Ban Ki-moon's speeches


Remarks to the International Labour Organization regarding youth

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Geneva (Switzerland), 18 June 2014

Ladies and gentlemen,

Particularly, I would like to recognize young students who are taking part this morning, together with us: thank you for your warm welcome. I thank you for your best wishes for my seventieth birthday. These days, I am celebrating every day! It seems that every day is my birthday! I may have to go to another twenty years to be like the 90 years-old ILO. I know that ILO is the longest United Nations family member: 90 years old. I am just 70 years old!

Ladies and gentleman,

I am delighted to be back at ILO Headquarters. I was here in 2008 to address the Governing Body. It was in the midst of the international financial crisis. The atmosphere was very somber, very somber. I hope we are meeting at a much better time but I know that still, the international community is struggling to find more jobs, especially for young people, who are present today. I’d like to discuss with you some more in details about this matter. Let me just say a few more words before we have that exchange.

I wanted to come here again because of your fundamental role in solutions that focus on the everyday worries of working women and men – that speak to the concerns of enterprises large and small – and that address the hopes of young people seeking a foothold of opportunity in a turbulent world.

My visit today comes on the heels of the 103rd International Labour Conference. I apologize for my timing. I have given you no time to rest!

But I want to congratulate you for making advances in major areas of the world of work -- including forced labour, migration and shining a spotlight on what Director-General Ryder has so rightly called “the crisis of mass unemployment.”

I believe employment and decent work, particularly for young people, are the backbone of development. This is what the ILO stands for. I want to congratulate and thank ILO staff for your meaningful work.

The world is currently engaged in a vast negotiation and consultation process to shape the post-2015 development agenda. We are fast approaching the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals and we think that there will be many unfulfilled development agenda which will have to be carried over as part of sustainable development goals aiming until 2030 from 2016.

Employment and decent work show up in every discussion and every poll as critical to successful and sustainable development.

Yet we are facing a great test of our time – an epidemic of youth unemployment.

Half of the world’s young people in the labour force are either working poor or unemployed.

The global youth unemployment situation is intolerable, particularly for young women.

In countries rich and poor, unemployment rates for young people are many times those of adults – and, of course, joblessness is the tip of the iceberg.

Many are stuck in low-wage work with no protection in the informal economy. Many others find that their schooling has not equipped them with the right tools for today’s job market.

The ILO understands that work is far more than a source of income, it is a source of dignity. It’s not a matter of money, it’s a matter of dignity!

If young people do not see hope on the horizon, what kind of message are we sending? Are we surprised that they may have a growing sense of disaffection, frustration, and a feeling that they are not being heard?

Last week, Pope Francis said with high youth unemployment “we are throwing away an entire generation.” The ILO has referred to a “lost generation” of youth.

At the same time, half the world is under 25 years of age – nearly 90 percent of them in developing countries. These young people represent an enormous resource for innovation and development.

I have seen it again and again in my travels around the world – from social entrepreneurs developing smart, new business models … to young people creating green jobs and more sustainable economies … to youth leaders speaking out, and tweeting out, for change.

This is why I have made “Working with and for women and young people” as one of my top five priorities as I began my second term as Secretary-General.

I am proud to have appointed the first-ever Envoy on Youth to advocate for the development needs and rights of young people, as well as to bring the work of the United Nations closer to them. Some of you might have already met my Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi. He wanted to be here but he is now travelling somewhere and he sends his regards, and he also has been instrumental in arranging this meeting with you.

I have also called upon the United Nations to scale up the youth focus of our existing programmes.

The United Nations system is implementing a system-wide action plan on youth. One priority -- which is being led by the ILO -- is increasing collaboration and cooperation on employment and entrepreneurship for youth.

We need strong and innovative strategies, reaching out to specific groups, such as youth with disability and young women, and supporting youth to be job creators.

I know many of you are interns for the United Nations. I want to thank you for your service. We want to look for ways to further strengthen and improve the experience for interns.

And so as we work together to tackle the epidemic of global youth unemployment, I carry several messages.

First, my message to governments: I say, invest more in youth employment initiatives. Promote decent work. Youth job policies are fundamental to reap the rewards of your daily investments in education and vocational training.

Second, to trade unions, employers’ organizations and the private sector at large, my message is that I urge you to empower more youth in your own structures and engage with youth-led organizations. The private sector is key to job creation. Trade unions have a fundamental role in promoting and protecting young workers’ rights.

Finally, third, and most importantly, to you, young people. You are the largest youth generation the world has ever known. You are already active in your organizations and as part of governments, trade unions and the private sector.

I count on your energy, your leadership and creativity, to realize change and sustainable development.

The United Nations wants to partner with you.

Decent jobs for youth are essential to the future we want.

Let us work for a world where nobody is left behind, where everybody can have a decent work. And let us work for a better world for all.

I thank you for your commitment and I thank you for your leadership.

Thank you.