High-level Meeting on Youth Round Table 2 on ‘Challenges to Youth Development and Opportunities for Poverty Eradication, Employment and Sustainable Development’

Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

Thank you, Co-Chair.
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m very pleased to join you today for this important discussion, together with my colleague Director-General Bokova.

There has never been a better time to give our attention to youth… to their ambitions for the future and to the challenges that limit their ability to reach their potential.

The numbers of young people worldwide aged 15-24 years has reached 1.8 billion and accounts for approximately a quarter of the global population.

Around the world, youth share similar challenges and opportunities. Yet, there are also significant differences…due to varying socio-economic, demographic, and geographical factors.

As we begin today’s discussion, I’d like to mention some noteworthy aspects of youth development.

Foremost, almost 9 in 10 of the world’s youth live in the developing world.

Secondly, challenges facing youth development – such as poverty, low-quality education and unemployment – are interrelated. Therefore, these challenges must be addressed through cross-sectoral policies and programmes that are holistic in nature. Our approach should be respectful of the rights of youth to inherit a healthy planet, and sensitive to youth needs in employment and youth diversity. In short we need to foster sustainable development for youth and their future.

Thirdly, youth policy is often driven by negative stereotypes of young people. Rather than viewed as agents of positive change, they are often seen as a source of problems characterized by anti-social behaviour violence delinquency and drug abuse.

However, the 1.8 billion young people should not be viewed as potential problems. The 1.8 billion young people should be viewed as potential assets as our best sources of strength, of inspiration, of new ideas. Young people in all countries are a major human resource for development, positive social change and technological innovation. Their ideals, energy and vision are essential. We need them to contribute to the sustainable development of their societies and for the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

I hope in our discussions today, we will focus on practical ideas and proposals for tapping into those potentials.

Distinguished Delegates,

History has shown that young people often are the drivers of transformative change.

It is our responsibility to create conditions to help them drive change.

We need more inclusive and broadly-based participation by youth to help build solid foundations for social equity, healthy ecosystems and lasting prosperity. Participation from youth and youth-led organizations is key to addressing the development challenges that fuelled recent waves of discontent.

If the future of our planet and the community of nations belong to the youth, let us open doors for them, not close doors on them; let us include young people in the decision-making process rather than keep them out.

I look forward to a lively discussion and to concrete ideas on how to empower youth.

Thank you.