The time has always been right for the world to amplify the voices of young people, and for their innovative solutions for sustainable change to be taken seriously. The resilience and determination of youth activists has been consistently hailed by some of the world’s most notable leaders, showing that they are, as obvious as it sounds, the key to a better future. 

Nelson Mandela himself highlighted the immense power of young people, saying that they are “capable of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.”

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan too advised that the world should have confidence in the youth. “Give them a chance, and they will surprise you,” he said

The more opportunities that young people have to step up to the plate and speak up for change, the more they will be empowered to lead a formidable future, for themselves, and the rest of the world. The Young Activists Summit (YAS) is one such opportunity for the world to hear directly from the youth, and for young people to be surrounded and inspired by their peers from around the world who are working for positive change. 

Taking place this year on Dec. 2, the Young Activists Summit is an event that gives young change-makers a stage to amplify their movements, and honors activists from around the world for their remarkable work in sustainable development. 

Marina Wutholen, founder of the summit, told Global Citizen why it's so crucial to have such an event that uplifts the youth.

"All around the world, young people are fighting to defend their communities or to protect the planet," she said. "They use their voices and skills to challenge the established (dis)order, call out governments, rally, and speak up, sometimes at the risk of their lives. Despite the many challenges and barriers they face, they often manage to come up with innovative solutions and bring about positive change for their communities or the environment."

"The world needs to hear their voices," she added. "It is beneficial to society as a whole to support those young heroes in unlocking their talent and ability to drive change. The Young Activists Summit shines a spotlight on outstanding young activists who have made a great difference and inspire other young people to take action. We also empower our young laureates through training, fundraising, and networking among others. Importantly, the summit serves to rally a community of young people from all around the world — 153 countries so far — dedicated to shaping a sustainable and equitable world."

3 Key Things to Know About the Summit

  1. It’s co-hosted by nonprofit media organization,, and the United Nations. 
  2. The 2022 theme for the summit is: 'Together We Thrive'
  3. The summit will honor and amplify the work of young people who are advancing sustainability or advocating for human rights globally. 

What Is the Young Activists Summit? 

The summit is a global event that aims to highlight the activism and innovative work that young people have put towards sustainable development and defending human rights. It takes place annually at the United Nations in Geneva, and is organized by media nonprofit, together with the UN and some of its agencies, as well as donor governments. 

This year marks the fourth official summit, with previous editions focusing on innovative solutions, women and girls, and climate action. This year the event will focus on unity and inclusivity with the theme, "Together We Thrive."

On the theme, Wutholen said: "Despite some significant progress in the past century, we still live in a world of inequalities. Some individuals and communities continue to be marginalized and discriminated against, based on their gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and more. In some parts of the world, a backlash on basic human rights has even grown, and poverty exacerbates the vulnerability of girls, refugees, among others. From a global perspective, some countries have been unequally hit by climate change which was historically caused by richer countries."

"Inclusion is a trending concept but to make it a reality, we need white people to join the fight against racism, cisgender people to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights, people without disabilities to take action in favour of persons with disabilities and their rights," she added. "Inequalities are a real burden on society."

"It was important for us to highlight that we all have a responsibility to engage in solidarity with marginalized groups or individuals," she said. "The support of those who are not discriminated against will be key to achieving equity. The 2022 Young Activists Summit will thus encourage everyone to stand up for other people’s rights."

Who Is Being Honored?

Every year boasts a formidable list of attendees from the activism and advocacy space. Last year Iraqi human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad attended, along with past laureate and climate activist, Vanessa Nakate. This year's honorable attendees are yet to be announced, however the list of laureates has been released. Six young activists from around the world who have valliantly fought for the inclusion and amplification of marginalized and vulnerable communities will be saluted at this year's summit. 

These include Pashtana Durrani from Afghanistan, Zulaikha Patel from South Africa, Sameer Jha from the United States, C’est Prévue Emmy Lusila from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sebastián Benfeld from Chile, and Keely Cat-Wells from the United Kingdom and the US.

"All six laureates are particularly determined, smart, and courageous. We are very proud of our laureates this year. Whether they have witnessed or experienced inequalities, they are all extremely committed to advancing equal rights, breaking down barriers, and changing mindsets," said Wutholen. "Their determination and dedication are a true inspiration."

Get to know all about this year's honorees here, as well as their incredible work in finding innovative solutions to the world’s sustainable development issues.

How Can Global Citizens Get Involved? 

While the summit is taking place in person in Geneva, Global Citizens can join in on all the fun and discussion by registering to get involved online. By registering to join in online, you’ll have access to view the summit, as well as conversations with the young activists who will be honored at the event. Get involved by registering here

You can also find out more about the summit, its partners, and read up on previous editions of the summit here

Global Citizen Explains

Demand Equity

What Is the Young Activists Summit and How Can You Get Involved?

By Khanyi Mlaba