|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Secretary-General, at Opening Ceremony for Yeosu Expo’s UNESCO Youth Forum,
Calls Young People Transformative, Creative, Resourceful Agents of Change
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks as prepared for delivery at the opening ceremony of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Youth Forum in Yeosu, Republic of Korea, on 12 August:
It is wonderful to be here. Thank you for your warm welcome.
I arrived in Yeosu just a short while ago. This is my first stop on this visit to Korea, but it is my third visit to Yeosu. I was here for the first time as a senior Korean Government official to help promote Yeosu’s candidacy to host the Expo. I visited a second time, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, to discuss with the Organizing Committee what is involved in preparing a successful Expo.
And now we see the results of that planning. Since its opening three months ago, this spectacular Expo has brought people together, showcased great technological innovations, showed millions of people the vital importance of the world’s oceans and coasts.
It has contributed to the global discussion on sustainability. This is the challenge of our time — a technical, educational and cultural challenge. It is the byword of our times, an idea whose time has come. At its heart, sustainability refers to the ability of humans, as a species, to continue living on planet Earth.
Sustainable development requires much of us — smart policies, wise investments, a willingness to change some very old habits. It demands solidarity among nations. When you think about the geography of our one and only planet, you see the connections quite easily — pollution or pesticides in South America can harm fish stocks off the coast of Australia, debris from a tsunami in Japan washing up on the shores of North America.
Sustainability also calls on us to show solidarity among generations. When you think about the world over time, you realize that the decisions our grandparents made many years ago continue to affect our practices today — and that the economic and social choices we make today will have an impact on climate change, poverty and much else when our children are all grown up.
Two months ago at the Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, the United Nations mobilized tens of thousands of leaders and activists to define pathways to a safer, more equitable, cleaner, greener and more prosperous world for all. Rio+20 was an important success. The outcome document — “The Future We Want” — provides a firm foundation to build on. The Conference generated hundreds of concrete commitments.
The discussions in Rio and those here in Yeosu have reminded us of the simple but powerful truth — that human beings are changing the ecosystems and the functioning of some essential processes in the Earth, from the water cycle to climate dynamics. Human actions are very strong, and often dominant. That may well bring catastrophe — but that same power can also change the world for the better. That is where you come in. You can make the crucial difference.
Rio+20 also pledged to strengthen education for sustainable development so that we can better prepare future generations for a more respectful and less wasteful use of nature’s resources. But your role goes far beyond doing new kinds of homework. From public squares to cyberspace, youth are a transformative force; you are creative, resourceful and enthusiastic agents of change.
Youth have been in the lead in the Arab Spring and other democratic movements around the world. You were a major part of the mass mobilization in support of Rio+20. Again and again, you have demonstrated a capacity and a desire to turn the tide of history and tackle global challenges.
One of the responsibilities of my generation of leaders is to do more with and for you; to ensure that you have opportunities for decent work instead of low-wage, dead-end jobs — or no jobs at all; and even more than that, to ensure that you have a place at the negotiating table — to help shape the decisions that shape your lives. Your generation of young people is the largest the world has ever known. We cannot afford to create a “lost generation” of squandered talent and disenfranchised citizens.
Today is International Youth Day. On this occasion, I reiterate the commitments I made earlier this year in announcing my action agenda for the next five years: to listen and engage; to appoint a Special Envoy for Youth; and to treat you as equal and effective partners.
The problems we face are complex and serious. To make sustainability possible, we must take international cooperation to the next level. This is the message of the United Nations, and this has been the message of the Expo during the last three months.
The Yeosu Declaration on the Living Ocean and Coast will be signed this afternoon. I will also launch the United Nations Oceans Compact, a new initiative. A sustainable future can be ours. The work starts now, and it starts with you. This is a generational imperative, a generational opportunity that your generation must seize.
The Yeosu Expo is about the future. So is this Youth Forum.
I wish you every success in your chosen path in life.
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