Citizens of the World

By Evelien Borgman

The current generation of youth is the largest the world has ever known, and is still increasing. At the same time, with the ongoing globalization and fast progress on communication such as the increased usage of mobile phones and online networks, the world is becoming smaller. As a result, youth also represent the most interconnected generation of our time.

In January 2012, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon outlined his Five Year Action Agenda for his second term in office. He defined working with women and young people as one of his five key imperatives and wishes to address the needs of young people by deepening the youth focus of existing programmes. Already in 1999, the UN General Assembly declared 12 August to be International Youth Day. The theme for 2013 is ‘Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward’.

The number of young people between 15 and 24 years old that cross their countries’ borders has increased over time. In 2010, the total number of migrant youth was estimated at 27 million, thereby constituting one-eighth of the then 214 million international migrants in the world. Young migrants, being alone or accompanied by family members, leave their home for different reasons, for example in search of employment or fleeing from persecution.

Migrant youth need to be given opportunities to participate in discussions at all levels and to speak up for what they believe is important for their generation and future. Empowering them to lead and have their voices be heard will create a broader understanding of their needs. Social inclusion of migrant youth helps to shape positive attitudes among migrants and native youth alike, and brings down social barriers of xenophobia, marginalization and discrimination.

With the PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival, IOM encourages young people from all over the world to explore issues of migration, diversity and social inclusion and to share their opinions with a global audience. This joint initiative of IOM and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations started in 2009 and helps create awareness about migration amongst youth and encourages youth leadership. This is one of the winning videos of PLURAL+ 2012.  

On 12 August, the International Organization for Migration celebrates International Youth Day by organizing a Google+ Hangout with IOM experts from around the world. Migration can open up avenues of opportunity, including access to decent jobs, but can also expose young migrants to risks such as exploitation and abuse. The Google+ Hangout provides an opportunity to exchange views on the challenges and opportunities of youth migration. To submit questions or to find more information, go to

Evelien Borgman is an Associate Migration Officer at the IOM Office of the Permanent Observer to the UN in New York.