Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States

The United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Youth A framework for global partnerships for youth development Roundtable on Investing in Young People

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome! I am honoured to be here today, and to be joined by so many youth advocates both here and online, Member States, partners from the private sector, and UN entities.

We have heard it said many times before, but with 1.8 billion young people in the world, it bears repeating – we are home to the largest generation of youth the world has ever known.

Now, more than ever, young people need and deserve our full attention; not only as recipients of our efforts, but as partners in development.

In recent years we have seen growing interest in youth-related issues.

This interest has been perpetuated by a global youth unemployment crisis and political unrest in many regions.

This interest reflects a need to address the global jobs crisis amongst youth, and a broader need for young people to have their voices heard. Youth should be involved in decision-making and development at all levels.

After all, social integration without young people’s involvement is neither feasible nor sustainable.

The United Nations has long recognized this fact. The work of the United Nations on youth issues is guided by the World Programme of Action for Youth.

It provides a detailed framework on how to improve the situation of young people at all levels. The 15 priority issues it covers, from education to health, from participation to employment, are as pertinent today as ever.

Indeed, youth employment continues to be a major challenge which requires urgent attention.

Young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults.

High youth unemployment threatens solidarity between generations. It also threatens stability.

The 2011 United Nations World Youth Report on youth employment, gave an insight into some of the major challenges facing young people, as expressed by young people themselves.

Young people face working in low productivity jobs earning low wages. They also face working in unsafe or risky conditions. Young people are often underemployed – working below their skill or educational level. Many young people have few or no prospects for advancement and lack job stability. 

Education systems are often ill equipped to provide young people with the skills they need to enter the labour market. Access to quality and relevant education is a must.

But of course, better investment in young people is not just necessary for the job market.

Investment in young people ensures that young people live long and healthy lives, live free from discrimination, and have their voices heard in political processes. Young people deserve to have their rights protected, so that they can be full and active members of society.

Recognizing this, Member States have called upon the UN system to strengthen its collaboration and coordination to help improve the situation of young people worldwide.

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in its capacity as the permanent co-chair of the UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development, has responded to these calls and works to promote enhanced collaboration and coordination amongst all UN entities working on youth issues.

The Network’s Open Meeting with Youth Organizations, taking place over these two days, signifies an added effort to ensure that young people are part of these collaboration and coordination efforts.

In addition, the Network’s work in the development of the United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Youth further highlights the efforts being undertaken by the UN in building partnerships with and for youth at all levels.

The thematic areas the System-wide Action Plan focuses on, namely, Employment and Entrepreneurship; Education, including comprehensive sexuality education; political participation; protection of Rights and civic engagement; and health, allows the United Nations to look upon youth development in its entirety.

It allows for UN entities, young people, and partners to work better together to ensure young people’s needs and aspirations are met across the board.

It provides a strong framework for identifying where UN entities are working and taking the lead. For example, in the area of Political Inclusion the UN system has committed to enhancing young people’s inclusion in decision making in all levels of development processes. In this context, DESA is working to increase the number of countries that youth representatives in their national delegations to the UN.

Gathered here today are also many private foundations and companies who recognize not only the value, but the necessity of investing in-and partnering with-youth.

I am thrilled to see such a keen interest in building partnerships with and for youth from both within and outside the UN.

It is encouraging to see the commitment to working together, to invest in young people, and to ensure that they reach their full potential as agents of change and partners in development.

Thank you.