At the first Summit for Democracy, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield hosted young people from over 60 nations around the world for a that engaged participants in a broad discussion about democracy and how they can lead change in their communities.
“Far too often, young people are sidelined, your perspectives ignored,” Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said. “That’s unacceptable at a moment when so many of the biggest challenges democracies face today affect young people most acutely.”
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield highlighted that young people are on the frontlines of many pressing issues, such as climate change, COVID-19, and racial justice, equity, and inclusion, yet often represent a small part of the decision-making process. However, examples of youth leadership can be seen across the world. From calling for greater action on the climate crisis to leading protests against racial injustice, the passion youth hold for their future is essential to democracy. For this reason, ensuring youth have a seat at the table is imperative to democracy, especially as democracies around the world are increasingly under threat.
“Rampant inequality, poisonous rhetoric, and emboldened authoritarians are fomenting divisions and distrust,” Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield noted. “Disinformation, foreign interference, and fear mongering are straining our democracies.”
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield noted that the purpose of the Summit for Democracy was to address these issues. The town hall aimed to showcase youth, who are leaders in their communities, and to remind those in leadership positions why young peoples’ voices are so important. It is the responsibility of those in positions of power to protect the voices of our youths, even when those voices disagree with and criticize their governments. That is part of democracy.
“Get involved,” Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield urged the young people. “Make your voices loud enough that you cannot be dismissed or ignored.”
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield continued, “It goes without saying: We need you. So please stay engaged. Please stay passionate about the issues you are working on. We’re counting on you.”
Click here to read Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s full remarks at the Youth Town Hall at the first Summit for Democracy. To learn more about youth programs that the Department of State supports and find out ways you can become involved, visit https://exchanges.state.gov/ and https://www.state.gov/summit-for-democracy/. You can also follow us at @StateDept on and .
About the Author: Mathew Willoughby is an intern in the Bureau of Global Public Affairs’ Office of Global Social Media.