I have attended many conferences and events where I was told, as a young person, that youth are “the future”. This statement not only leaves behind but also underestimates current youth activities and actions towards “our present”. I was, in fact, when I was 15 years old already a change-maker, volunteering to transform my local community. I was working with different initiatives in order to attain a more sustainable urban environment and playing a great part in achieving a change in environmental awareness through specific and simple actions. Then the infamous phrase came along. So, I asked myself why do people call our generation the future if we are also engaged and transforming our present?

In fact that was a barrier that our young generation has broken through with their actions. We are “the present”, we spread enthusiasm, ideas, innovation, respect for others, creativity, desire to discover, questions, energy, understanding. We see the world as it is and ask “why?” and imagine a different one and ask “why not? We dare to dream and do things adults have lost the will of doing. We have a big capacity to learn and to lead. There are many youth organizations working globally, regionally and locally. I think there are no doubts about youth playing a decisive role in promoting change. I have seen them advocate for action in: building houses, starting companies and overcoming language barriers to teach children from different countries. I have seen them traveling worldwide to promote peace, cultural understanding and trying to end the environmental destruction with encouragement and determination. So now, do you still think youth are just “the future”? But this is just a little of what being young and making an impact means, because there’s still a lot that needs to be done..

Youth initiatives in the present remind us how much more can be achieved if we empower their voices. We certainly require a long-term vision and therefore the decisions we make today cannot simply leave 50% of the population out of governance, we should consider that the decisions we make today will affect where we will be in the future. So, young people should have the opportunity to participate effectively in the civic life of our societies and in the process of decision-making. Let’s encourage, appreciate and value them here in the present. Investing in young people, including them, and building an enabling environment where leadership and creativity can increase will invariably set the foundation for flourishing, better and stronger societies.

All in all, I’ve tried to point out the importance of young generations in society, generations that have long been neglected all over the world by being thought as just “the future” (at least they were not named ‘the past’!). It’s time to change that, it’s time for young people around the world to take their rightful place as change-makers. There is much that policy makers can learn from youth. We just need to give youth a space to have a role as shapers of policy..