amnesty International’s Global Youth Collectivea team of Amnesty International youth leaders and staff who are champions for youth engagement and participation. Vibha campaigns on issues such as mass incarceration, solitary confinement, migrant and refugee rights and LGBTI rights in the USA.

“We’re living in a world that is changing rapidly, yet so many governments seem unable or unwilling to make human rights a reality. Young people are fighting for a world that is sustainable, equitable and just. One Young World provides an important opportunity for youth leaders to join forces, make global connections, learn from one another and collaborate to create change. Together, we can realize our collective power,” said Vibha Venkatesha.