New York

15 July 2019

Remarks to World Youth Skills Day: Learning to Learn for Life and Work [as delivered]

As delivered by Ms. Ana María Menéndez, Secretary-General's Senior Advisor on Policy

Excellencies, Colleagues and friends,
It is a pleasure to join you for this important gathering marking World Youth Skills Day.  I thank the Permanent Missions of Portugal and Sri Lanka for bringing us together, in partnership with UNESCO, the International Labour Organization and the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. 
I bring you warm greetings from the Secretary-General, who attaches the highest importance to harnessing the power and promoting the participation of young people in addressing today’s challenges.  Just last month in Lisbon, at the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, he noted that, and I quote, “my generation is beginning to understand that young people can and must lead.  The task for those of us in power, therefore, is not to solve the problems of young people, but to build frameworks so that they can contribute to solving their own problems.  Young people must be able to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.   We need to create an enabling environment for young people, where they are seen not as subjects to be protected, but as citizens with equal rights, equal voices and equal influence, as full members of our societies, and powerful agents for change.” End quote.

In that spirit, we at the United Nations very much welcome the theme of this year’s observance of World Youth Skills Day: “Learning to Learn for Life and Work”.
Learning is essential for boosting employment prospects and expanding opportunities.  But it is far more than that.  We learn in order to contribute meaningfully to the development of our communities and countries.  We learn to better understand our world and make informed decisions.  We learn to reach our full potential.  Moreover, learning should not end in the classroom; more than ever before, it must be a lifelong endeavour.
Our world is in a period of dramatic change, from climate dynamics to demographics, from technological advances to human mobility and so much else, with profound consequences for how we live, work and interact as citizens and countries.  New technologies in particular, especially artificial intelligence, are expected to re-shape the world of work, eliminating many but creating many as well.
Even now it is clear that the future will require a range of new and different skills.  This requires a major investment in what the Secretary-General has described as a new type of education rooted not just in learning things but in learning how to learn – and an education that accompanies people through the years to ensure lifelong learning in an effective way.
Our approaches must also consider the needs of all youth, especially those who are marginalized or in vulnerable situations, from conflict to poverty and displacement.  We must tackle the negative stereotypes and misperceptions that limit educational access and opportunities, including for young persons with disabilities.   Serious steps to promote the meaningful participation of women, and to train young girls in science, technology, engineering and math, are an imperative.
Quality education and lifelong learning are central in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  ‘Youth 2030’, the UN Youth Strategy, and our new multi-stakeholder partnership, Generation Unlimited, seek to respond directly to the challenges that young people face in this area.  Youth skills will also be crucial in addressing the global climate emergency and saving our planet, and the United Nations looks forward to the presence of young climate activists at UN Headquarters for the Youth Climate Summit on September 21st, two days before the Climate Action Summit being convened by the Secretary-General.   Looking ahead to next year, which marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, youth voices have a valuable contribution to make as we reflect on, and equip ourselves to tackle, the challenges of our collective future.
Excellencies, colleagues and friends,
The United Nations is strongly committed to deepening our partnership in pursuit of our shared goals.  I wish you a very happy and productive World Youth Skills Day.
Thank you.