Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message for the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum today:
Excellencies, dear young people,
It is my pleasure to greet all those gathered for the tenth anniversary of the ECOSOC Youth Forum.
This Forum has evolved to become the UN’s foremost platform for tackling the many pressing challenges that young people face today. Those challenges are, indeed, both many and pressing.
I am immensely saddened by what COVID-19 has done to the world’s young people. Some 1.5 billion students have had their education disrupted. As many as 20 million girls may not return to learning when the pandemic is over. One of every six young people lost their job. And youth mental health has worsened considerably. These impacts are exacerbating the challenges that young people confronted before the pandemic hit.
Because of protracted conflicts and displacement, millions of young people are seeing their youth disappear before their eyes. Because of paternalistic attitudes and a narrowing of civil space, young people are often denied a role in shaping their societies. And because of the climate emergency, young people are inheriting a world facing a triple planetary crisis — climate disruption, collapsing biodiversity and pollution of air, land and water that kills millions every year.
In this context, we should not be surprised that both online and in the streets, young people have been expressing their impatience with the pace of change, their alarm at the war on nature, and their frustration with injustice and poor governance. To ensure that these expressions of political action help deliver the future envisaged by the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to listen and rebuild trust.
We need meaningful opportunities for youth engagement in governance systems, in democratic processes, in peacebuilding and peace negotiations. Most of all, we need results — tangible improvements in areas such as education, employment, gender equality, environmental protection and digital connectivity — through a just, inclusive, green and sustainable recovery.
The UN’s first-ever system-wide Youth Strategy, Youth2030, is our commitment to strengthen our work with and for young people. The first implementation report shows steady progress — by our country teams, by individual UN entities, and in key areas such as youth, peace and security. We are also seeing a surge in youth engagement, including through my Youth Advisory Group on climate change and the work of my Envoy on Youth.
Yet there is much more to do, not least in terms of reaching young people of all backgrounds and in all contexts; and improving how we work not just for but with young people. The role of young people and the rights of future generations will be at the core of my forthcoming report to the Member States on charting our common agenda. Youth leaders are involved in the process and I am listening closely to your ideas and suggestions.
The world needs to move beyond platitudes about young people. We need you to continue showing the way on critical issues such as racial justice and gender equality. And we need you help us make peace with nature and forge a transition that takes us beyond fossil fuels into a world of renewable energy and net zero emissions.
Thank you for your commitment to the ideals and objectives of the United Nations.
I wish you all a successful Youth Forum.