Young People Have Key Role Tackling Wide Range of Current Global Problems, Deputy Secretary-General Tells University of Missouri Students

3 November 2011
DSG/SM/584

Young People Have Key Role Tackling Wide Range of Current Global Problems, Deputy Secretary-General Tells University of Missouri Students

3 November 2011
Deputy Secretary-General
DSG/SM/584
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Young People Have Key Role Tackling Wide Range of Current Global Problems,

Deputy Secretary-General Tells University of Missouri Students

This is the text of remarks by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Truman Center for Governmental Affairs in Kansas City, Missouri, 1 November:

I have been in Kansas City barely an hour or two, yet already I can sense this city’s support for the United Nations and its engagement in global affairs.  I visited the United Nations Peace Plaza, and was very moved by the memorial to the United Nations peacekeeping — one of our flagship activities.  I took a tour of the Truman Library and Museum.  I am glad to have had this opportunity to learn more about a man who was not just a great American President, but also one of the great champions of the United Nations.

Now I am here with you, members of a wonderful programme that bears Truman’s name.  I want to hear from you today.  So I will keep my remarks brief.  Let me just say a few words to frame our discussion.

Our world faces an increasingly complex set of realities, from rising joblessness to growing inequality to the increasing dangers of climate change.  People are anxious about their well-being today and their prospects for a better future.  We need to forge a common agenda that can help ensure peace, prosperity, freedom and justice for all.

Young people have a crucial role to play in building that future.  Sometimes the contributions of the world’s youth are not acknowledged sufficiently.  But one need only look at the events of the past 10 months to see your power.

In Egypt and Tunisia, young people led successful movements against repressive Governments.  There and elsewhere, young people are saying to their elders, to their Governments:  “This is not the world we want.”

Young people are combating poverty and hunger.  They are taking steps to protect the environment and halt the spread of HIV and AIDS.  They are standing up for the rights of those who suffer discrimination based on gender, race and sexual orientation.  They are, in short, demanding the dignity and opportunities that are their right.

To you here today, let me stress that I especially welcome your commitment to public service.  Whether you work here in your community, on the national stage or in some international context.  Whether you become a human rights defender, an activist for peace, or an entrepreneur committed to social responsibility and with a new idea for getting carbon emissions under control, the idea is to think beyond yourself.  Think about your impact on the world, and globalization’s impact on you, your community and peoples everywhere.  And then, engage with the big challenges of our day, be a global citizen, and be part of making the world a better place.

Technology and social media have collapsed barriers and distances.  They have transformed the way young people communicate, interact and participate.  Today there are ample opportunities for you to learn about the world, engage on topics that interest you and interact with others from around the world.  I encourage you to follow issues that matter to you, seek out the views and perspectives of others, and bring your own ideas into the discussion about our common future.

President Truman said it best, as he so often did:  66 years ago, at the San Francisco conference at which the Charter of the United Nations was first elaborated, he told the assembled negotiators of many countries that, and I quote, “you are to be the architects of the better world”.  That is your task, too.

I am sometimes asked about how young people can get involved in that effort, not just from afar, but at the United Nations itself.  There are two main paths.

First, the United Nations Youth Delegate Programme offers the chance to be part of national delegations to United Nations meetings.  The programme provides a platform for engagement with world leaders and policymakers on topics of international relevance.

Second, through the United Nations Internship Programme, young people can contribute very directly and concretely to the work of the Organization.  The programme offers opportunities in New York and duty stations all around the world.

Both programmes have been stepping stones for young leaders who have gone on to leadership positions in their fields.  I encourage you to apply.  We need you.

For the international community, this is an era of great challenge, but also one of profound opportunity for individuals to make a difference.  No matter what your chosen path, I hope that you will do your part to promote the goals and principles of the United Nations.  Just yesterday, the world reached a milestone:  the human family now has 7 billion members.  Please help us shape our shared future for the better.  That is your responsibility.  That is my responsibility.  That is our collective moral obligation in an interconnected world.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.