Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 27 March 2013
It is wonderful to see you here. Welcome to the United Nations. This is your home.
I want to start with two questions. And I want you to shout your answers. Let me hear what you think.
First: Is the United Nations doing enough for young people?
Next: Can the United Nations do more for young people?
My answer is Yes!
Working with youth is one of my top priorities as Secretary-General. That is because young leaders have the energy and ideas we need to change our world.
We need to marshal your expertise and your compassion to address the terrible problems in our world.
Global crises are hitting young people especially hard.
Youth unemployment is an enormous problem affecting nearly 74 million people from their mid-teens to their mid-twenties.
Hundreds of millions of young people are directly affected by conflict, which can rob them of their homes, their families and their futures..
And young people will inherit the planet – our one planet earth – from older generations who are too often exploiting natural resources instead of protecting them.
These are serious problems. We live at a time of transition and turmoil. But there are also great opportunities. You can help us rise to the challenges by being a global citizen.
Youth have always had ideals. The difference with all of you – the largest generation of youth in history – is that you can use social networks to demand change. You can mobilize. You can raise your voices. And you can achieve meaningful results.
I am happy to see so many tablets and phones here today, but many young people do not have access to this technology. We must work to close the digital divide. And we have to pay special attention to women and girls. They have every bit as much potential as men and boys when it comes to science and technology. Anyone can wear a lab coat regardless of their gender. Anyone can look through a microscope.
Education is essential. I personally witnessed the power of education in my life and in my country, Korea. The United Nations provided schoolbooks to me when I was growing up. The whole society was torn apart by war. We studied in the open. If it rained, we looked for trees to take shelter. But we never stopped studying.
Books, teachers and lessons are great drivers of development. I read on paper and maybe now you read e-books but the result is the same – when you work at your education, you enrich yourself.
I started a new initiative called Education First to put every child in school, improve the quality of learning and foster global citizenship.
When we give children and youth the education they deserve, they will help transform our world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
To unleash the power of young people, you need to help drive our work.
The United Nations is ready to partner with you.
That is why I appointed the first-ever United Nations Envoy for Youth.
Ahmad Alhendawi will speak to you later today. He is dynamic and inspiring. I am confident he will help young people understand the United Nations, and incorporate their ideas into our work.
Earlier this week, we had an in-depth discussion about his plans for change. I was deeply impressed by his approach. He has spelled out a detailed plan based on four key principles: Participation, Advocacy, Partnerships and Harmonization.
Mr. Alhendawi has goals to give real meaning to these words.
For example, to promote participation, the Envoy will open many channels of communication between young people and the United Nations – in meeting places and cyberspace. I hope you will follow the United Nations on Twitter @UN [“at UN”] and also tweet to my Envoy @AhmadAlhendawi [“at Ahmad Alhendawi”]
He is even working on an App so you can easily track UN events on your mobile phone.
This Economic and Social Council is critical. But we are developing exciting plans to convene regional ECOSOC meetings to boost our global work.
To boost advocacy, the Envoy is striving to make sure that youth have a say in the development of our post-2015 development goals. He wants young people’s concerns to be heard – and more than that, he wants to make sure that decision-makers really listen and take action based on what they hear.
Partnerships are another key component of his work plan. This means joining forces with government representatives, academics, CEOs and especially youth-led organizations.
Finally: harmonization. This is especially important to me. The United Nations does excellent work on behalf of young people. But we have to make the most of our efforts. My Envoy has specific plans to help coordinate our activities so they have the greatest possible impact.
I fully endorse his plan. I call on the international community – including senior officials at the United Nations – to give my Youth Envoy their full support.
When you work for a better world for all, you create a better future for yourselves.
I hope you will stay engaged with the United Nations long after you leave here. You do not need to study international relations to be dismayed at the wars in our world. You do not have to get a law degree to take a stand on human rights. You do not need to study economics to know that poverty is wrong.
I encourage you to pursue your own path. That may be in public service, medicine or law… or in the arts, literature or history. No matter where you end up, you can carry the ideals of the United Nations with you.
Find your own mission in life. You may not be able to change the entire world, but you can change something to make it a better place for all of us. Everyone has a share in this.
Whether you want to be a scientist or a superstar, study hard. Give it your best.
And along the way, never forget the UN’s ideals of peace, development and human rights.
Be part of creating a new vision. It is not only about telling us what kind of world you want. It is about partnering with us to realize a better future.