8 August 1998
1st Plenary (PM)
PRESIDENT OF PORTUGAL EMPHASIZES NEED FOR CONCERTED GLOBAL ACTION AT OPENING OF WORLD CONFERENCE OF MINISTERS RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUTH
Innovative action at the global and local levels were needed to enable young people to make decisions that would likely affect the rest of their lives, the President of Portugal, Jorge Sampaio, said in opening the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth this afternoon in Lisbon.
Addressing representatives of more than 160 nations -- more than 100 at the ministerial level -- the President said that, while there was a need to "think globally, act locally", concerted global action was required to address the needs of youth today. He urged those responsible for youth policies to take up the challenge presented by the many recommendations on youth participation, contained in the Braga Youth Action Plan adopted yesterday at the close of the World Youth Forum of the United Nations System.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, also addressing the opening of the Conference, told the youth ministers that they were charged with preparing young people and future leaders for the challenges of the next century. "You have a mission to open up for them a maximum of perspectives and possibilities, for it is young people's hope and energy, their enthusiasm and willingness to experiment, that makes society move forward", he said.
A society that cut itself off from its youth had severed its lifeline, the Secretary-General said. He expressed the hope that exchanges in Lisbon would inspire the ministers to new and imaginative approaches. "You are the guardians of that lifeline -- nurture it; develop it; and give it strength", he added.
Following his election as Conference President, the Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister of Portugal, Jose Socrates, said social policy must focus on issues of importance to the world's youth, such as environmental protection and efforts to combat drug abuse. That social policy should transcend national interests and overcome selfishness.
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, also addressing the Conference convened by his Government in cooperation with the United Nations, said youth policies must focus on the objective of creating the conditions for full citizenship for young people that allowed them to take part in all aspects of political and social life. The voices of young people must be heard, and they must be supported in expressing the values relevant to their lives at the global level.
A member of the youth delegation officially presenting the Braga Action Plan to the Conference, Lisa Pelling, of the International Union of Socialist Youth, said that youth worldwide were prepared to help the international community in efforts to address problems facing them. Inviting the ministers to join the young people of the world in the work that they must undertake together, she urged them to "listen to our voices calling you to action". Seth Ofori-Ohene, of the All Africa Students' Union, presenting the Action Plan, said it had been adopted in the spirit of North-South dialogue.
Also this afternoon, the Conference adopted its agenda and rules of procedure. It also adopted its organization of work, including the establishment of its Main Committee, which will consider the draft Lisbon declaration, and its three working groups.
The working group will focus on the following themes, respectively: national youth policies of an intersectoral nature; relevance of the themes of the 1985 International Youth Year -- participation, development and peace; and social development and major priority issues for action -- education, employment, health, drug abuse and others.
Filomena Martins of Portugal was elected as Vice-President ex-officio of the Conference, J.K. Marirmoi of Kenya was elected Rapporteur-General, and Ethel Blondin-Andrew of Canada was elected Chairperson of the Main Committee.
The 27 Vice-Presidents of the Conference were elected, all by acclamation, as follows:
-- From the African Group: Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and South Africa;
-- From the Asian Group: China, Fiji, Iran, Pakistan, Philippines and Syria;
-- From the Eastern European Group: Azerbaijan, Czech Republic and Romania.
-- From the Latin American and Caribbean Group: Argentina, Bahamas, Chile, Colombia and Paraguay;
-- From the Western European Group: Andorra, Australia, Greece, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United States.
The Conference also decided to appoint Argentina, Barbados, Bhutan, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Norway, Russian Federation, United States and Zambia to serve as members of the Credentials Committee. In addition, it endorsed the accreditation of two groups of non-governmental organizations to the Conference.
Conference Work Programme
The first World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth opened this afternoon in Lisbon, hearing addresses by President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The five-day Conference brings together representatives of some 160 nations -- more than 100 at the ministerial-level -- to find ways of responding more effectively to the needs of young people.
Also during the opening meeting of the Conference, being hosted by the Government of Portugal in cooperation with the United Nations, the Braga Youth Action Plan -- adopted yesterday at the close of the World Youth Forum of the United Nations System -- would be presented to the ministers for consideration. The Action Plan contains recommendations on how governments, the international community and young people themselves can enhance youth participation in development and, in so doing, take an active part in charting the path to a better future. The Forum, which began in Braga, Portugal, on 2 August, brought together more than 400 young people representing organizations addressing youth issues, representatives of the United Nations and intergovernmental bodies. The Braga Youth Action Plan contains specific recommendations, and is a blueprint for action to empower young people to participate in human development. (For further information on the Braga Action Plan, see Press Release YOUTH/LIS/2 issued today.)
During the ministerial-level Conference in Lisbon, discussion will centre on three themes. First, governments will review the efficacy of efforts to fulfil the 1995 World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond, and consider what additional actions are required on the national level. Second, representatives will appraise progress since the 1985 International Youth Year, as well as the relevance of its themes -- participation, development and peace. Social development will be the third thematic area, with focus on certain priority issues: education, health, employment, and the increasing problems of drug abuse and risk of communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS. The Conference is expected to adopt a declaration by which governments will commit to strengthening national policies to benefit youth. (For further background on the Conference, see Press Release YOUTH/LIS/1, of 5 August.)
Statement by President of Portugal
President JORGE SAMPAIO of Portugal said his country had hosted several international conferences centred on youth-related issues, including the first Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth in Portuguese-Speaking Countries, the Ibero-American Conference of Ministers, the World Youth Forum of the United Nations System, and the present Conference of Ministers.
The document which had resulted from the Braga Forum dealt with specific problems affecting communities of youth. It underscored the fact that young people were ready to share their concerns with the relevant authorities and that they were particularly concerned with defending individual and collective rights and values, as well as the fundamental values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Young people must be enabled to make decisions likely to affect the rest of their lives, he said. They should be able to choose their own paths. The proposals developed at Braga presented challenges for those responsible for youth policies. With the approach of the new millennium, innovative actions on both the global and local levels were needed. While the adage "think globally, act locally" remained relevant today, there was also need for concerted global action. Towards that end, he wished the Conference every success in its work.
Statement by Secretary-General
Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said that the ministers were charged with preparing young people and future leaders for the challenges of the next century. It was their duty to make young people look at their future not as dark and ominous, but as rich in exciting opportunities. "You have a mission to open up for them a maximum of perspectives and possibilities, for it is young people's hope and energy, their enthusiasm and willingness to experiment, that makes society move forward", he said.
The topics to be addressed at the World Conference of Ministers -- education, employment, health, the fight against drug abuse -- were at the heart of the 1995 World Programme of Action for Youth. Also, those topics were fundamental aspects of human security that would determine the ability of young people to live and strive in the world.
While all young people -- wherever they live, whatever the stage of development of their society -- aspired to lead full and productive lives, a growing number of them faced unemployment, insecure livelihoods, homelessness, social exclusion and ethnic prejudice, he continued. These scourges of the modern age were the enablers of uncivil society. They constituted an all too fertile breeding ground for drug abuse, violence, common and organized crime.
Every generation had a sacred mission to prepare its children to play their role as citizens, and the youth ministers were at the front line of that mission, the Secretary-General said. He said his many years of service with the United Nations had convinced him that the first ingredient of political stability was an informed citizen; that the first ingredient of economic progress was a skilled worker; and that the first ingredient of social justice was an enlightened human being.
Emerging today was an ever more active and vociferous global civil society, empowered and bound together by the tools of modern information technology, he noted. That was changing the very nature of government.
Good governance was not only a concern for developing nations and emerging democracies; all nations were faced with the challenge of ensuring communication and interaction between the governing and the governed. It
had to be a two-way street. "Reasons of State" -- so often used in the past as a euphemism for arbitrary power -- must be transformed into "true reasons" -- reasonable answers to the questions and needs of civil society.
As part of that interaction, the voices of young people must be heard loud and clear, he said. The United Nations was trying to ensure that they were. The General Assembly earlier this year had adopted a resolution
urging Member States to consider including youth representatives in their delegations to relevant meetings at the United Nations. Yesterday, he had attended the concluding meeting of the World Youth Forum at Braga, which was a splendid example of young people coming together to work out their own agenda, without waiting for governments to tell them what to do. He expressed the hope that delegations to the ministerial-level conference would consider very seriously the items and suggestions contained in the Youth Action Plan adopted at that Forum.
He said that at a special session of the General Assembly to combat illegal drugs held last June, he had made the point that young people held the key to solving that problem. There, as in Braga, he had been presented with an action plan by a group of young people who worked at the front lines of the fight against drug abuse.
No one was born a good citizen, nor a nation born a democracy, he said. Rather, both were the results of processes that evolved over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cut itself off from its youth had severed its lifeline, and it was condemned to bleed to death. "You are the guardians of that lifeline -- nurture it; develop it; and give it strength." He expressed the hope that exchanges in Lisbon would inspire the ministers to new and imaginative approaches.
Statement by Prime Minister
The Prime Minister of Portugal, ANTONIO GUTERRES, said youth policy must be fundamental to all government planning. The worst scenario that could develop was for a youth ministry to exist as a ghetto, whereby the policy it developed was not implemented by the rest of the government.
Youth policies must focus on the objective of creating the conditions for full citizenship for young people that allowed them to take part in all aspects of political and social life, he said. To create such conditions, governments and the international community must work to eliminate economic and social exclusion. Economic exclusion must be fought through efforts to eradicate poverty and through adequate education.
All social actors must assume a commitment to the freedom of humankind and work against situations in which one group oppressed another. The right of self-determination for young people must be respected.
Education was essential to Portugal's efforts to involve young people in all aspects of society, he continued. Employment was a second priority. All governments must make an effort to improve employment programmes, and the international community must work to address economic inequality.
The voices of young people must be heard, he said. Youth must be supported in expressing the values relevant to their lives at the global level. Young people were usually the most generous and sincere in reflecting values, such as tolerance and peace in their lives. Governments must enable youth to express that generosity by implementing economic and social reforms.
Statement by Conference President
The newly elected Conference President, Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister of Portugal JOSE SOCRATES, said he was honoured to chair the first World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth. Issues of concern to young people across the world must be addressed as priorities. The Conference would not focus solely on satisfying the interests of young people as a social group. Rather, it would seek to develop policies that took into account the ideals and concerns of young people. What was needed was a social policy that young people could support, a social policy that focused on issues of importance to the world's youth, such as environmental protection and efforts to combat drug abuse. That social policy should transcend national interests and overcome selfishness.
Presentation of Braga Action Plan
SETH OFORI-OHENE, representative of the All Africa Students' Union, presented to the Conference the Braga Youth Action Plan, adopted yesterday,
7 August, at the close of the World Youth Forum of the United Nations System. Youth from all over the world had adopted the Plan in the spirit of North-South dialogue. It contained recommendations on measures to correct the many economic and social injustices existing today.
LISA PELLING, representative of the International Union of Socialist Youth, joined in presenting the Action Plan. She invited ministers at
the Conference to join the young people of the world in the work that they must undertake together. The young worldwide were prepared to help the international community in efforts to address problems facing them. She urged the ministers to "listen to our voices calling you to action".
* *** *