New York

12 August 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at event marking International Youth Day [as prepared for delivery]

Welcome, everyone!

Every year on the International Youth Day, we let young people take over the United Nations.  Thank you for showing such high spirits to change our world.

Today we have a special guest.  Raquelina Langa has travelled here from Mozambique to help us celebrate.  Raquelina, please stand so we can give you a warm welcome.

I met Raquelina last year in Maputo, Mozambique.  I was at her school to highlight the role of education -- one of my top priorities because it drives progress in every society.

During the visit, the students presented me with the school’s Charter of Commitment to end violence against women and girls. I was really moved by their engagement in my UNiTE to end violence against women campaign.  I launched that effort out of my horror at the attacks that women and girls face across the world – and my determination to end them.

That day at the school, Raquelina asked how a girl like her could become Secretary-General.

I thought about an answer. But then I realized that action is better than words. So I decided then and there to invite her to the United Nations.  I wanted to encourage her – and all young women and men everywhere – to start realizing their potential role in a global Organization and to have great ambitions for their future as global citizens.

So here she is.  We spent some time together in my office this morning. 

Raquelina is learning more about the United Nations.  But I am also learning from her. And I want to learn from all of you.

I have asked my Envoy, Ahmad Alhendawi, to bring the United Nations and the world’s young people closer together.  With your energies and ideas, we can live up to our ideals of peace, justice, human rights and progress for all.

Helping young people to realize their potential is at the heart of this year’s observance of Youth Day, which focuses on mental health. 

A new United Nations publication indicates that 20 per cent of youth experience a mental health condition each year.  One of every five; they are our family members or our friends.

The stigma associated with having a mental health condition can cause enormous problems for young people – from jobs to relationships.

Stigma leads to neglect and discrimination.  It keeps governments from investing in services.  It leaves young people isolated, especially those who are already vulnerable as a result of homelessness, conflict or other troubles.

Stigma is wrong and must end.  We need to change how we perceive mental health.   Mental health is how we feel; it is our emotions and well-being. Let us begin to talk about our mental health in the same way we talk about our overall health.

To any young person who struggles with mental health issues I say: the United Nations supports you. We believe in your ability to improve our world. And we want to help you realize that potential for our collective future.

In the days ahead we will reach another milestone in our work to build that future: as of Monday, August 18th, there will be just 500 days until the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals – the greatest anti-poverty campaign in history.

I am marking this moment by spending most of my time with young people.

Later this week, I will travel to China to attend the Summer Youth Olympics in Nanjing to meet with young athletes and have an open dialogue with youth.

Upon my return to New York on Monday, I will be hosting a public event with Malala Yousafzai to talk about how to empower the world’s youth and rally the world to sustain MDG momentum.

For me, this is not just Youth Day, it is Youth Week.  It is meant to inspire 500 days of action – by young people and others.

I call on you to stay engaged every day, every week, every year, to keep the MDG promise.

Here are four steps you can take right now.  Go ahead and use your phones even as I am speaking; I don’t mind; there’s no time to waste!

First: Follow UN4Youth on Facebook and Twitter.

Second: Join our global discussion at

Third: use your votes, your choices and your creativity to achieve truly sustainable development that is good for people and the planet.

And fourth, tune in to the Climate Summit that I will be hosting on September 23rd here at UN Headquarters. Climate Change will affect you even more than old men like me!   Please join me in calling on world leaders to take ambitious action.  Make your voices heard.

Raquelina has said that she admires her community in Mozambique for the way, as she says, “people are there for each other”.

At this time of turmoil but also great potential, let us embrace that same spirit as an international community.

Let us be there for each other: you and me, our families and friends, our countries and our world.

Thank you.