– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly

24 September 2018

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo,

President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta,

Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake,

Excellencies, Distinguished Panelists and Guests,

Youth Representatives,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is indeed a pleasure to be here and to have the opportunity to chair this session of the High-Level Event on Youth 2030. Let me start by commending the work of the Envoy. Through her work, the voices of young people are getting through the walls of the United Nations, in the areas of participation, advocacy, partnerships and harmonization.

I am also pleased to note that Jayathma represents a strong voice for youth within the walls of the United Nations and in the field. This may not yet be the proverbial seat at the table but it is definitely an opportunity to be heard.

Colleagues, the General Assembly, in its landmark resolution 70/1 entitled “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, for the first time, recognized youth as agents of change. At the same time – and given that the Sustainable Development Goals are integrated, indivisible and global in nature – the implication is that youth are central to the advancement of sustainable development. Their participation is thus paramount to success.

I commend the General Assembly for recognizing this. In my previous life – as Minister of Heritage in Ecuador – I was part of an extensive engagement with the youth of the country and this experience has allowed me to see first-hand the promise that young people offer. Whether addressing healthcare solutions or education or economic opportunities, youth are amongst our best educated, most innovative, and most creative resource. Theirs is a generation willing to take risks and employ innovation.

Put simply – we have here an untapped resource that can help us fuel progress toward the 2030 Agenda.




During my acceptance speech as President-Elect and upon taking the Oath of Office, I outlined my vision for the 73rd session of the General Assembly. I am proud to note that youth are explicitly linked to two of my seven goals, and that their impact is felt throughout the remaining five.

On my priority goal – Youth, Peace and Security – my hope is that we can recognize youth for what they are: stakeholders and assets to the peace process. For too long we have relegated certain groups, youth included, to the category of victims of conflict without acknowledging their potential or empowering their contributions. The historic Security Council resolution 2250 adopted in 2015 recognized the positive contribution of youth in efforts for maintenance and promotion of peace and security. My office will thus work to promote investments in young people and their inclusion in governance and decision making, while strengthening the dialogue with young people on their participation in conflict prevention and peace building.

The second priority – decent work – is built on two points. First, that there are over 71 million unemployed young people and 156 million working youth are in poverty, including extreme poverty. This is simply unacceptable and counterproductive; more must be done to ensure that everyone benefits from economic opportunities. That way, we achieve inclusive, sustainable growth, a necessary precondition for peaceful, stable and thriving societies.

The second point relates to the fact that the world is changing and employment itself is in a state of flux as digitization and new technologies emerge near-daily. This has direct implications on the world’s youth. For some, this may mean that jobs are becoming automated, necessitating new skills to allow them to adapt; for yet others, there is a fear that they will miss out entirely on this Fourth Industrial Revolution. We cannot let this happen.

My intention, working with ILO and ECOSOC, is to jointly host an interactive forum next spring that brings together youth advocates, civil society, labour and business and technology leaders to help bridge this gap.

I plan to champion a process involving youth representatives, civil society groups and the Youth Envoy that ensures that the voices of youth are fully heard through the work of the General Assembly. As a case in point, the upcoming Global Compact on Migration will undoubtedly need to address the impact of migration on youth-we cannot do that without active youth participation.

Whether addressing healthcare solutions or education or economic opportunities, youth are amongst our best educated, most innovative, and most creative resource. Theirs is a generation willing to take risks and employ innovation.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

Excellencies and friends,

I conclude by recognizing the commitment that Member States of the United Nations have shown in recent years to the issues of youth and youth participation. I need hardly stress that without the support of member states none of the aspirations for putting youth at the center of our work here would bear fruit. I would like to conclude therefore by urging you all-Member States, youth representatives and civil society to engage each other in a respectful and positive manner to deepen trust and understanding and advance our common agenda to leave no one behind. On my part, I commit to working with you to forge a path forward.

Thank you very much!