About the Author: Suzanne Hall serves as New Media Advisor for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
The young people of today are a population that cannot be overlooked: more than sixty percent of the world's population is under the age of thirty. Secretary Clinton has recognized that a foreign policy that ignores the impact of our decisions on young people is short-sighted. It is imperative that we mobilize young people as sources of positive change, energy, entrepreneurship, and commitment to global issues.
A major component of youth engagement is the critical and creative use of our public diplomacy tools around the world. Today's youth are the first generation to grow up in a networked world. Access to technologies is breaking down the traditional barriers of age, geography, gender, socioeconomic status, language, religion, and circumstance that previously prevented young people from feeling empowered. Youth, bolstered by today's technologies, are key to changing norms and building positive societies.
As this year has been marked the International Year of Youth, we have the incredible opportunity to promote dialogue and mutual understanding by and through young people all over the world. Last week in Leon, Mexico, hundreds gathered to celebrate the power and potential of young people at the World Youth Conference 2010. The United States sent a delegation to represent our country, including representatives from State, the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Department of Education. We were also thrilled that a young university student from Tennessee, Josh Conor, could join our delegation, as well as Scott Warner, Executive Director of Generation Citizen, a non-governmental organization that encourages U.S. students to engage in the democratic process.
The U.S. delegation interacted with youth from more than 100 countries in Leon, and discussed critical issues including poverty, environment, education and gender equality. Together, the United States and other countries present pledged to support youth in a multitude of ways. At the close of the conference on Friday, August 27, participating governments, including the United States, signed a declaration underscoring their commitment to empowering youth.
The United States is focused on engaging young people to create long-term relationships as future leaders, amplifying credible voices, and empowering them to play more constructive roles within their own societies. Leon offered a perfect opportunity to listen and learn from both youth and government counterparts around the world. In weeks to come, we will be forming a youth task force at the State Department, and the lessons we learned in Leon will help us shape this group to have as much effect as possible.