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As the year draws to a close, we want to reflect on the key lessons 2023 taught us in our efforts towards a more just world. From the force and commitment of young people in driving change, the importance of celebrating every step towards global justice and the power of inclusive solidarity when faced with multiple crises across the world.  


Understanding the power of youth leadership has been at the heart of the 100 Million campaign from the very beginning. In a world of increasing uncertainty and the failure of political leaders to protect the most vulnerable communities, it is young people who time and time again show up to defend the human rights of their peers. So while it may not be an entirely new lesson we learnt in 2023, the importance of young people leading the fight against injustice becomes stronger every year and deserves to be at the top of our list.

For example, youth activists, student leaders and survivors of injustice led two major global mobilisations to demand Justice for Africa in 2023. Youth-led organisations in over 30 countries, often with limited resources, capacity and access to power, came together in February and again in October to organise demonstrations against rising global education inequality. 

Watch this video celebrating their year of action:

Since the start of the SDGs in 2015, the number of children out of school decreased in the world, but the number of African children out of school rose by more than 12 million. In the same period,  the number of child labourers in the world has fallen but in Africa it has increased by over 20 million. A core cause of these appalling increases are modern injustices on tax, debt and discriminatory global policy-making that has resulted in Africa receiving a dramatically unfair share of global economic growth. Angry at this injustice, thousands of young people united, often in challenging and repressive contexts, to defend the right of every child and young person in Africa to free, quality education.

The Justice for Africa actions were loud, bold and creative, with youth activists taking over the streets with marches, music, dancing and speeches and dominating the airwaves and media with calls to action. With the ultimate aim of achieving sustainable policy change, decision-maker engagement was prioritised across all Justice for Africa mobilisations, from community figures such as influential chiefs, divisional officers, military commanders to various national government representatives such as Ministers of Education and Senators. Activists ensured that students, youth and most importantly, survivor-advocates of human rights abuses had the opportunity and platform to inform decision-makers about their experiences and demand justice directly. For example, at the Justice for Africa’s Children report launch and during an event jointly organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the International Labour Organization at the ECOWAS Parliament, which brought over 70 Members of Parliament from across West Africa. 

(Pictures above from left-right top row: Justice for Africa actions in Tanzania, Ghana and Liberia and left-right bottom row: TV, Newspaper and Radio coverage in Namibia, Kenya and South Sudan)

Alongside the Justice for Africa campaign, youth activists and student representatives continued to demonstrate their leadership in advocating for the right to education during emergencies in 2023. The self-organised and democratic Education Cannot Wait Youth- and Student-led constituency, which 100 Million has supported since its inception, now has over 100 member organisations and held its second successful election in 2023. Six delegates from South Sudan, Nigeria, Mali, Somalia and the USA also represented the constituency at ECW’s High-Level Financing Conference in Geneva in February 2023 (picture above left) . This powerful delegation spoke on high-level panels alongside Ministers, Donors and UN Agencies, arguing for increased funding for education in emergencies and for all stakeholders to recognise and support the work of youth activists in humanitarian responses. Young people’s commitment to standing with their displaced peers is a beacon of hope, friendship and solidarity often in direct opposition to the divisive refugee response of many of the world’s wealthiest governments

Despite this, youth leadership continues to be underestimated, overlooked and undermined not only by decision-makers, but other civil-society actors. Commitments to engage young people are weakened when the youth engagement is not democratic or self-organised, or when international NGOs take over spaces and funding meant for dedicated youth- and student-led organisations. This dominance risks tokenism and co-option, sidelining authentic youth voices. To address this, legitimate and representative student and youth-led organisations must get the right attention from decision-makers and other relevant stakeholders: centred towards an equal vote and a seat at the table that considers the voices of the most marginalised young people to inform, influence and lead change.


Challenging global structural injustice, embedded in international governance, institutions and agreements is a daunting task. Demonstrating how decisions made at high-level global fora are connected to injustices faced by marginalised groups at the local level can be even harder. As activists for global justice we know that we are advocating for changes that won’t be won easily, may take years to achieve and often take place thousands of miles away from the communities they impact. Nevertheless, 2023 taught us that progress is possible and celebrating every step is critical to sustaining a movement. 

That’s why the milestone towards global tax justice achieved at the United Nations at the end of 2023 is important to commend. This resounding triumph, led by African member states, marks a historic stride towards negotiating a UN Tax Convention and rectifying the rigged international tax rules that favour the world's richest countries. Despite fervent opposition from economic powerhouses such as the USA, UK, and EU, the unwavering support garnered at the UN General Assembly for this resolution speaks volumes.It's a watershed moment - one that democratises negotiations within the halls of the United Nations, countering the traditionally exclusive processes coordinated by the OECD. It's a glimmer of hope to ensure the profits extracted from Africa's enormous resources are spent on delivering the rights of African children and young people, not lining the profits of foreign corporations and governments. 

It’s also vital to remember that this achievement did not come from governments, but is the result of years of tireless action and advocacy all across the world. As historian and activist Rebecca Solnit writes in her inspiring book Hope in the Dark:

“You may be told that the legal decisions lead the changes, that judges and lawmakers lead… but they only ratify change. They are almost never where change begins, only where it ends up, for most changes travel from the edges to the center.”

Youth activists are the ones pushing for justice at the edges today, and even if what we’re asking for seems too big, even if it has powerful opponents, if we remain committed and work together, global change is possible. 

For example, the demands of over 70 youth- and student-led organisations to the International Monetary Fund, calling on them to urgently address the shocking discrimination Africa faces within the fund and introduce policies that supports, not undermines, education financing on the continent, may seem ambitious, but we can’t give up. In fact, there are already signs of progress, with the open letter sent to the IMF ahead of their Spring Meetings in April 2023, signed by youth-led organisations in over 30 countries across 5 continents and receiving supportive responses from the German and Swiss governments, the European Commission, African Development Bank and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  


Sadly, 2023 was another year of global polycrisis. Rising poverty and inequality, climate catastrophe, spiralling conflicts and violence across multiple regions, democratic decline and increased authoritarianism continued to dominate news cycles and threaten the lives of millions. 

Arguably the most powerful lesson we learnt this year is that our compassion, empathy and solidarity must be expansive, not exclusionary. When faced with so much suffering, we must actively work against attempts to divide or pit struggles for justice against each other, refuse to create hierarchies of victims and stand together in defence of human rights for all. As individuals we are capable of caring and acting on many issues, as a global community we have enough resources and political power to respond to multiple crises, we must not accept anything less.

We are proud to work alongside a network of youth activists that continuously demonstrate how this is possible, amplifying the interconnectedness of global challenges and the need for action-driven leadership. Justice for Africa for example brings together activists tackling education inequality, child labour, child marriage, trafficking, disability discrimination, gender-based violence and the impact of conflict on children and young people, fostering solidarity across borders to advocate for each other's causes.

(Pictures above from left-right top-bottom row: Justice for Africa solidarity actions in Indonesia, USA, USA, Belgium, Chile and Trinidad & Tobago)

The staggering, and growing, right’s violations facing Africa’s children and young people rarely receives the international attention or response it requires. It has therefore been incredibly powerful to witness Justice for Africa emerge as one of the only current campaigns led by young people from Africa to be backed by their peers across the world. This genuine global collaboration has unified youth- and student-led organisations from the global north and south, which has been instrumental in magnifying the activists’ collective efforts in every forum at the local, regional and international levels. Despite simultaneously addressing numerous issues in their own countries and regions, young people in Europe, Asia, North and South America and the Caribbean have expanded their solidarity to stand with African activists to demand justice for the continent. 


2023 has offered us invaluable lessons, such as us wherever injustice exists, young people will likely be at the forefront of defending the rights of marginalised communities and paving the way for meaningful change. It has also shown that global injustice can be challenged, as demonstrated by the historic stride towards global tax justice, a testament to tireless activism and advocacy worldwide. Above all, it has reminded us of the importance of collective, expansive solidarity amidst multiple global crises.

Looking ahead, the seeds of progress planted this year fuel our hope for an even more impactful 2024, where youth-led movements continue to shape a world founded on justice and equity. Want to get involved? Join the 100 Million campaign now!

Lastly, to all the young people, students, survivor-advocates and their representative organisations we worked with this year, thank you for your partnership and friendship. By working together we make each other stronger and we are honoured to have learnt these lessons from you.


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