Young People Must Be at Centre of Sustainable Development Agenda, Speakers Say, as General Assembly Marks Anniversary of World Programme of Action for Youth
As key drivers of change in the post-2015 era, the world’s 1.2 billion young people must be bolstered by robust national policies and innovative solutions to the challenges they faced, speakers told the General Assembly as it held a commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations World Programme of Action for Youth today.
“This is not just another year,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in opening remarks. The year 2015 represented an opportunity for transformation, he said, telling the young people gathered in the General Assembly Hall that “you are in the driving seat of this change”. Today’s young people were the first generation that could end poverty, and the last that could act to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Nevertheless, youth faced many challenges, he said. Worldwide, girls and young women continued to face violence and discrimination. Over 14 million young people throughout the world had been displaced by conflict and natural disasters, and each day some 3,000 young people were newly infected with HIV. “It is clear that much remains to be done to ensure that youth are provided the opportunities and the means necessary to flourish,” he said.
The 1995 World Programme of Action for Youth aimed to enhance the situation of youth everywhere, he continued. It provided a blueprint for action at the national and international levels, and had clear synergies with the new sustainable development agenda. He called on all Governments to enhance their efforts to implement the Programme of Action, and urged the world’s young people to “lead and act with courage”.
“We should seek to harness the innovative spirit of young people in addressing our development challenges,” said Álvaro Mendonça e Moura (Portugal), Vice-President of the General Assembly, who delivered a statement on behalf of Assembly President Sam Kutesa (Uganda). Many of the young people gathered today had taken part in helping to elaborate the post-2015 development agenda. For their part, some 127 Governments around the world had put in place national youth policies.
However, he agreed that youth continued to be disproportionately affected by the world’s challenges. They were three times more likely to be jobless than adults, many lacked basic literacy and numeracy skills that would allow them to find a job, and obstacles to education remained for many young girls.
Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said the World Programme of Action was a milestone in articulating a vision for development and remained among the most important internationally agreed paths to a better future. At the September summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda, a window of opportunity would open for a new promise of development and prosperity. It was critical to involve young people in the planning, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and actions that affected their lives.
Delivering the day’s keynote address, Vivian Onano, Education Spokesperson for Moremi Africa, said young people today were more involved in issues that affected them, including access to education, gender inequality, unemployment and pandemics. With 58 million children out of school and 123 million 15- to 24-year-olds who were illiterate, it was impossible to expect young people to contribute to their communities’ and countries’ economic development when they had been denied a chance to a better life. Youth unemployment remained a major crisis across Africa, she said, calling for training, job creation and the promotion of young entrepreneurship.
Throughout the day-long meeting, many of the more than 69 speakers stressed that access to employment and education were among the top priorities that needed to be strengthened by national youth policies, in line with the World Programme of Action for Youth and the post-2015 development agenda.
In that connection, the representative of South Africa, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the most fundamental challenge impeding youth from reaching their potential was access to education. Further investments in youth would be critical to the successful implementation of the post-2015 agenda, and States had a responsibility to support young people in tackling the obstacles they faced.
Another challenge today was youth unemployment and underemployment, said the Minister for Youth and Sports of Romania. Her country had recently adopted a National Youth Strategy which addressed youth entrepreneurship and youth unemployment as one of its main pillars. The strategy also sought to increase the level of social, economic, cultural and political participation of youth.
The representative of India agreed that poverty eradication must be at the centre of the post-2015 development agenda. Training and job creation were needed to realize the potential of youth. In India, a national policy sought to empower youth by prioritizing areas including education, health, skills and employment.
Speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Youth, the representative of Bulgaria said that the implementation of the World Programme of Action required the full enjoyment by young people of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. “More than ever, it is time to improve investment in research, policies and programmes to create an enabling environment for youth to prosper, fulfil their potential and enjoy their human rights, and engage as responsible social actors,” he said.
This afternoon, the Assembly held two panel discussions which focused, respectively, on stocktaking and the role of the World Programme of Action for Youth going forward.
Also speaking during the plenary session were the representatives of Nigeria (on behalf of the Group of African States), Kuwait (on behalf of the Group of Arab States), Suriname (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), European Union, Senegal, Madagascar, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Serbia, Ghana, Uganda, South Sudan, Dominican Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Grenada, Cuba, Sierra Leone, Djibouti, Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Panama, Colombia, Liberia, Republic of Congo, Turkey, Mexico, Qatar, Spain, Thailand, Belarus, France, Canada, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Italy, Iran, Israel, Portugal, Kenya, Philippines, Indonesia, the Commonwealth, Equatorial Guinea, Uruguay, Algeria, Eritrea, Republic of Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Egypt, Maldives and Somalia.
Representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Pan African Youth Union, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) also participated.
ÁLVARO MENDONÇA E MOURA (Portugal), Vice-President of the United Nations General Assembly, speaking on behalf of Assembly President Sam Kutesa (Uganda), said that important strides had been made since the adoption of the 1995 World Programme of Action on Youth. As of 2014, 127 countries had national youth policies. Nevertheless, youth continued to be disproportionately affected by the world’s challenges. They were three times more likely to be jobless than adults. Many young people still lacked basic literacy and numeracy skills that would allow them to find a job, and obstacles to education remained for many young girls.
Young people around the world were taking more vocal and proactive steps to change their situations, he continued. The Youth Now digital campaign had served as a meaningful platform for engaging young people on youth issues. It had already had some 500 million impressions since its launch four months ago. “We should seek to harness the innovative spirit of young people in addressing our development challenges,” he said, noting that many of the young people gathered today had taken part in helping to elaborate the post-2015 development agenda. There were over 1.2 billion young people around the world. Therefore, today’s commemoration carried great importance for all.
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that the anniversary commemoration came at a critical time. “This is not just another year,” he said, adding that “2015 represents an opportunity for transformation”. As the largest generation of youth the world had ever known, “you are in the driving seat of this change”. Young people today were the first generation that could end poverty, and the last that could act to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Young people had been disproportionately affected by economic crises and recession. Globally, over 73 million youth were unemployed. Worldwide, girls and young women faced violence and discrimination in all walks of life. More than 14 million young people throughout the world had been displaced by conflict and natural disasters, and each day some 3,000 young people were newly infected with HIV.
“It is clear that much remains to be done to ensure that youth are provided the opportunities and the means necessary to flourish,” he said. The World Programme of Action for Youth aimed to enhance the situation of youth everywhere. It provided an important blueprint for action at the national and international levels, and had clear synergies with the new sustainable development agenda. Youth policies must be inclusive, participatory, gender-responsive, comprehensive, knowledge-based, informed by evidence, fully resources and accountable. He called on all Governments to enhance their efforts to implement the World Programme of Action for Youth under the new post-2015 development agenda, and to include young people as part of their delegations at the September Summit. At the same time, he called on young people around the world to “lead and act with courage”.
AHMAD ALHENDAWI, Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said the World Programme of Action for Youth was a milestone in articulating a vision for development and remained among the most important internationally agreed paths to a better future. While notable progress had been made, daunting challenges faced the largest generation of young people. Having met with youth in the Dominican Republic, Gaza, Kenya and Somalia, he said that the Programme of Action was about taking their stories from the margins to the mainstream. With the right investments, young people everywhere could reach their full potential as individuals, leaders and agents for progress.
In September, a window of opportunity would open for a new promise of development and prosperity to agree on a global agenda for the next 15 years. “Youth are not asking for permission,” he said. “They are asking for the space. That’s why it is critical to involve in the planning, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and actions affecting their lives.” Providing suggestions for moving ahead, he said political will was essential to making youth a priority, with youth-friendly legislation and policies that protected them. #YouthNow was not just a slogan, he said, but a call for urgency and a call for investing in youth now. Youth were speaking now, but were expecting us to deliver yesterday, he concluded, let’s not fail them.
VIVIAN ONANO, Education Spokesperson for Moremi Africa, delivering the keynote address, said young people today were more involved on issues that affected them, including access to education, gender inequality, unemployment and pandemics, such as the recent Ebola outbreak. With 58 million children out of school and 123 million 15- to 24-year-olds who were illiterate, it was impossible to expect young people to contribute to their communities’ and countries’ economic development when they had been denied a chance to a better life. With education being under serious attack from terrorist groups, including Boko Haram, the #UpForSchool campaign had been rallying youth worldwide to urge leaders to invest in safe, relevant and quality education as a priority in the post-2015 agenda.
Without access to education, she continued, gender equality was impossible. In war-torn countries, rape was used as a weapon and it was imperative to end violence against women in order to build stronger, fair and more stable communities. The #HeForShe campaign had rallied young boys and men to commit to making gender equality a reality. In the audience, she pointed to Max Bryant, from New Jersey, who was the youngest HeForShe member and who had raised funds to cover tuition fees for 18 girls each year through the non-governmental organization CARE. Also important for gender equality was women’s participation in decision-making positions.
Turning to Africa, which had 200 million young people, the largest “youth reserve” in the world, she said unemployment was a major crisis. To address that, training, job creation and promoting young entrepreneurship should be pursued, with the private sector playing a key role in finding solutions. With regard to those and other challenges, she requested that Member States unanimously pass a resolution that would require them to include a youth delegate in the next General Assembly session. That would help to bridge the generation gap and promote intergenerational dialogue. “We have to be part of the efforts towards designing and implementing policies and services directed to our needs,” she said. Citing Mr. Alhendawi’s frequent assertion, she said “nothing for young people, without young people”.
The representative of South Africa, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Programme of Action was a framework for youth policies. While achievements had been made, there remained a myriad of challenges impeding young people from reaching their potential, including employment and civic participation. The most fundamental challenge was access to education and investments in youth would be critical to the successful implementation of the new development goals. Further efforts were needed to support young people in tackling the obstacles they faced, with States bearing the responsibility to do so. The Group underscored the need to ensure policies were put in place to address health issues.
The Group, the representative said, condemned the recruitment of youth in armed conflicts, and called upon Member States to take concrete measures for the reintegration and rehabilitation of young ex-combatants. Stressing the importance of ensuring that the current crafting the post-2015 agenda included youth concerns, the representative said young people should participate in the process.
The representative Nigeria, speaking for the African Group, and aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said reflecting youth concerns in the post-2015 agenda was imperative. The youth in Africa had the opportunity to play an important role, and as such, a continent-wide declaration for youth employment had been adopted recently. The global Education for All movement provided the key guiding framework to promote the right to learn. The African Union had developed tools, including the Youth Decade, to address education and a range of issues.
Armed conflict, violence, poverty and climate change impacts were among areas that must also be addressed, he said, noting that education, gainful employment and access to health care was critical. Gender parity in those areas and others was also essential towards ensuring sustainable development on the continent. Africa collectively aspired to achieve universal access to health-care coverage by securing access to preventive, curative and rehabilitative services at affordable costs. Supporting the United Nations belief that the planet should be a common heritage for humanity, he said “we must involve young people in all aspects of life, including leadership. For it is they who should inherit tomorrow and not to be its victims.”
SALMAN SABAH ALSALEM H. AL SABAH, Minister for Information and for Youth of Kuwait, speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States, said that, while progress had been made, poverty and social justice issues continued to be challenges. Young people represented 18 per cent of the region’s population, with more than 50 per cent of people under age 24, with unemployment rates of 27 per cent. Economic crises, internal conflict and social and political instability persisted. Decades of development achievements had been lost, with some States becoming hotbeds for terrorism and extremism. National policies geared towards young people must be supported, he said, adding that a number of initiatives were in place, among them an Arab policy for young people.
In an increasingly globalized world, he said enhanced cooperation between United Nations efforts and the Arab Council should, among other things, raise awareness among youth. In addition, a space was needed for young people to use their creativity and innovation. The Group’s countries were committed to the Secretary-General’s goals of empowering young people at the local, national, regional and international levels, he said, highlighting that Kuwait had contributed $1.5 million to the office of the Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy to enable the fulfilment of his mandate.
ISMANTO ADNA (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that youth had a valuable role to play in enriching societies. However, much of that potential remained untapped. At the Special CARICOM Heads of Government Summit on Youth Development, organized in 2010 in Suriname, the report of the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development was endorsed, and a regional Youth Agenda was developed to empower youth to take advantage of and contribute to regional integration and the CARICOM Single Market Economy. Further, the region’s Youth Development Action Plan (2012-2017) articulated a framework that was aligned with the World Programme of Action for Youth, facilitating greater access to opportunities for young people at school, community, national and regional levels.
Describing a number of other regional programmes for youth, he went on to say that the findings of the report of the Commission on Youth Development had identified a number of challenges facing youth, such as early sexual initiation and teenaged pregnancy, sexual and physical abuse, early school-leaving, disproportionately high levels of unemployment, crime and violence, substance abuse and social exclusion. The Commission also highlighted the need to strengthen Youth Departments and Ministries. At the global level, CARICOM supported initiatives within the United Nations system that prioritized and increased support for youth development.
The representative of the European Union delegation, said that 2015 was a crucial year for development at the global level. Today’s generation of young people were the largest in history, and over 90 per cent lived in developing countries. Many young people faced challenges, including poverty and violence, and radicalization among youth posed an existential crisis. “We need policy changes in favour of broad-based, inclusive, sustainable growth,” he said, adding that a focus should be on young people. Major areas to be addressed included quality education, good jobs and government participation, he said. The post-2015 agenda was a “once-in-a-generation” agenda to address the issues facing youth. It must be an agenda which left no one behind.
GABRIELA SZABO, Minister for Youth and Sports of Romania, associating herself with the European Union, said that 2015 was a “new beginning” and a time to take stock of progress achieved. “Ahead of us, we face great challenges, but we also come into important opportunities; it’s up to all of us to transform them into positive results,” she said. An important challenge today was youth unemployment and underemployment, which confronted both developing and wealthy nations. Romania had recently adopted a National Youth Strategy which addressed youth entrepreneurship and youth unemployment as one of its main pillars. Special attention needed to be paid to the rights of young people at risk of multiple forms of discrimination, for example those with disabilities or those with migrant backgrounds. Increasing the level of social, economic, cultural and political participation of youth was another challenge addressed by the National Youth Strategy. Finally, she said that a Human Rights Council resolution on the right of the child to engage in play and recreation — initiated by Romania — highlighted the fundamental role of sport and recreational activities for the healthy development of the child.
MAME MBAYE NIANG, Minister for Youth and Employment of Senegal, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Friends of Youth, said, despite progress achieved in education, health and other areas, 73 million young people were unemployed. Juvenile delinquency, armed conflict and health risks exacerbated that challenge. It was critical that poverty and unemployment be eradicated, he said, emphasizing the contributions youth could make to finding solutions. As such, they must be involved in the process to craft the post-2015 agenda. For its part, Senegal had taken steps to address those and related issues on a national level.
JEAN ANICET ANDRIAMOSARISOA, Minister for Youth and Sport of Madagascar, said his country had made strides in involving youth and implementing programmes that addressed issues affecting them. Health, business development and other projects were improving the lives of youth by giving them the information and life skills. Madagascar was also working towards the achievement of development goals and had taken part in efforts to promote sustainable gains that involved youth in the process.
COUMBA BA, Minister for Youth and Sports of Mauritania, said national commitments had focused on a constructive process for involving young people in the establishment of a youth policy. Consultations with youth had ensured inclusiveness of groups, including women, persons with disabilities and the Muslim community. Services must also reach rural areas, which should be made “attractive” to young people and should offer education and training to give youth opportunities, such as access to loans and microcredit, particularly for women. Investments must be made as youth were the future.
SALIFOU DEMBELE, Minister for Youth, Professional Training and Employment of Burkina Faso, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, recalled that an uprising in 2014 involving many young people had led to the formation of the transitional Government and the subsequent elections to be held in 2015. His Government was committed to providing young people a real place. The anniversary of the World Programme of Action on Youth provided an opportunity for reflection. Youth faced a moral crisis in his country. Yesterday’s values were perceived as counter-values. There was a need to enhance social education outside schools. To protect and promote the fundamental rights of youth, Governments must have policies and allocate annual budgets to youth issues. Those were the measure of State commitment. The Government undertook other programmes to address youth issues, including holding a youth forum, in which they could express their voices, and assistance to promote entrepreneurship among young people.
VANJA UDOVIČIĆ, Minister for Youth and Sports of Serbia, said that young people in his country were mostly affected by unemployment as nearly 50 per cent of that population remained jobless, and he further noted that his country had difficulty in retaining talent. He said he partnered with young people to identify what they recognized as the priority areas for action and was currently working on changes to be incorporated in the Law on Youth. His nation’s Youth Offices in over 130 municipalities dealt with hands-on matters daily, ensuring that policies reached all young people, including those not in the system.
MUSTAPHA AHMED, Minister for Youth and Sports of Ghana, associating himself with the Group of African States, noted that youth issues could be looked at as a national security issue. But, the challenge could be seen as opportunity. On the African continent, actions by youth led to a violent incident in South Africa. Incidents in Ukraine and other places attested what could happen when youth’s concerns were not addressed. Those incidents would not happen in a vacuum. It was the responsibility of Governments to help youth pursue and achieve their dreams and create the future they wanted. His country’s President created funds to promote youth entrepreneurship, and initiated vocational training programmes and other strategic interventions to bring tangible assistance to that population. Young people played a key role in innovation. One example was a 21-year-old college student who developed software to support microfinance institutions.
EVELYN ANITE, Minister of State for Gender, Labour and Social Development of Uganda, associating herself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said her country was committed to ensuring that youth had opportunities. Youth contributed to 40 per cent of the labour force in Uganda, yet they faced high unemployment rates due, in part, of the failure to match skills in the education system to the job market. Critical policy frameworks were needed to improve young people’s situation in society, she said, highlighting national gains in that area. Achievements included internship and volunteering programmes and bolstering entrepreneurship.
NADIA AROP DUDI, Minister for Youth and Sports of South Sudan, said her country’s traditional warrior societies with clear gender roles had been exploited by today’s armed groups for the purpose of recruiting children. Due to the breakdown of the traditional order amid prolonged wars, youth had become vulnerable and unable to deal with the challenges facing them. Unemployment was among those challenges, as without opportunities, that population often fell prey to exploitation. The result meant that youth were “a lost resource” for constructive development. Policies must develop a culture of peace, offer youth alternative sources of identity, provide universal education and ensure employment to give youth a vested interest in peace, security, stability and development.
JORGE MINAYA, Minister for Youth of the Dominican Republic, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country emphasized the importance of the Programme of Action as a framework for policies. A national policy in his country included an advisory body that worked in cross-cutting ways addressing health, employment and other sectors. Complementing that effort was a civil society group that addressed related issues in towns across the country. Youth were the future of his country, he said, however, they faced many challenges. They needed jobs, education and opportunities. Technology advances had eliminated jobs and now industries needed to be developed that produced employment, he said, with public and private stakeholders applying youth programmes at all levels.
JEAN-MICHEL SAMA LUKONDE KYENGE, Minister for Youth, Sports and Recreation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said the Government had appointed a young person to lead the youth sector in its efforts to address issues, including those related to armed conflict. Turning to his position as chair to the International Organization of la Francophonie (OIF), he said that group had taken a number of steps to improve the conditions of youth. There was an enormous amount of work to do, particularly given the trends of illegal migration, drug trafficking and other crimes. More resources were needed to provide, among other things, education and professional training to young people and helping them to find work. Those challenges could only be met by involving youth.
EMMALIN PIERRE, Minister for Youth, Sports and Religious Affairs of Grenada, stressed the importance of focusing not only on past achievements, but also on the post-2015 agenda. Her Government was committed to addressing youth issues and had implemented the World Programmes of Action in her country. Youth needed better structures and a stronger voice. To that end, her Government had implemented many programmes, invested resources and facilitated youth involvement in national development.
YUNIASKY CRESPO BAQUERO, Minister for Youth of Cuba, said that the publication of the United Nations World Youth Report of 2005 was a momentous event for the socio-historical moment. It urged Governments to tackle a broad range of problems experienced by young people. Cuba faced a reality that was constantly improving. Data related to the educational level of the population between ages 15 and 34 reflected the changes taking place. Most of the people in that bracket had completed secondary education, mostly high school. The achievement of a life expectancy at birth of 78.6 years was a strong indicator of what the future held for the youngest generation of Cuban citizens. Youth issues needed a global agenda that was universal and flexible enough for national implementation.
ALIMAMY KAMARA, Minister for Youth Affairs of Sierra Leone, said his Government had implemented programmes over the past 20 years in the 15 priority areas set by the Programme of Action. The establishment of youth bodies, such as the National Youth Commission and National Youth Council, were among those programmes. He was proud that many young people held positions in the Government and Parliament. After the recent Ebola outbreak, secondary education was made free, with automatic scholarships given to young girls. His country was a leading nation in youth empowerment, but still faced high unemployment among youth population, he concluded.
BADOUL HASSAN BADOUL, Secretary of State for Youth and Sports of Djibouti, said recent challenges, including terrorism, AIDS, global warming and conflicts, that youth faced needed to be addressed. Djibouti had included young people as participants in the development of the country. More broadly, the African Union had taken steps to address youth concerns within member States. With a growth rate approaching 8 per cent, Africa was a continent of hope. National policies had taken into account priority areas, including education, employment and gender equality. The Programme of Action was an inspiration on a global level and had led to strategic partnerships between States and United Nations agencies. “Give children a pen instead of a gun so we can see ink flow, not blood,” he concluded.
SERGEY POSPELOV (Russian Federation) said youth had great potential, but they faced great challenges, the quality of life and education among them. A united effort was needed to increase the role of young decision makers and create equal opportunities for young people, he said, thanking the Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy, who had created an atmosphere of working together for common goals. For its part, the Russian Federation had held youth fora for various professions across the world and he welcomed all States to attend.
INTIQAM BABAYEV (Azerbaijan) said investing in youth was essential and his country had made that a top priority. A national policy was backed up by steadily rising commitments and investments in the youth sector. The Government also supported projects and ideas designed and implemented by young people and had contributed to a study-abroad programme to offer educational opportunities to the new generations. Young people must also be engaged in society and policymaking. The Government’s goal was to listen to young people and incorporate their concerns in national policies.
BORATH SEAN, Secretary of State of Cambodia, stressed the need for all countries to keep paying due attention to youth, noting that today’s session provided a good opportunity to highlight youth issues again. His country had undergone civil war and genocide, learning many lessons from those experiences and applying them towards democratization through the implementation of a youth development strategy in line with the Programme of Action. Polices geared towards young people were being translated into action by the Government in order to ensure that youth were supported as an agent of change.
WAN XUEJUN, President Assistant, All-China Youth Federation of China, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that his country had given priority to youth and their development, implementing programmes in the 15 priority areas set by the Programme of Action. He provided various data showing improvements in many areas, including eliminating illiteracy under the age of 40. China had also increased the number of youth participating in policy and decision-making, including those serving in the National Congress. The twentieth anniversary of the Programme of Action coincided with the end of the Millennium Development Goals, which included youth development, and China was ready to continue cooperating with the United Nations.
The representative of Panama, said that the Government adopted a law in 2015 and eliminated differences in minimum marriage age between men and women. His country held a youth forum, in which participants adopted a youth declaration of Panama as an outcome. The Government was creating a national youth plan and compiled a budget for effective implementation. It also put in place a system of follow-up, evaluation and monitoring of implementation. Youth were participating in decision-making in the areas that affected them. Gender equality had a long way to go, however women were being given greater attention, including in the area of health. Young people are the main resources of the nation, the representative concluded.
JUAN CARLOS REYES CANON, Director of the Presidential National Youth System of Colombia, said his country enacted a law in 2013, establishing a framework to safeguard the rights of young people. This year marked the end of terms for many mayors. Their accountability would be reviewed and the quality of youth policy in municipalities would be assessed. Participation of youth in national policymaking was promoted and institutions for that population were being established at the Government and local level. The country implemented free education up to eleventh grade and a programme funding their first job for the first six months. Children from low-income families were given aid for higher education through scholarships.
JUAH LAWSON, Minister for Labour of Liberia, associating with the Group of 77 and China and with the African Group, said that 15 priority areas had been set by the World Programme of Action for Youth. “Let us be mindful of those obstacles that have prevented us from reaching the goals we set at the beginning,” and avoid duplicating mistakes that had been made, he said. Liberia was implementing a national youth policy with 10 pillars, which proposed ways to meet challenges in such areas as health, inclusion and education. Among other initiatives was a national Youth Parliament, and three key positions had been established in the Office of the President to ensure that the issues remained atop the country’s priorities. A national youth bill aimed at mainstreaming youth issues had also recently been passed. In addition, Liberia had launched a Technical and Vocational Education Plan to empower youth. Regardless of the many challenges in the country — including the recent Ebola outbreak — the resolve for a strong Liberia with youth at its centre had never wavered.
JEAN-MICHEL SAMA LUKONDE KYENGE, Minister for Youth, Sports and Recreation of the Republic of Congo, associating with the Group of 77 and China and with the African Group, said that the meeting was an opportunity to reaffirm his country’s commitment to youth. In Africa, young people represented the hope of the entire continent. Whether it was the eradication of poverty and hunger or the provision of education for all, the Republic of Congo was taking action to ensure that youth were central to its work. While some development goals would be met, employment numbers, and those concerning hunger and malnutrition, needed stronger efforts. “We are still facing many challenges,” he said, citing a lack of access for young people to quality education, health care and proper jobs, as well as armed conflicts. He called for a greater mobilization of resources from Member States in order to achieve development goals in Africa.
EMRE KAÇAR, Director-General for Youth, Ministry of Youth and Sports of Turkey, said that about 40 per cent of his country’s population was between the ages of 15 and 29. His country had established a Ministry of Youth and Sports in 2011 and had produced a policy paper on youth issues, which had been drafted with the help of youth participants. His Ministry supported efforts in the areas of democratic participation and civic consciousness, social inclusion, recreation and arts, among others. He hoped that today’s meeting would be an impetus to act in support of the World Programme of Action for Youth. “Let’s all together invest in youth for a better future,” he said.
JOSÉ MANUEL ROMERO, Director-General of the Mexican Institute of Youth, Mexico, said that his country was working towards solutions to the challenges through its National Plan for Development, whose five main goals included transforming his country into a “Mexico with global responsibility”. Youth had a strategic role in society’s present and future, he said, adding that, in Mexico, youth were seen as subjects of law, which allowed them to be protagonists in the actions of society. Since 2013, his country had prioritized youth issues in national and intergovernmental forums. In helping to define global agendas, Mexico integrated youth representatives in its national delegations to United Nations bodies. Nationally, there was a system of loans to stimulate education, and policies were in place to combat discrimination against women, especially young women. Solid institutions were crucial to articulate public youth policies.
MAHA ISA AI RUMAIHI, Director of the Department of Planning and Quality Assurance Ministry for Youth and Sports of Qatar, said that young people were a major asset of development and key players in social change. Noting that youth contributed to innovations in many areas, she said her Government had established the Council of Youth and put in place a structure for youth management. Her Ministry was established in June 2013 to advance youth issues and highlight their important role. The Ministry of Economy promoted projects for youth in the economic sector. Qatar recently hosted the Doha Youth Forum on Drugs and Crime, and would host next September a humanitarian work global summit. It invited the world’s top-notch universities to open in Qatar.
RUBÉN UROSA SÁNCHEZ, Director-General of the Youth Institute of Spain, stressed the importance of including youth indicators as a way to monitor the implementation of youth-related policies. It was critical to ensure that millions of young people were not forgotten. In his country, youth were experiencing a high unemployment rate. To address that issue, the Government had put in place policies to promote employment and the Strategy 2013-2016, which included specific measures to promote jobs. Young people under the age of 30 were guaranteed to obtain training. He noted that his delegation was working to propose a United Nations Decade to address the youth unemployment issue.
USANEE KANGWANJIT (Thailand) said her country had made progress on Millennium Development Goals related to youth development, including eliminating poverty and hunger, providing free education, promoting gender equality and reducing the number of HIV cases. Challenges remained in reducing child mortality and improving maternal health care. To “close all gaps”, all stakeholders, including young people, needed to be involved in national policies. For its part, Thailand had set a priority for youth to lead stable and healthy lives in its national child and youth development plan for 2012 to 2016. The plan aimed at fostering greater youth participation in economic growth and an inclusive society for all.
ARTSIOM SIARHEI, Ministry of Education of Belarus, said that the priorities of young people in his country were simple: the right to education at the level of international standards; the right for decent work with decent pay; the right to health; and the right to recreation. The foundation of the human civilization was the family, and those young people outside of it were at greater risk for exploitation. Belarus was working to create a legal culture to protect youth and promote their rights. The State guaranteed placement in a first job for young specialists. There was also a programme for identifying gifted youth; in that regard, he proposed a “100 Ideas for the World” youth programme.
JEAN-BENOIT DUJOL, Director of Youth, Non-Formal Education and Voluntary Organizations, Ministry of Urban Policies, Youth and Sports and Cross-Ministerial Delegation for Youth, France, said that his country’s commitment to the world action programme had been strengthened in 2012. Before then, many French Ministries had been working on youth issues, but that work was not coordinated. A Ministry of Youth was, therefore, created, and a national youth priority plan was developed to cover all areas of the lives of youth — especially employment. Partnership policies had been created to provide coordinated national and global responses to the challenges. Having youth participate in building public policy was particularly critical, he said, adding that young people needed to be decision makers on an equal footing with adults. Youth was also given priority in France’s work abroad, including its Aid for Development programme. Youth must be an integral part of the post-2015 development agenda, he concluded.
NIKOLAS DUCHARME, Assistant Deputy Minister for Youth in the Executive Council, Province of Quebec, Canada, said that youth played a key role in Canadian society as a whole, and the promotion and engagement of youth featured in a number of programmes at the federal and provincial level. In Quebec, the World Programme had inspired a major youth summit and the development of the province’s first youth policy. Three Youth Action Plans had followed. The challenges were greater than ever; it was, therefore, time for the world to update its youth policy. “We can now analyse our actions and act on our weak points, as well as our strong points,” he said. Mobilizing partners in civil society and working closely with young people themselves was critical, he said in closing.
KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV (Kazakhstan) said that youth accounted for 29 per cent of his country’s population, noting that the Government enhanced State Youth Policy by adopting a law in February, with the aim of developing the full spiritual, cultural, educational, professional and physical potential of youth through their full engagement in the political and socioeconomic decision- and policy-making processes. The Council on Youth Policy, established in 2008, served that purpose. The Youth Congress of Kazakhstan, an association of non-governmental organizations and unions, were among the key actors. An information portal, Youth Labour Exchange, had been successfully operating since 2013, featuring daily job vacancies and available apprenticeships for youth on its website.
STEPHEN TAFROV (Bulgaria) said that his Government had developed a National Strategy for Youth, which was being implemented by the different institutions through the elaboration of relevant action programmes. The measures were aimed at integrating a youth perspective in Government policies and ensuring the full enjoyment of human rights for young people. The Strategy functioned as an important tool for mobilizing and pooling the efforts of central institutions, local authorities, social partners and non-governmental organizations for creating a supportive environment for young people. In 2013, a high-level national council for youth had been established under the Minister of Youth and Sports.
BHAGWANT BISHNOI (India) said youth constituted the world’s most valuable asset, yet a large number of young people lived in poverty. As such, poverty eradication must be at the centre of the post-2015 agenda. Health and education were also key issues for inclusion in the new development goals. For youth, training and job creation were needed to realize their potential. In India, a national policy sought to empower youth by prioritizing areas including education, health, skills and employment. A newly launched skills development initiative was increasing the employability of India’s large youth population. India was committed to the implementation of the Programme of Action and supported the important role of youth and issues that affected them in the post-2015 agenda.
KAREL J.G. VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said that many young people today still encountered obstacles, whether social, economic or legal. “In some situations, young people are denied their fundamental human rights, or worse, are in fear for their lives,” he said. History showed that, when young people made a healthy transition from adolescence into adulthood, the options expanded for the future. By offering young people a chance to take part in shaping their own futures, they could be turned into an asset and could become problem-solvers and innovators. In addition, with the right investments, youth could be a solution for peace, justice and development. In the Netherlands, there existed various national and regional consultations with youth organizations, youth leaders and youth representatives. At the international level, the country worked together with youth representatives who formed a crucial link between the country’s international work and the Netherlands’ younger generations.
The representative of the Group of Friends of Youth said that the implementation of the World Programme of Action required the full enjoyment by all young people of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Human rights should, therefore, be the prerequisite to all considerations of policy involving youth. The Programme of Action remained relevant for youth development and contained very concrete proposals for action at the national and international levels. The Group of Friends reiterated its support for the document, and for the implementation of its priority areas which were interlinked and mutually reinforcing. Around the world, youth were the drivers of social, political and economic change, claiming respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, improved living conditions and opportunities to learn, work and participate in the decisions that affected them. “More than ever, it is time to improve investment in research, policies and programmes to create an enabling environment for youth to prosper, fulfil their potential and enjoy their human rights, and engage as responsible social actors,” he said.
The representative of Sri Lanka, associating himself with the Group of Friends of Youth and the Group of 77 and China, said that his country had hosted the World Conference of Youth in 2014. The discussions held there, and the outcome document of the meeting, highlighted the priority challenges facing youth. One of the key requests of young people at the Conference had now been met: 15 July had been designated as World Youth Skills Day and would be inaugurated this year. The priority areas identified by youth at the national and international level had served as guideposts for youth policies in Sri Lanka, he said.
The representative of Italy said that his country protected the rights of youth by its Constitution. It was committed to that cause, adopting a measure in 2011 that gave youth access to credit so that they could start new businesses. The Programme of Action in 1995 was valid and provided guidance for States in taking domestic actions. But, the financial crisis negatively impacted youth in a number of countries. The high unemployment rate and lack of opportunities among youth had made that group more vulnerable to ideological extremism. Young people must be placed at the centre of the post-2015 agenda.
The representative of Iran noted that young people in his country were well educated and hard working. Since the 1980s, they had helped to propel Iran to become a leading nation in several scientific and industrial fields, including aerospace. Similarly, youth were capable in any country. If they were trusted and empowered, they could blossom in science, sport and art, and other areas. To that end, Governments must create an environment to meet the needs of young people, including housing and employment. Youth can bring peace and stability to the world, and the United Nations had a role in facilitating that process. Extremism seen in the Middle East had ramifications for the West, as well. To defeat extremism and save young people from it, all Governments must take measures, such as cracking down on propaganda in social media, controlling national borders better and cutting funding sources for extremists.
The representative of Israel said his country had encouraged young people to travel abroad and explore so that they could acquire necessary skill sets. It provided high-quality education to enable young people to become the master of their own destiny. There were many other tailor-made programmes for youth. When the Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy visited Israel, he saw first-hand those programmes, including a rehabilitation course for high school dropouts. In that programme, underprivileged students were tutored by well-educated students. It supported youth at the United Nations by sponsoring resolutions on youth entrepreneurship for development. Israel’s development agency also granted aid for youth leaders in developing countries. The post-2015 agenda was an opportunity to make dreams a reality. Investing in youth would pay a huge dividend. It was not just a right thing to do but a smart thing to do.
The representative of Portugal said that the present meeting was a chance to renew the international community’s commitment to the World Programme of Action for Youth, which continued to provide a response to the challenges facing young people today. That comprehensive document tackled education, hunger, poverty, juvenile delinquency, participation of youth in decision making, HIV/AIDS and other issues. As youth policies were cross-cutting, all those elements were interlinked. The adoption of the Programme had marked a milestone; however, there was room for improvement and more could be done, especially in the context of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. Increased attention to education and the participation of marginalized youth was critical. Increased access to education and the use of non-formal education as a tool to hone young people’s skills so that they could also the labour market were also important. All forms of education must be utilized to ensure education for all and to make young people aware of their rights and responsibilities.
MUMBI-MICHELLE KIMANI (Kenya), aligning with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said that “we need to place youth at the centre of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda” in order to achieve its goals. Currently, 75 per cent of the Kenyan population was below the age of 35. The country’s Constitution of 2010 guaranteed every child the right to education, and the Government had taken a gender-based budgeting approach to reduce access obstacles for girls. Kenya had focused on transformative education that emphasized innovation, skills development, science, technology and entrepreneurship to prepare youth for the labour market. Through the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, the Government had made an allocation of over $600 million, supporting over 20,000 youth enterprises and training over 200,000 youth entrepreneurs. The Fund was further supplemented by a policy that ensured that 30 per cent of the Government’s procurement went to enterprises owned by youth, women and persons with disabilities.
The representative of the Philippines, aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said that the National Youth Commission was the Philippine agency in charge of implementing the World Programme of Action for Youth. The Commission had crafted, in consultation with youth and youth organizations, a Philippine Youth Development Plan for the 2012-2016 period. Noting that 11 of the 15 priority areas of the Programme of Action had been incorporated into the proposed sustainable development goals, he said that there were now explicit targets on education for all, promotion of productive employment and decent work, ensuring healthy lives, promotion of sustainable development, addressing hunger and drug abuse and promotion of gender equality and eradicating poverty, among other issues. “We also need to look at emerging areas where the power, creativity and innovative skills of youth can be harnessed,” he said, including disaster risk management.
The representative of Indonesia said that youth unemployment grew at an alarming rate, three times higher than that of older adults. To address the issue, they needed access to decision-making processes as youth held a tremendous potential. The post-2015 development agenda should place people at the centre, leaving no one behind, including youth. A quarter of the population in his country were young people, and his Government had adopted a development agenda aimed at enhancing that segment’s role in national development. The country’s first President said 1,000 men could move a mountain, but 10 youth could shake the world.
LAYNE ROBINSON, Head of Programmes, Youth Division of the Commonwealth, said that about 1.2 billion young people lived in Commonwealth States around the world. Thirty-one of those States were small, facing many challenges, including youth unemployment, brain drain and underdeveloped markets. Governments must create an environment for youth empowerment by putting in place youth policies, allocating dedicated budgets and monitoring implementation through indexes. The post-2015 agenda would set targets for the next 20 years, and it must include benchmarks on youth. Young people must have a rightful place in the sustainable development goals.
The representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO), noted that 74 million young people were looking for work worldwide. Much remained to be done to address the issue, given that the youth unemployment rate stood at 11.7 per cent when the Programmes of Action was adopted. The issue of youth employment must stay at the top of the political agenda, as 40 million people enter the labour market every year, he said. There was a need for greater investment in youth programmes, including vocational training.
The representative of Equatorial Guinea, associating with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said that youth must have access to knowledge and experience to enable them to “take their turn”. There was potential for peaceful coexistence when they were included. In 2011, its President said that young people were not a problem in society or a danger to the preservation of culture. Rather, they were the driving force for innovation and the catalyst for change. The Government endeavoured to avoid their marginalization. Its action programme’s top priority was education, and that document must be integrated into academic curriculums. Employment was also important for social stability, as there were many barriers to youth employment in the formal sector, forcing youth to work in the informal sector.
The representative of Uruguay, associating with the Group of 77 and China, said it was unimaginable that the post-2015 agenda could succeed without consideration given to youth. They must be given access to education, employment, health services, food security and policy-making. In Uruguay, 27 per cent of the population was youth. The main challenges included reducing poverty, correcting unhealthy lifestyles, ensuring access to education, addressing unemployment and providing training for decent jobs. Young people found it hard to find a job, and ended up in the informal sector. The Government had prepared a plan of action with a long-term vision for structural changes. The plan involved participation by many stakeholders, featuring tax reform, an increased educational budget and a law for youth employment and free education.
The representative of Algeria, associating with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Arab Group, said that the World Programme of Action for Youth remained the frame of reference for State-run youth programmes. However, in many developing countries, young people still faced a multitude of problems related to unemployment and lack of skills and training. Those young people needed greater involvement in the development process. Algeria had sustained its training efforts at all levels of the educational system, and it was working to combat unemployment through professional training, including in the field of agriculture. The modernization of agriculture would provide more jobs, he added. Furthermore, loans would be given to young people and support would be provided for youth with microenterprises. Young people faced serious challenges, which required more education and training, for which national coordination was needed.
ZEBIB GEBREKIDAN (Eritrea) said young people were the future of every nation, and their participation had contributed to accomplishments in a number of sectors. The National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students had lobbied, through nationwide centres, for empowerment and to have their concerns addressed. An obligatory national service programme was the backbone of the economic development agenda, offering youth opportunities to become critical thinkers, acquire skills and contribute to the country’s infrastructural development. Concerned by the trend of migration to Europe and the United States, he urged the international community to assess and address the root causes of migration and human-trafficking. Youth in Eritrea were facing an economic, social and humanitarian burden as a result of unjust sanctions and the illegal occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories, he said, urging the international community to address those issues.
The representative of the Republic of Korea said that the gathering today was very timely and useful given the ongoing design of the post-2015 development agenda. As global partnerships between stakeholders remained critical to the evolution of that agenda, youth must play an active role. Young people should be empowered to participate and lead, rather than passively accept what others deemed to be in their best interest. Adolescent girls in developing countries faced issues related to health, education and social justice. Above all, education was crucial to overcoming such challenges and empowering young people. The Republic of Korea had recently hosted the World Education Forum, which had found that educating youth was critical to countering the violent extremism that was luring many young people around the world. He stressed that three words — communication, participation and partnership — could be “our fundamental concept” in ensuring that all groups of people achieved the benefits of development that they deserved.
The representative of Kyrgyzstan said that about one third of his country’s population was young people. Its State Youth Policy and other related documents were aimed at creating favourable conditions for young people, provide them with education and training and ensure their employment. The Government paid special attention to the role of young people in decision-making at the national and local levels, he said, noting that the country had introduced a quota of 15 per cent of young people to be included on the list of electoral candidates. One of the serious challenges facing the world today was the increasing number of young people involved in violent extremism, organized crime and interethnic clashes. In that connection, he called for enhanced international efforts to address the spiritual education of young people, as well as strengthening the role of the family.
The representative of Morocco said the United Nations had laid down the foundation for the question of youth by adopting the Programmes of Action. Similarly, the post-2015 development agenda would provide a road map over the next 15 years, mobilizing investment affecting millions of lives. That was why the agenda included youth. This year should be the one for world action for youth, with Governments, local communities and other stakeholders taking part. Youth were at the very heart of Morocco’s modernization in the past 15 years. The Government took a number of measures, including the establishment of a centre for youth, creation of library space for learning new technologies, and establishing training centres to provide youth access to business education.
AMR ABUL ATTA (Egypt), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said that the World Programme of Action on Youth had provided a policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation. However, all priority areas determined by the Programme were still not adequately addressed in all countries. In the area of education, which was one of those unfulfilled priorities, high drop-out rates still persisted, especially in rural areas and among young girls. Youth represented a huge human capital, and was still unexploited at the optimum level. The most common area of concern for youth was unemployment, with at least 90 per cent of the unemployed in the 18 to 29 age group. Youth were the most vulnerable age group facing gender-based obstacles. It was critical to create an appropriate framework as a catalyst for their participation in the development and implementation of strategies that supported the new post-2015 development agenda.
The representative of Maldives said that the Government was committed to designing and mainstreaming youth considerations in its national policies. Programmes aimed to provide free primary education to all, apprenticeship programmes developed to place final-year students with private companies, to address unemployment, ensure access to universal health care, to name a few, had been successful and positively impacted the youth in the country. With nearly a quarter of them aged 18 to 35 unemployed, the need to galvanize a productive youth in the Maldives was ever present. The Government promoted sports as a way to harness their potential.
The representative of Somalia, associating with the Group of 77 and China, said that the most pressing problem facing youth in her country was unemployment. Two options arose for many young people: radicalization, and risking their lives on the high seas. There was a need for new coordination and guiding principles on ways to improve the situation of youth. The Secretary-General's Special Envoy on Youth had visited Somalia in 2014, creating a sense of hope among the youth there, she said, adding that the country was developing a new approach promoting the process of engagement — programmes “for youth, by youth” — which would allow that population to take the lead in the countrywide peacebuilding and reconciliation dialogue. The process of Somali national youth development aimed to “reclaim” the term “Shabaab”, which meant youth. Somalia was ready to implement a comprehensive national youth policy, she concluded.
KADIATOU SALL-BEYE of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said that, in today’s information and knowledge society, technology — particularly information and communications technology (ICT) – had become powerful enablers in every facet of human activity, from education to health, energy, transportation, government, innovation enterprise and job creation. The Secretary-General was planning to launch a new Global ICT Entrepreneurship Initiative aimed at connecting ICT-related entrepreneurs in small and medium-sized enterprises in emerging markets to other actors in the innovation ecosystem. She said that the Union was committed to strengthen collaboration, which meant working in partnership with various stakeholders including established enterprises and “bright, young start-ups”.FRANCINE NUYUMBA, President of the Pan African Youth Union, associating herself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said that her group participated at all levels of decision-making, including at the Heads of State level. Youth could play a significant role in ensuring peace and stability in Africa, and the Union, therefore, joined the African Union Agenda 63 in working towards “silencing the guns by 2020”. She encouraged intergenerational dialogue. “Our generation is faced with the tragedies of migration”, which occupied the front pages of newspapers worldwide, she said. Young people were also most affected by terrorism, she added, citing the Garissa University attack in Kenya and the abduction of girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria.
The representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that the World Programme of Action remained “as relevant as ever”. Young people remained the largest, most marginalized population in many places around the world, and the situation was worst for adolescent girls who needed programmes that would allow them to take control of their bodies, their lives and their futures. Young people drove change, but they were not in the driver’s seat. Investment was needed. UNFPA supported programmes in many countries to help fully implement the World Programme of Action for Youth.
The representative of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said that HIV remained the leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa. Girls were significantly more affected than boys. UNAIDS had fostered youth engagement processes through several joint programmes with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It also supported the new global strategy for children’s and adolescents’ health, and strove for a world where every woman and every child had a chance to survive and thrive.
Mr. DE MENDONÇA E MOURA, delivering closing remarks on behalf of General Assembly President Sam Kutesa, summarized the day’s proceedings. “We have shared experiences and reflected on the main challenges that persist with regard to youth, including lack of access to quality education; unemployment; gender inequality; violence and conflict; and limited participation in political and socioeconomic spheres,” he said. It was also noted that youth were lured into illegal activities including violence conflict due to lack of opportunities for gainful employment.
Many delegations had called for the full and effective implementation of the World Programme of Action through renewed, collective commitment by all stakeholders. Participants also highlighted the need for robust and effective policies for youth, as well as the importance of including young people in decision-making at all levels. Given the important contribution and influential roles that young people continued to play worldwide, many speakers stressed that the time had come to give youth a “seat at the table” with regard to future development aspirations. The day’s proceedings had added an impetus towards ensuring that the needs of young people were prioritized.