As prepared for delivery.
On behalf of the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, I am pleased to address you at the opening of the World Youth Forum in beautiful Sharm El-Sheikh. President el-Sisi, I congratulate you for organizing this important Forum and on your efforts to create opportunities for youth and empower women. The UN looks forward to working closely together with you on these and other important issues as Egypt assumes the G77 Chairmanship in 2018.
Over the next five days, young people from Egypt and around the world will explore the pressing issues of our day and the vital roles that youth can and must play in addressing them. This a moment for young people to seize – to share experiences, imagine a better future, nurture hope, challenge conventional wisdom, and propose practical solutions.
Young people are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets out an ambitious vision for people, planet and prosperity. Young people helped shape the Agenda, which was agreed to by all world leaders two years ago.
The Agenda addresses key development challenges of our time. It aims to “leave no one behind” and to transform the way we live, work, and do business, so that we can build sustainable, inclusive, and peaceful societies.
This is important to all of us and especially to young people. Today’s generation of young people is the largest in history. They are more educated, active and connected than ever before. They have high aspirations for the future. They can be a powerful force for the SDGs.
But converting this potential into reality requires effort and investments. Young people need to be engaged actively in decision-making, including in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Governments everywhere need to create enabling environments for participation and entrepreneurship and invest in young people through quality health, education and other services that expand their opportunities. Empowering girls and young women is especially crucial.
The opportunity for countries with large youth populations is huge – and the price of inaction high. For some in the Arab States and Africa, the opportunity is now. It will not last forever. Countries that historically have made the most of their demographic dividends have empowered young people and, by doing so, accelerated human development. The SDGs demand no less.
How the UN invests in young people
The UN Secretary-General has committed to making young people a priority across all pillars of the UN’s work. He appointed Jayathma Wickramanayake as his Youth Envoy. She is the youngest member of his senior team and will spearhead the UN’s work to address the needs and rights of young people.
The UN has already been hard at work. In the follow up to UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, we have co-convened consultations on this theme in all the regions and launched a regional campaign, #ShughelShabab, which showcases youth-led work at community level and advocates for greater inclusion of youth in peacebuilding. We hosted a global platform, “youth4peace.info”, to build bridges among young peacebuilders, the UN, and other practitioners.
In the Arab States region, we have helped create new platforms, such as the Youth Leadership Programme in Arab States, that engage young people as citizens, problem-solvers and change agents. In Egypt, the UN has supported the Ministry of Youth and Sport to raise awareness of the country’s population dynamics. We have also stepped up our support to youth employment and social entrepreneurs.
The UN supports countries to cope with the repercussions of the Syrian crisis, including the strains on youth employment. The Youth Employability Project in Lebanon, for example, offers vocational and technical training, as well as paid internship placements within local Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises.
Our work with youth extends to other regions of the world – from promoting digital and media literacy in Bangladesh in response to the indoctrination efforts of violent extremists to supporting the participating of young people in the implementation of the peace agreement in Colombia.
These are a few of the many ways that the UN is working every day to unlock the potential of youth to tackle the sustainable development challenges of our time. I encourage the young people here today to continue to demonstrate leadership in opening up new civic spaces, improving the interface between public authorities and citizens and forging alliances among governments, the private sector and civil society. We need your imagination, your energy and your commitment to achieve the vision of the 2030 Agenda. You can count on the UN as a steadfast partner.