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‘Generation disrupted’ lays out plan to take on coronavirus through major youth mobilization

A young volunteer uses a hand puppet to educate children on COVID-19 awareness in northern rural Homs, Syria.
© UNICEF/Abdulaziz Aldroubi
A young volunteer uses a hand puppet to educate children on COVID-19 awareness in northern rural Homs, Syria.

‘Generation disrupted’ lays out plan to take on coronavirus through major youth mobilization


A new ground-breaking global youth initiative was launched on Monday to invest in and scale up youth-led solutions and engagement, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s come about through an alliance of the world’s largest youth movements and organizations, together with the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Foundation.

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The “Global Youth Mobilization for Generation Disrupted” is being led by the so-called ‘Big 6’ youth organizations (Young Men’s Christian Association, YMCA; World Young Women’s Christian Association, YWCA; World Organization of the Scout Movement; World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts; International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IFRC; and The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award), which collectively includes some 250 million young people, and aims to support young people to come up with ways of mitigating the ravages of COVID-19 worldwide.

The initiative will feature heavily at the upcoming Global Youth Summit in April 2021, powered in part by some $5 million from the WHO and UN Foundation-generated COVID Solidarity Response Fund to support local and national youth organizations, including grants for youth-led solutions and an accelerator programme to scale up existing response efforts.

Back us, for the future

WHO’s leadership, the Big 6 and youth organizations around the world, are calling on governments, businesses and policy makers to back the Global Youth Mobilization effort and commit to investing in the future of young people.

These measures will directly support young people engaged at the grassroots level to tackle some of the most pressing health and societal challenges resulting from the pandemic, said the UN health agency.

“WHO is honoured to join this truly exciting and powerful global movement to mobilize and empower youth worldwide to be the driving force of the recovery to COVID-19,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Joining forces with the Big 6 and the United Nations Foundation provides WHO and the world a unique opportunity to learn from hundreds of millions of young people and be guided by their sustainable solutions to help communities build back better from the pandemic.”

Long-lasting consequences

While the direct health impacts of the pandemic on young people have been generally less severe, they are being disproportionately affected by the longer-lasting consequences of the pandemic.

This includes disruption to education, economic uncertainty, loss or lack of employment opportunities, impacts on physical and mental health, and trauma from domestic violence.

Significant mental anxiety, for example, brought on by COVID-19 has been identified in nearly 90 per cent of young people; more than a billion students in almost every country have been impacted by school closures; and one in six young people worldwide have lost their jobs.

But at the same time, young people are also driving change and implementing solutions in response to COVID-19 by taking action through community-based interventions and voluntary service, such as taking on a first responder role by delivering food and supplies to those in need.

The Global Youth Mobilization will draw attention to the urgent need for solutions to support young people, and to highlight the critical leadership role young people are playing in their communities to counter the effects of the pandemic.

Statement of support

“We are proud to team up with the WHO to provide opportunities and funding to help millions of young people across the globe to respond to local challenges related to COVID-19 in their communities”, said the leadership of the Big 6 in a joint statement.

“The mobilization will provide direct financial and programmatic support to youth organizations at the national and international level. We believe that young people have the solutions to solve their own problems, and by providing a global youth platform, combined with national activation for youth projects, we can unleash the skills, enthusiasm and desire for young people to be a force for good in their communities.”