ECOSOC Partnerships Event

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

Distinguished Delegates,
Distinguished Guests,

Thank you all for your valuable contributions to today’s meeting. The in-depth discussions helped to make this Fourth Annual ECOSOC Partnership Event a memorable one.

I think this is a very timely meeting and the focused discussion on youth and employment will help enrich the UN system-wide efforts on youth employment.  As you know, youth is one of the top priorities of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during his current tenure.

Let me share with you a few thoughts on this topic.

As many of you pointed out, youth employment is one of the most critical challenges facing the international community today.

The formal sector offers too few job openings; where such opportunities do exist, most young people living in poverty lack education and skills to take advantage of them.

By the end of 2010, there were about 75 million young people unemployed in developing countries. For those statistically considered employed, around 152 million of them continue to live in extreme poverty, doing low-paid and unsafe work.

Instead of being the symbol of hope, young people have become the human faces of poverty.

This is a collective failure on multiple fronts.

Facing this critical challenge, the only feasible solution is through Partnerships.  We’ll need concerted efforts by Governments, business and schools and communities. Simply put, we need Teamwork – coming together to solve our common problems. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what the United Nations stands for.  This is what we want everyone in this room to do.

Indeed, many of you are already doing this.

Today, we saw it in action in the numerous private sector and other initiatives, highlighted in this very room. They aimed at tackling the global scourge of youth unemployment, and vulnerable employment.

We saw it in the panel discussions. The speakers not only focused our thoughts on today’s pressing youth employment challenges – but also opened our minds to new, innovative solutions.

We also heard how the United Nations is engaging to advance on this issue.

We have seen the unveiling of the Secretary-General’s new Five Year Action Agenda, which, as I just mentioned, makes youth well-being a core priority.

We heard of some of the ways the United Nations will deepen the youth focus of its existing programmes – particularly in the areas of jobs and education.

As we work together to promote youth employment, we need to bear in mind that in every young man and woman there is a tremendous source of inspiration and initiative to be tapped.

Governments, business and communities can help create conditions that empower youth to take action and participate in decision-making.

We see young leaders and entrepreneurs across the globe.  Indeed, history has witnessed so many pioneers and entrepreneurs who succeed in the prime of their youth.  We support them best when we are enablers and they become leaders.

One of the key messages that emerged from the latest United Nations World Youth Report is that youth participation – at work, school and in decision-making – is critical to youth employment and youth well-being.

Engaging youth will require both opening the door to more jobs and making it easier for them to better their own communities.

The United Nations recently concluded its observance of the International Year of Youth (August 2010-2011) on the theme “Dialogue and Mutual Understanding”.  The highlight of the International Year was the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on Youth, held in July 2011 in New York.

The United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development, a network of more than 26 UN entities, coordinated the activities for the International Year. The UN entities were particularly active, partnering with one another, as well as with many non-governmental organizations, including youth-led organizations. In fact, more than 700 events were held to mark the International Year, from conferences, to youth summits and exhibits. And what was the key element of success? Youth leadership anchored on active and effective partnerships.

Distinguished colleagues,

We are arriving at the finish line for today. Yet, our work remains anything but complete.

Our mission to promote “A better world for all” must mean precisely that: for youth, and for everyone.

In less than four months, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, will take place in Rio de Janeiro.  Creating a sustainable future for youth – a future we all want – is a key driver behind the preparations for Rio+20.  Active participation by youth has helped member States and stakeholders to be forward-looking in their deliberations – in the final analysis, Rio+20 is about today’s youth and tomorrow’s children.  It is about their future.

The better world we seek demands better partnerships. Efforts like yours today ensure we advance in the right direction.  I urge you to bring today’s spirit of partnership to Rio.

Thank you very much.