Neglecting Youth ‘Risks Marginalizing a Generation’, Deputy Secretary-General Warns while Chairing Regional Coordination Mechanism Meeting for Western Asia

11 November 2010

Neglecting Youth ‘Risks Marginalizing a Generation’, Deputy Secretary-General Warns while Chairing Regional Coordination Mechanism Meeting for Western Asia

11 November 2010
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Neglecting Youth ‘Risks Marginalizing a Generation’, Deputy Secretary-General Warns


while Chairing Regional Coordination Mechanism Meeting for Western Asia


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the Regional Coordination Mechanism meeting at the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in Beirut today, 11 November:

It gives me great pleasure to be here in Beirut again to chair the Regional Coordination Mechanism meeting.  Mr. Prime Minister, we are greatly honoured that you are with us this morning.  Your presence is a clear testimony of your support to our work here and in the region, as well as your support for multilateralism.

I am honoured to chair this meeting.  I thank our hosts, the Government and people of Lebanon, for their warm welcome.  I am pleased to see such positive and dramatic improvements in the infrastructure of Beirut, and I reaffirm the continued support of the United Nations for Lebanon’s development.  I bring you warm greetings from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  Both he and I see the Regional Coordination Mechanism as a pillar of our Organization.

The objectives of the Regional Coordination Mechanism are clear: to achieve policy coherence and create synergies at the regional and subregional levels, thereby enhancing the global impact of our work.  I have no doubt that, under the leadership of our new Executive Secretary, Dr. Rima Khalaf, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) will continue to play a key role in fostering these objectives.

I welcome this year’s emphasis on a multistakeholder approach, and efforts to expand participation to key strategic regional partners.  In addition to our strong ties with the League of Arab States and the Bretton Woods institutions, today we have the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Islamic Development Bank joining us for the first time.  Welcome.

The focus of today’s agenda on youth and poverty reduction is very timely.  The General Assembly has proclaimed the period from August 2010 to August 2011 to be the International Year of Youth.  The Arab States have much to gain from harnessing the power of the youth demographic.  And regional initiatives are crucial in supporting member countries in implementing sound policies that will tap the energy and talents of young people.  Given the high percentage of youth among Arab populations, and their intense yearning for jobs, opportunities and freedom, the risks of neglecting youth are simply too high to afford.

I am heartened to see that the regional commissions are using the Regional Coordination Mechanisms to explore new and better ways of developing partnerships.  ESCWA has taken the lead by inviting civil society organizations to engage in the deliberations of the Regional Coordinating Mechanism.  The brainstorming you have undertaken on the challenges faced by youth in the region offer insights that can point the way forward.  I also commend your efforts to strengthen the connection between regional work and the global agenda.  I look forward to the intervention of the Vice-Chair of the High-Level Committee on Programmes to our forum this evening.

We meet on the heels of the Millennium Development Goals Summit.  The Summit was a success on many fronts.  World leaders raised awareness for the Millennium Development Goals, and reaffirmed their commitment to them.  They adopted an Action Agenda — a road map for collective action to be taken between now and 2015 to dramatically accelerate Millennium Development Goals progress.  Moreover, the Summit spurred concrete action, notably in support of our new Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.

The Summit also highlighted the regional dimension of this work.  The outcome document acknowledges the important role of the Regional Commissions in addressing an ever-growing number of developmental and transboundary issues.  This is a testament to your good work.  The Summit sent a clear message: if we step up our efforts, the Millennium Development Goals remain achievable by 2015, including in the least developed countries.

In the past decade, progress towards the Millennium Development Goals has been remarkable.  Many countries, including from among the least developed, have pulled people out of poverty, increased enrolment in school and expanded access to clean water.  These and other gains provide a springboard for further achievements.  However, we are lagging behind, and much remains to be done.

The global economic crisis, combined with the food and energy crises of the past two years and the impact of natural disasters, have set us back considerably and reminded us that progress can be stalled and even reversed.  Climate change is a growing threat.  Inequalities persist between and within countries, including in the Arab region.  Countries affected by conflict and armed violence — several of which are in the West Asia region — are among those that have made least progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

This is why we need to remain focused on what we can do now to accelerate progress in the run-up to 2015.  Allow me to highlight three priorities on which a regional perspective can contribute significantly.

First, ensuring jobs for young people.  Too many young people remain jobless or underemployed.  In the Middle East and North Africa, youth unemployment rates are expected to continue on an upward path in 2011.  At the same time, the proportion of youth in the general population is projected to increase by 30 per cent over the next 25 years.  We must work for a job-intensive recovery that promotes social inclusion and integration.  Otherwise, we risk marginalizing a generation.  At the Millennium Development Goals Summit, Member States agreed that the United Nations Global Jobs Pact can serve as a general framework for this effort.

Second, empowering women.  Women are critical agents of development.  I am encouraged to know that the West Asia region has reduced gender disparities in both primary and secondary education.  More efforts are needed, however, in the economic and political spheres.  I am confident that the creation of UN Women will help streamline and strengthen our work in this realm.  Similarly, the significant resources — some $40 billion — committed to the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health could also bolster our efforts in this critical area of our work.

Third, ensuring food and nutrition security.  The food crisis is expected to be a protracted one.  I am pleased to see strong support for the “Scale up Nutrition” initiative.  Also known as “SUN”, it calls for a two-pronged approach that combines agriculture, health and social security systems with nutritional needs.  This comprehensive approach is precisely what we need to address food and nutrition security in their full socio-economic and environmental context.

Finally, let me note that the Millennium Development Goals Summit also provided a bridge to the Rio+20 Conference in 2012.  Member States clearly recognized the need to pay greater attention to sustainable development.  However, some are hesitant to embrace the notion of a “green economy”, which they feel still needs to be explored further.  In the context of regional preparations for Rio+20, you can help the international community arrive at greater clarity on this issue.

Thank you for your commitment to this agenda.  The Secretary-General and I are grateful for your support and collaboration.  The people of the Arab region have high expectations of us.  Working together, I am sure we can rise to the occasion.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.