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Secretary-General, at ‘Unity in Diversity’ Youth Event, Says Ambitious Global Goal of Peaceful, Sustainable Future Cannot Succeed without Young Leaders

Secretary-General, at ‘Unity in Diversity’ Youth Event, Says Ambitious Global

Goal of Peaceful, Sustainable Future Cannot Succeed without Young Leaders

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the closing ceremony of the Alliance of Civilizations Youth Event “Unity in Diversity”, in Bali today:

Welcome to Bali!  I am inspired to see so many young people from all over the world.  You are proving the power of your theme, “Unity in Diversity.”

You are part of the largest generation of youth in history.  You have unprecedented powers to network.  You are connecting about issues that matter in our world today:  injustice; discrimination; human rights abuses; and, our collective responsibility to end the discourse of hate and foster human solidarity.

The United Nations is doing everything possible to encourage a global mobilization of youth.  We know that we cannot succeed in our ambitious goal to build a peaceful, sustainable future without young leaders.

Earlier this month, we marked International Youth Day.  That was 12 August.  I had met a young woman in Mozambique last year, who asked me how she could become Secretary-General.  Instead of answering with words, I took action. I brought her to the United Nations on Youth Day.  Her name is Raquelina Langa.  She came to my office, held briefings with top officials and contributed to our global dialogue.

This year, I felt one Youth Day was not enough.  So, we stretched it into youth week.  I flew to China to attend the Summer Youth Olympics and speak to young people there.  I came back and hosted an event with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who survived a terrorist attack to be a global champion of education.  She brought her schoolbooks because she is still studying for her classes and exams.  But, she also taught us a great deal.

While she was in New York, Malala spoke about her country.  She pointed out that the terrorists in Pakistan represent just a tiny fraction of the population.  And she stressed that the vast majority of the country’s people “love peace and support democracy and are against any kind of brutality”.

Malala understands that this is true for our world.  Families everywhere want to live in peace.  You also understand this.  And you are raising your voices to drown out the extremists.  We need you.  I am working to ensure that young people are heard and represented at the United Nations.

Some people say youth are leaders of tomorrow.  But, I look at you and see leaders of today.  I appointed the UN’s first-ever Youth Envoy, Ahmad Alhendawi.  And he is using this power to put the concerns of young people on the table:  decent jobs; human rights; a clean environment.  Young people want us to focus on what matters for the future.

We hear these concerns.  We are resolved to respond.  The United Nations is engaged in a global campaign to fight poverty by reaching the Millennium Development Goals.  We are developing a new agenda to carry us forward after those Goals expire in 2015 — an ambitious vision for a life of dignity for all.  And we are striving to overcome the climate challenge by compelling leaders to adopt a meaningful global legal climate agreement in 2015.

The United Nations is also reinforcing our partnerships with youth organizations for peacebuilding.  And we are systematically involving more young people in promoting reconciliation.

I look forward to seeing the recommendations you will present to the Alliance of Civilization Forum.  We need your energy, your ideas and your engagement in Bali and beyond.

In a few days, I will travel to New Zealand.  I have a full official programme, but I will also be catching up with some very old friends.  I met them more than 50 years ago.  When I was just a teenager, the American Red Cross Society invited me to participate in an overseas programme with young people from dozens of other countries.

We kept in touch.  Back then, we only had letters that could take weeks to arrive.  Eventually, of course, technology helped our communications go faster.  And when I became Foreign Minister and then Secretary-General, I was able to travel to many of the countries I had only known through my old Red Cross friends.   New Zealand was one of them.  Even though it is far from my base in New York, and even though it is more than five decades since we met, I see these friends every chance I get.

That visit changed my life.  There, with people from different countries who shared the same sense of solidarity, I decided to dedicate myself to diplomacy.  Here, in Bali, you are making connections that can last a lifetime.  You are finding yourselves and your purpose.  And you have met a group of likeminded individuals to advance toward your shared goals.

Stay in touch with each other.  Help this international group stay strong.  Be solid global citizens who shape our future.  Thank you.

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For information media. Not an official record.