The UN designated August 12 International Youth Day to draw attention to youth issues [EPA]

At the end of a week in which the United Nations has marked International Youth Day, Al Jazeera talks to young people from around the world.

We listen to the stories as told by a 16-year-old boy in Lebanon, a 13-year-old boy in the US, a 16-year-old Eritrean born in Sweden, a 13-year-old Palestinian-American and a 14-year-old girl in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

We hear what they think about their lives today, and where they believe they and their countries are heading in the future, as part of Al Jazeera's series on The Next Generation.

Marwan Rustom, 16, Beirut, Lebanon

Living in Lebanon is great because we have such a diverse country, culturally and geographically. I can spend all summer at the beach and all winter on the ski slopes.

Although Lebanon has a history of violent sectarianism, I think that being brought up around people of so many different faiths and groups makes it easier for the Lebanese to adapt to new cultures.

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Jobs here are very minimal however; it is very difficult to find a decently paid student job, let alone start a career once our studies are over.

A lot of us will be going to work abroad, in Paris or in London, and many of my friends already left to study.

Being a student here is a lot of fun. The political climate may have crippled our government, but Beirut is still a dynamic and cosmopolitan city.

It is open to the outside world, has good shopping and a brilliant night life - in this respect our country stands out from the rest of the Middle East.

Mujahid Abdul-Ali, 13, Falls Church, Virginia, USA

I'm not optimistic about the future of the world, because we all have different beliefs and we're not united and we're not at peace.

Abdul-Ali says he believes his generation is better off than his parents' generation
What world leaders should do is have a huge meeting at the United Nations and make the main objective at that meeting to make peace and pull the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

In America, I'm hopeful. The recession we're in right now is pretty bad, but I think the Obama administration can get us out of it. Obama wouldn't have been elected if they didn't think he had a chance.

Being American has a whole bunch of benefits: In general, health care is OK, you have the amendments, you have freedom of religion.

And we're better off than our parents' generation. It's the 21st century, most people have gotten over racial things, but in the '70s racism was something they had to overcome. And we have more technological advances and advances in medicine.

Heba Abu Alrob, 14, Nablus, Occupied West Bank

As children of Palestine and the future youth of Palestine, I think I can say our situation compared to certain developing countries is not that bad.

Abu Alrob says she is not optimistic about the future as a Palestinian
Yet, if we look at the children of some other Arab countries, for example, our situation is rather bad. Children in other parts of the world have a safe life without war; such atmosphere allows them to show their talents and be creative, it gives them the needed space for leisure and entertainment, which we don't enjoy here.

We are always looking for security and happiness and aspire to live in a place where it is possible to learn and just have a normal life like other children.

As for the future, I think it's ambiguous. No one can expect what the situation will be like in a day or a week. We live our life day by day. Children everywhere dream about their future, whereas Palestinians never know what the fate is carrying for them.

I am not very optimistic about the future. Will our future be bright, happy and safe or will it be dark, full of killing, blood and destruction?

I hope with all my heart that I will be wrong and that our future will be bright just like every child in the world wishes.

Hedaya Othman, 13, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

I am one of the luckiest girls in the world. Well, from some people's perspective, including mine.

Othman says she is worried about the US economy and the possibility of war
I'm very grateful for the life I'm living in. I live in a large, safe and secure house and have a never-ending supply of delicious food. A supply of refreshing water is always available. I live with my loving and caring family. My country offers opportunities to do anything, anywhere.

My future is in my hands. I have always been told that.

Though many people have tried to get me to be excited about my future, I am quite pessimistic about it. Worries and doubts swarm in my head.

"Will the economy collapse?" "Is there going to be another World War?" "Will the US be attacked?"

Due to the economy and political conflicts happening today, I am very doubtful about its future, but for now I'm happy about being an American and the stability my country has.

Mohammed Karrani, 16, Stockholm, Sweden

It feels good to be young when you have the right friends, when school goes well and you have the right friends that will be there for you.

Karrani says he hopes for more understanding between different cultures
If you don't have the right friends, you will end up in the wrong crowd and this could have some really bad consequences.

I was born and raised in Sweden but I identify myself as an Eritrean. I feel very connected to my homeland Eritrea [because] my dad is from Hirgigo, Massawa, and he is very active in the Eritrean society.

Life would have been a lot harder [if I had lived in Eritrea]. The opportunities we take for granted here would have been a lot tougher, like education and freedom. Young people in Eritrea work really hard to build the country and they face many hardships and I have a lot of respect and admiration for them.

But I hope for a better understanding between cultures. We may all be different but I believe this is what keeps us connected as human beings.

Source: Al Jazeera