Opening remarks at the Youth Summit of the Shanghai World Expo 2010

by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Your Excellency Mr. Yu Zhengshen, Party Secretary of Shanghai,
Your Excellency Mr. Han Zheng, Mayor of Shanghai,
Mr. Lu Hao, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China,
Mr. Vicente Gonzalez Loscertales, Secretary General of BIE,
Distinguished guests,
Honoured colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Young friends,

Welcome to the Youth Summit of the World Expo 2010. It is a pleasure to see so many young people in the audience today and an honour to share a few words with you.

As the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which I head, is charged with coordinating the UN Youth Programme and organizing the International Year of Youth, the organizers have given me a few extra minutes to address the theme of “Youth, City, Future”. So I ask for your indulgence and patience.

I begin by thanking the Shanghai Committee of the China Communist Youth League, the Shanghai Youth Federation and the Bureau of Coordination for the Shanghai World Expo for organizing this event.

I also thank the Executive Committee of Expo 2010, the Central Committee of China Communist Youth League and the All-China Youth Federation for sponsoring this event.

Since May of this year, the Expo has dazzled visitors from all over the world. They have come here from countries on every continent and left with new knowledge and inspiration about technology, and the arts – among countless other fields. They have experienced the cultural riches of China and taken a world tour of all cultures through the Expo pavilions.

By including a Youth Summit in Shanghai, the Expo organizers are acknowledging a most valuable and under-utilized resource in our world: young people. And the Expo celebrates the dynamic and vital role of youth in achieving a “Better City, Better Life” – the theme of this grand event.

To the young people in the audience, I thank you and congratulate you for being here. You are demonstrating an interest in widening your horizons and expanding opportunities for yourselves and your fellow youth. I know that many of you do excellent work in your youth organizations and communities in cities and elsewhere and I thank you for it.

Indeed, young people are making extraordinary contributions across the world to causes that are at the forefront of the United Nations agenda. They are helping to fight hunger and poverty. They carry out peer-education work for public health causes, including HIV/AIDS. They have demonstrated a special zeal for environmental causes and for sustainable cities. They are passionate advocates of volunteerism and activism not only in their own communities, but internationally.

Young friends,

Your role and contributions have been recognized by the United Nations. The UN General Assembly has proclaimed the period of August 2010 to August 2011 as the International Year of Youth. Allow me to share with you the key objectives of the International Year and how you can contribute to them.

The first objective for the International Year of Youth is to increase awareness about the power of investing in youth. Awareness-raising can take many forms. The UN encourages governments and organizations to implement public information campaigns, activities and events that promote youth development as a smart investment by public and private sectors. We emphasize the need for programmes that can educate youth about social inequalities and can teach youth leaders to address the needs of the disadvantaged. It is also extremely important for research to be carried out on the economic and social needs of youth.

The second objective is to mobilize and engage youth. Youth-led organizations and initiatives are prevalent in many countries but they need more engagement by local governments, academia, NGOs, the media and the private sector. The United Nations will work with all stakeholders to strengthen these partnerships. Our goal is to have more youth involved in decision-making processes in society.

This is especially important as the international community moves toward a sustainable development approach – the integration of economic, social and environmental causes. We need young people to be educated about sustainable development and then mobilized. Mobilized to help governments and businesses move toward sustainable, long-term solutions for poverty eradication and for sustainable urban development. We have already seen tremendous youth support for green business approaches in cities across the world and we need to inject this movement with even more enthusiasm and commitment. A green economy is a key entry point for advancing sustainable development.

A third objective is to increase intercultural understanding among youth. The theme of this International Year is “dialogue and mutual understanding.” The UN system will work with governments and youth organizations in carrying out activities and events that connect youth with people from other cultures, ethnicities and generations. It is so important that we foster cultural and religious tolerance in our young people. We need to encourage and inspire youth leaders to be open-minded about others’ viewpoints. We also need to improve the public’s perception of youth and promote their role as young pioneers of peace, social inclusion and sustainable development.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In all our work on youth, we will stress the importance of youth employment. High rates of youth unemployment all over the world are a serious cause for concern. Youth are more than three times as likely to be unemployed compared to adults. Young people make up 44% of the unemployed population, yet they represent 25% of the working-age population. Their access to decent work must be improved. With unprecedented numbers of young job seekers entering the labour market, investment in young people is needed now.

I call on governments and the private sector to ramp up job creation programmes for young people. This is not only a moral obligation, but smart economics as well; the tremendous drive and energy of youth can boost faltering economies.

Youth employment programmes will also help change the unacceptable living conditions in so many cities today. More than half of humankind now lives in urban areas, and young people make up the biggest contingent. In many cities across the world, daily life for them consists of cramped living quarters, lack of open spaces, high living costs, and a lack of access to education and social services. When unemployment is added to this mix, the sense of isolation and desperation in young people is enormous. Jobs are especially crucial at their age as they seek to find their place in the world and hope in their future.

Let us work together to give youth a chance.

Young friends,

In closing, I speak directly to you again.

In this difficult time when countries are slowly emerging from the grips of economic, food and energy crises, and dealing with the quickening pace of climate change, I ask you for your help. I ask for your leadership. I ask you to take initiative.

I ask you to learn as much as possible about sustainable cities and “green” living: recycling…conserving electrical power…supporting green businesses. Learn how to reduce your carbon footprint. Then please share your knowledge with your peers, school boards, community leaders, government officials, your employers and other business owners.

Let us not forget that education remains a key part of your life. Learning prepares for you for future; learning prepares you for leadership roles. More than 2000 years ago, Confucius underscored the importance of learning – learning from books, learning from your peers, learning from the older generation and learning from life. Many of you recall one of his teachings “三人行则必有我师焉” – meaning, in simple English, that if there is a group of three fellows, one of them will be able to teach me something. Embedded in this teaching is the message on continuous self-improvement. Never stop learning. Learning must be a life-long commitment.

In addition to learning, I ask you to volunteer – to put your knowledge into practice. You can reap excellent work experience, learn new skill sets and perhaps more importantly, learn about people and life during short- and long-term voluntee

r projects. And the world needs your energy and dynamism on poverty reduction projects, in hospital volunteer programmes, on environmental clean-ups, and recycling programmes.

And finally, I ask you to strengthen your ties to the youth organizations that you belong to. Help them set clear, actionable agendas that meet your needs while also advancing the values and goals of the international development agenda. Your commitment and dedication will ensure that new and exciting partnerships occur between your organizations and governments, other organizations and the private sector. With these ties, you can accomplish much more than you would on your own.

Last but not least, stay healthy – I mean both physically and emotionally. Develop a healthy lifestyle. In this age of globalization, we are in the midst of a great confluence of trends emanating from the East, West, North and South. It is critical not to lose sight of the traditional values. Learn how to love – in order to be loved; to care about family – so as to be part of it; to attach importance to friendship so as to maintain and strengthen it; to behave morally; and to honour your pledges and commitments. (重爱情、亲情、友情,立德、立行、立言。)

I hope that you will learn many new things from this Summit and return to your home countries inspired.

Inspired to keep studying – whether you currently enrolled in classes are not.

Inspired to explore career opportunities that also contribute to poverty reduction and a green economy. Or careers that help our cities to become healthier, safer places for your future children.

Inspired to keep working with your peers in youth organizations to maximize the potential for partnerships and government engagement during this International Year of Youth.

In 2012, the United Nations will be convening in Brazil an international conference on sustainable development, also known as Rio+20. I have been designated by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as the Conference Secretary-General.

One thing I have learned from preparation for the Conference is that sustainable development is – above all- about YOU and your future. Please join us on our journey to your future.

A great Chinese leader – Mao Zedong – once compared youth to the rising sun.

世界是你们的,也是我们的,但是归根结底是你们的。你们青年人朝气蓬勃,正在兴旺时期,好像早晨八九点钟的太阳。 希望寄托在你们身上。

Our young foreign friends would ask what the quote means in English. Well, in simple English, these words mean that the world is yours and also ours. But in the final analysis, the world belongs to you. Young people are full of vigor and in full bloom. You are like the morning sun at eight or nine and we place our hope on you.

I leave you with these words. Thank you again for being part of this event. I wish you a successful and memorable Summit. Remember, the future belongs to you.