16 November 2011
Deputy Secretary-General
DSG/SM/587
DEV/2923

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

With Formidable Social Media Tools, ‘Most Networked Generation in History’

 

Can Ensure Rio+20 Engages Young People, Says Deputy Secretary-General

 


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks, as delivered, to the Peace Child International side event, today, 15 November, in New York: 


Dear colleagues and friends, good afternoon and welcome to the United Nations.  Thank you for coming to visit us and for showing such keen interest in our work.  I am especially grateful to David Woollcombe, President of Peace Child International.  And I am happy to be joined by Elizabeth Thompson, Executive Coordinator of Rio+20.


This afternoon, I want to share a few thoughts with all of you — but mostly I am here to listen to your ideas.  It is common to say that youth are the future.  And that is certainly true.  But what we have learned this year is that youth are the present.


In Tunisia and Egypt, across North Africa and the Middle East and around the world, youth have been driving change:  standing up against injustice; demanding dignity and opportunities. They led revolutions that altered the world in ways we never could have imagined.  These youth were joined by millions of other people — women, especially, but also men; ordinary people who were, quite frankly, fed up with injustice.


Peace Child International has always appreciated the power of youth.  We need this power — we need all of you — more than ever before.  Unemployment is bankrupting families in many countries, rich and poor.  A global economic downturn could throw even more people into poverty.  Food prices are rising.  More people are hungry.  Climate change is causing new stresses.  There are more severe and more frequent natural disasters.


All of this makes our efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals even more difficult — and could reverse the hard-won progress we have achieved.  The only way to tackle these problems is to look at them as a single, integrated whole.  And when we do, we find that the only answer is sustainable development.


Young people have the energy and idealism we need to bring new life to this cause.  You can help at all levels — in communities, on the national stage and in the international arena.  The United Nations is currently preparing for next year’s Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.  The United Nations is working hard to ensure that this meeting is a great success.  That includes making sure that youth have a meaningful say in the outcome.


Since the first Rio Conference two decades ago, we have made great progress.  But we have still not moved quickly enough to keep pace with the demands.  One of the primary aims of Rio+20 is to mobilize political commitment and to breathe new life into this cause.  Youth can help us push leaders to make the right decisions in Rio — as well as to stay on course after they leave. 


This is the most networked generation in history.  You have formidable social media tools at your very fingertips.  You can make Rio+20 a forum that engages people in their twenties — and people in their teens and their thirties and even those of us who like to feel young at heart and want to support you.  You can take inspiration from Monique Coleman.  To most of the world, she is a talented actress, one of the stars of High School Musical.  But to the United Nations, she is an incredible advocate, our Youth Champion.


Monique Coleman has been travelling around the world with a powerful message for young people.  She says, “It is safe to believe in limitless possibility — that you can follow your dreams, that they are possible, and you don’t have to squeeze into the systems that have already been created.  You can trail blaze and make new pathways.”


Peace Child International has always been a trailblazer.  Inspired by the idea of a child encouraging peace between hostile communities, you have cut new paths in promoting international understanding.  You are well-known to us at the United Nations, and I count on you to help us chart a course to the future we want.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record