New York

02 June 2014

Secretary-General's remarks to ECOSOC Youth Forum

Let me join in welcoming all of you to the United Nations.

It is wonderful to feel your energy and enthusiasm.  Thank you for bringing your initiative and ideas. 

We have heard your messages loud and clear this morning – your ideals, goals, aspirations and concerns.

You have come here to help us build a better world – the future you want, the future we need.

People commonly say that young people are the leaders of tomorrow.  I have a different view.  I know that young people are also leaders of today.

From technology to politics, from the arts to the sciences, from the streets to the information superhighway, you are already making your mark.

Half the globe is under 25 years of age.  We need your engagement like never before. 

You have come to the United Nations at a critical moment. 

We are closing in on 500 days to the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals. 

At the same time, Member States are working hard on the next generation of sustainable development goals for 2015 and beyond. 

Many of you were very young when the MDGs were established.  But they have been a roadmap for global development for nearly 15 years. 

We have seen great progress around the world.  More people have been lifted out of poverty than any time in history.  More young people are in school.  More mothers are surviving childbirth.  The likelihood of a child dying before the age of 5 has been cut in half. 

Now we have to speed up our efforts to meet the MDGs – and gather the best ideas for a sustainable development agenda that will leave no one behind.

This is about your future – so it must be your agenda. 

Young people face unique challenges in securing quality education, basic health and decent work.

I know your aspirations extend far beyond jobs. 

You want and deserve a real voice in shaping the policies that affect your lives.

You want and deserve full equality for women and men and an end to violence against women and girls. 

You want and deserve strong democratic societies that understand your needs and deliver freedoms and opportunities. 

I want to thank all of you for your efforts through this unique Forum – and for achieving consensus among more than 1,000 youth and civil society organizations and showing how youth from diverse circumstances and backgrounds can unite to help shape the post-2015 development agenda.

Everywhere I go, I seek out the views of young people.

I visit universities.  I go to high schools and middle schools.  Sometimes, I even tweet! 

I am proud to have appointed the first-ever Special Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, who is sitting here with us.  He is raising awareness about the challenges young people face globally, and is making sure that young people’s voices are reflected in the work of the United Nations.

So raise your voices loud and clear.

We face many big challenges.

Climate change is a clear and present danger.

We have only one planet - and we must take on this existential threat.

There is no plan B because there is no Planet B - we have only one planet.

We must work harder to open the doors of opportunity for all - especially girls and women.

We must come to the aid of the suffering in places like Syria… those facing the prospect of famine in countries such as South Sudan … those denied their freedom of expression and assembly. 

There is a world of need out there, but also a world of opportunity.

So I urge you to keep doing your part.  Keep showing your leadership as global citizens.   Keep making a difference. 

Challenge your leaders.  You have the prerogative as young people.  The future is yours.

Therefore you have your own prerogative to raise your voices, challenge your Presidents, Prime Ministers and Ministers and Senators and Congresspersons and business communities.  This is your world.

And we are working hard, and we are carrying torches, but we will try to make sure that the torches will be lighter for you to carry. 

I don’t think that we will be able to finish all the things during our lifetime. 

Most of the things will have to be carried over by you, but we are doing our best

I believe so strongly in my mission as Secretary-General – and in the values and the work of the United Nations -- because I have lived it.

I grew up in Korea after the Korean War.  My country, my village, my school were all destroyed - there was nothing left.

We did not have much to eat, but we were also hungry for learning, for education. 

The international community – the United Nations – helped us rebuild.

The UN gave us hope. 

The UN was the beacon for me and for my country - for our people

I am very much humbled whenever I travel, I still see that there are so many people who look to the United Nations and who use the United Nations as their beacon of hope.

I feel that same sense of hope when I look out at all of you. 

Young people have passion – that’s again your prerogative.  But you also need to have compassion for other people who may be less fortunate than you are now.

Have passion and compassion and balance and try to achieve your dreams to build a better world. 

Let us work together to make this world better for all – where nobody is left behind, where everybody can live with human dignity.

And I thank you for your engagement.   

And together, let us ensure again a life of dignity for all.

Thank you.