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Emerging Leaders Declaration of the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions

The world population in 2015, according to the International Data Base of the U.S. Census Bureau, is approximately 7.26 billion.  Of this number, almost 3.65 billion are persons 30 years of age or younger. Thus, 50% of the world’s peoples are children, youth, and young adults.

Despite the fact that five of every ten people in the world are 30 years of age or younger, this demographic is often overlooked or not consulted by older or more senior leaders, strategists, and thinkers as global problems are considered in international, governmental, non-government organizational, or private sector deliberations. Furthermore, because young people are focused on completing their education, advancing careers, starting families, and building networks of friends, they themselves sometimes feel they must refuse leadership roles they might have opportunities to take. Finally, since youth are so often the most vulnerable and victimized by poverty, many of them become trapped in low-paying jobs that don’t afford the luxury of planning for the future or worrying about “society.”

We, the youth and emerging leaders, do not accept any of these realities as valid excuses for our not being involved in helping to solve the problems that face us all.

We say that we are not so preoccupied with schooling, work, family, or friends that we aren’t concerned with issues beyond ourselves. We claim that while we sometimes struggle to make ends meet, we are still interested in our tomorrows and in the world we all must share.

We declare we will not be silent followers of an older generation. We believe that we are creative, energetic, smart, and committed, with much to offer.  We further claim that our multiple faith traditions compel us to work together for the benefit of humankind and the Earth.

Therefore, we call upon youth and young adults everywhere to acknowledge that we can and must help shape the world that we will all inhabit. We ask that we dedicate our energies to search for solutions to global problems.

We challenge Millennials and Generation Z to use our voices to influence change, both within and beyond our own demographic.

As we amplify our voices we likewise promise to open our ears because we know there is wisdom to be gained from listening to each other and to the generations that precede us. We pledge to adjust our lifestyles to reflect these commitments.

We, of the older generations, recognize the ability of young people to be not only the leaders of tomorrow, but also of today. We say there is room for youth leadership in every country and every sector and that their ideas, creativity and energy are needed and desired. We believe there is wisdom in youth and that when our children and emerging leaders speak they deserve to be heard. We honor the right of young people to participate in decisions that create the world they will inherit. We further claim that we, as people with more years of experience, have valuable knowledge to share that can aid young people as they step into leadership roles.

Therefore, we call upon international and national organizations—whether governmental and business—to recognize that youth are most heavily affected engage youth in your think tanks, workforce, and corps of volunteers. Make decisions with them, not for them.

We call upon International Non-Government Organizations (INGOs) and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) to populate your projects and programs with emerging leaders and workers. Draw from the deep reservoir of gifted, youthful individuals as you make and carry out plans for social betterment.

We call upon universities and other educational institutions to reject the commercialization of education that has barred many deserving young people from study and burdened far more with debilitating debt. We further ask them to promote research from students that addresses global issues, so their creativity and energy might be directed toward solving world problems and that many of them might be drawn to enter the careers that can determine the future.

We call upon the approximately 50,000 local, national, regional, and international youth organizations to use their networks to exchange ideas for engaging our emerging leaders in activities that benefit the Earth and its peoples. Finally, we call upon religious institutions, houses of worship, and clergy—so many of whom have a passion for reaching out to the young—to inspire them to actions that reflect the noblest teachings of your spiritual path, so that we might draw upon your scriptures and traditions as the foundation for our work in the world.

© 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions