U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced Thursday during a summit on strengthening democracy the creation of a global Youth Democracy Network to train the next generation of leaders and activists.
"For every generation there comes a moment where you have to learn new lessons and find new ways of building a better world," Thomas-Greenfield told the Summit for Democracy. "And for you, that time is now."
She said the world is looking to young people for their leadership and their fresh ideas to help take the world in the right direction.
"But it's on us to include you. To not just give you a seat at the table, but to put you at the head of the table," Thomas-Greenfield said.
She said the new network will work in collaboration with the global coalition Community of Democracies and will ensure young people are essential players in political life and policymaking. It will also set up an annual Youth Democracy Fellowship.
Thomas-Greenfield, who is the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a member of President Joe Biden's Cabinet, made the announcement in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The United States and Costa Rica, along with the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia, are co-hosting the three-day summit, which is reviewing and building on commitments from the first summit, held in December 2021. Those include free and fair elections, a free and independent press, the relationship of technology in democracy and the role of young people.
More than half the world's population is under the age of 30, making youth a powerful force for change.
"Young people are stepping up," Thomas-Greenfield said. "We see this in repressive regimes, like in Iran and Burma and China, where protests are being led in particular by young people who refuse to give up on human rights and fundamental freedoms. But we are also seeing young people leading in places like Chile, where you recently helped elect a 37-year-old president."
Washington will fund the startup of the Youth Democracy Network and will later look to finance it in partnership with other governments, foundations, the private sector and civil society groups.
President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the United States is committing nearly $700 million in new funding for democracy programs.
'We're turning the tide here. As we often say, we're at an inflection point in history here, when the decisions we make today are going to affect the course of our world for the next several decades for certain,' Biden said during the summit.
While in Costa Rica, Thomas-Greenfield also met with Nicaraguans who have fled the Ortega-Murillo regime. President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have cracked down on human rights, deported opposition members and revoked their nationality in their bid to consolidate power. They have also stepped up attacks on the country's Catholic clergy, who have been vocal critics of their authoritarian regime.
"The regime targets anyone it deems a threat and has used repressive laws to strip the legal status of thousands of NGOs trying to help local communities," she said. "The result has been a total loss of hope. Refugees, vulnerable migrants and asylum-seekers are fleeing their homes in search of a better life - somewhere where the government supports its own people."
Before arriving in San Jose, the ambassador stopped in Quito, Ecuador. The country is host to more than half a million refugees and migrants, including many Venezuelans.
Thomas-Greenfield visited a shelter for Venezuelan migrants that the United States supports through the World Food Program.
"I made clear that the United States will continue to provide critical assistance to Venezuelan refugees and migrants, their host communities, and those still in Venezuela," she said during a joint news conference with Ecuador's foreign minister.
Ecuador joined the U.N. Security Council in January for a two-year term. The U.S. ambassador said the two countries share fundamental values, including democratic governance and human rights.