Press Conference on General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Youth

25 July 2011

Press Conference on General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Youth

25 July 2011
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Youth


Condemning Friday’s bombing in Oslo and the shooting massacre at a Norwegian summer camp, delegates and youth advocates said today that this week’s General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on Youth would aim to end such extremist behaviour and guide young people on a path of tolerance and understanding.

“We are here to prevent what happened in Norway in the future,” Jean-Francis Zinsou (Benin), a co-facilitator of the Meeting, said at a Headquarters press conference.  The outcome document, to be adopted tomorrow at the close of the Meeting, would assert that the fight against terrorism and foreign occupation must be waged in adherence to international law.

He said the document would also attempt to hammer out a global strategy to end youth unemployment.  “The idea is to make youth a tool for development,” he said.  “It is not a matter of money; it is a matter of better policies,” he emphasized, adding that the Meeting and its outcome document would be a “starting point for a better future for youth”.

Thomas Mayr-Harting (Austria), also a co-facilitator, said that the text, taking into account the input from 89 youth-led organizations worldwide — many of whom had participated via social media such as Twitter and Facebook — would build on the focus of the 1995 World Programme of Action for Youth on fighting poverty, hunger and unemployment among young people, and improving their education, health and participation in decision-making.

Assembly President Joseph Deiss (Switzerland) said the Meeting would spotlight young people’s vast potential as agents of change.  “Youth are not just the future,” he said.  “Youth are part of the world today and they have to be taken as full partners and members of the world.”  (See also Press Release GA/11117)

Monique Coleman, Disney actress and the first-ever United Nations Youth Champion, agreed.  “We must spend less time talking about young people and more time talking with them,” she said, stressing that young people around the world needed better access to both information and jobs.  Too often they felt shut out, she added.

International model Alek Wek said young people must be properly nurtured and given the resources and tools they needed to develop fully.

Echoing those sentiments, Ahmed Alhindawi, a representative of the non-governmental organization Leaders of Tomorrow, said 81 million young people were unemployed and millions more did not have decent jobs.  State-run youth-promotion programmes were not enough, he said, adding that the formation of a strong, convincing United Nations agency for youth was vital, as were youth-friendly laws and cross-sectoral policies that would facilitate their involvement in decision-making.  That was particularly important in the Arab world, where young people yearned for democracy, he said, stressing that youth-led organizations provided the space to practise democracy at the grass-roots level and must be supported by international donors.

Asked to comment on the Oslo massacre, in which numerous young people at a summer camp for youth of the governing Labour Party had been killed, Mr. Mayr‑Harting said it was an attack on Norway’s long, positive tradition of encouraging multiculturalism and cultural diversity and tolerance among the next generation of Norwegian political leaders.  “These efforts must go on and they certainly have the full support of this conference,” he emphasized.

Ms. Wek, a political refugee who had fled Sudan with her family to escape the civil war there, said she identified with Norway’s pain and bloodshed.  Condemning the Oslo attack, she said: “They want to make a statement; they say they believe in God.  I don’t care; whatever you believe in, you don’t kill young people.”

Mr. Zinsou added that he was pleased to see Norway’s Prime Minister announce today that the country’s response to the attacks must be more dialogue and openness.

Asked to contrast the fruits of this week’s Meeting with the outcome of the Security Council debate on children and armed conflict earlier this month, Mr. Mayr‑Harting said the Assembly event more broadly encompassed youth issues and would ask the Secretary-General to assess what was being done to improve the lot of young people worldwide.

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