Concern for youth has been expressed within the UN system ever since its inception and particularly since the adoption by the General Assembly in 1965 of the Declaration on the Promotion Among Youth of the Ideals of Peace, Mutual Respect and Understanding Between Peoples. In that declaration, the General Assembly stressed the importance of the role of youth in today's world, especially its potential contribution to development, and proposed that governments give youth an opportunity to take part in preparing and carrying out national development plans and international cooperation programs.
Other recommendations made to member states by the General Assembly relate to the preparation of youth, through education, for full participation in all aspects of life and development; health policies and programs to ensure that young people are able to take advantage of opportunities open to them; the adoption of all possible means to increase employment for youth; the opening up of channels of communication between the UN and youth organizations; and measures aimed at promoting human rights and their enjoyment by youth.
The World Youth Assembly, held at UN headquarters in July 1970, was the first international youth convocation organized by the UN. It brought together some 650 young people to express their views on issues relating to world peace, development, education, and the environment and to discuss ways in which they could support the UN.
In 1979, the General Assembly decided to designate 1985—the twentieth anniversary of the 1965 Declaration—as International Youth Year, with the three themes of participation, development, and peace. The objectives of the year were to bring about widespread awareness of the situation of young people and of their problems and aspirations, and to engage them in the development process. International Youth Year resulted in the endorsement by the General Assembly of guidelines for strategies and activities in favor of youth at the national, regional, and international levels in coming years.
In observance of the tenth anniversary of International Youth Year, in 1995, the General Assembly devoted a plenary meeting to the subject of youth to set forth goals for a world youth program of actions towards the year 2000 and beyond. Its principal objective was to provide a global framework for national and regional action. The plan of action was drafted by the UN secretariat following the submission of proposals by member states, organizations of the UN system, and nongovernmental organizations.
A trust fund established for International Youth Year and renamed the UN Youth Fund is used to support projects involving young people in the development of their countries.