|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Emulate Youth’s Lead in Opening Minds to Difference, Deputy Secretary-General
Urges Adults, at Event on Fostering Cross-cultural Understanding
Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the Interactive Thematic Debate on Fostering Cross-Cultural Understanding for Building Peaceful and Inclusive Societies, in New York on 22 March:
It is a great privilege to join you this morning. Let me offer a special welcome to the young people in the audience. The work we are discussing today is not only about you — it depends on you.
Recently, at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Forum in Doha, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined some 400 young people from 100 countries in a Youth Preparatory Event. The Secretary-General recounted to me how truly inspiring it was to see that, after just a few hours of interaction, people were making friends, forming partnerships and asking and answering difficult questions with touching candour and honesty.
I too have witnessed time and again how easily young people establish relationships across cultural and religious borders that keep older generations apart. We so-called grown-ups need to follow the lead of young people and leave stereotypes behind, open our minds to difference and accept others for all they have to bring.
Over the past year, in many countries around the world, most notably in the Arab region and recently in Senegal, young people are showing that they are ready to fight for social justice, democracy, good governance and their right to contribute to development. Youth want and need jobs, freedoms and opportunity. But just as important, they want the values of equity, equality and fairness to prevail — and to be mainstreamed into the development of their countries.
There are many ways to achieve this, including through national institutions, legislation, educational measures and foreign policy. The challenge is to do this meaningfully. We at the United Nations system hear this message, and we are moving both youth and cross-cultural understanding to the forefront of our agenda. We will be appointing the first-ever Special Adviser on Youth. We will also be expanding the United Nations Volunteer Programme.
Over 30 United Nations agencies and programmes work directly with youth. UN-Habitat and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations each fund youth-led initiatives. The Alliance’s Youth Solidarity Fund provides grants of up to $30,000 to youth-led projects in which the main beneficiaries are youth.
But of course, beyond empowering youth in this way, the United Nations also needs youth to contribute to the crucial exercise of setting policy. The global community is moving towards a place where all citizens, young and old, demand much greater accountability and moral rectitude from their Governments. The United Nations must be at the forefront of this movement, supporting the young people around the world who are showing the way.
Today’s emerging generation is at home in a world of diversity and cross-cultural connection. They are adept at technology and new forms of social mobilization. And they have been admirably courageous in putting issues such as inequality and injustice on the global agenda. They are creating the conditions for the global community to go from respect and understanding at a distance to real dialogue and close collaboration on a wide range of common challenges.
We at the United Nations are convinced that young people can make a crucial difference in building peaceful and inclusive societies at home, and a peaceful and inclusive global order. As the Secretary-General has said, our job is to help them build the future they want.
Thank you and I wish you successful deliberations.