New York

02 February 2015

Secretary-General's Remarks to ECOSOC Youth Forum [As prepared for delivery]

Welcome, everyone, to the United Nations!

I thank the President of the Economic and Social Council, His Excellency Martin Sajdik, for bringing us together.

I especially thank the young delegates here.

You are part of the largest generation of youth in history.

Last year, the youngest person ever received the Nobel Peace Prize – Malala Yousafzai, along with the child rights advocate Kailash Satyarthi.

Malala is a longtime friend of the United Nations.

She declared, “I am not a lone voice, I am many.”

Malala is right. Many youth are demanding human rights and working for peace. I am honoured to welcome Ms. Thandiwe Chama, who has been an education champion since she was just eight years old.

All of you are here at a crucial time for people and our planet. 

2015 is not just another year – it is a chance to change the course of history. 

Ours is the first generation with the potential to end poverty – and the last to act to avoid worst effects of climate change. 

We have three major priorities this year:

To complete the Millennium Development Goals;

To agree on transformative and universal actions for sustainable development;

And to achieve a new, meaningful, universal climate agreement.

Today I make three calls to action to the world’s youth.

First: Help us drive sustainable development that is people-centred and planet-sensitive.

Second: Fight injustice and inequality with solidarity so no one is left behind.

And third: Be an active global citizen.

Dear friends,

Some of you may be focused on your studies. Some of you may be thinking about your careers.

I am going to be honest. It is rough out there.

We are in the middle of a global unemployment crisis.

Young people are hit hardest. They are three times more likely than adults to be jobless.

Globally, 73 million young people are looking for work. Many more are trapped in exploitive jobs, child labour or slave labour.

But youth are more than victims of poverty and economic downturns – they can be agents of change.

That is why we should do more to create jobs for young people – and to support young entrepreneurs so they can create jobs for others.

We need the power of young people all over the world – in rich and poor countries.

In recent years, more than two and a half million more children in affluent countries fell into poverty, bringing the total above 76 million.

We need global solidarity to end poverty everywhere. It is not enough to create wealth – we have to make sure that economic prosperity is inclusive and shared.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Many young people today are caught up in deadly conflicts.

The terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria kidnapped 276 schoolgirls last April.

The terrorists have since intensified their violence against young people. They are using very young girls to carry out suicide attacks.

I have strongly condemned these atrocities.

A military response is essential – but that alone will not solve the problem. 

We need safe schools. We need to protect human rights. And we must address underlying causes, including poverty, discrimination, resource scarcity and poor governance.

This is true beyond Nigeria and its affected neighbours.

Children are at risk in Central African Republic, Gaza, Syria, Iraq and South Sudan.

In Pakistan last December, terrorists killed 132 children at a school.

That same day in Yemen, more than a dozen schoolgirls were killed in a car bombing.

These are outrageous violations of human rights – and assaults on our common values.

Cowards attacking civilians may invoke the name of religion – but they only bring terrible shame to any faith they claim to represent.

Young people can speak out as never before. You can denounce injustice and reach hands across cultures and communities. We may not agree on every issue – but we can all agree that violence only leads to more suffering.

I have met many inspiring young people confronting serious problems. They are getting results in ending female genital mutilation, fighting discrimination and addressing human rights abuses.

Look around your societies. Get angry at injustice. Join others in taking action to stop it.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Climate change is another man-made problem we have the power to address.

Last September, I hosted a Climate Summit in New York. And I attended the massive People’s Climate March.

I was encouraged to see young people participating in the Summit and taking to the streets.

The world needs to hear more young voices defending our only planet Earth.

This year, the United Nations marks our 70th anniversary.

I attended my first UN 70 commemoration in India, which has more young people than any other country.

Our theme was yoUNg@70. You cannot spell young without UN.

To gauge public opinion, we conducted a global survey.

Seven million people responded to the UN’s MyWorld survey. Seventy percent of them were under the age of 30.

The input of youth has been crucial to developing the next generation of sustainable development goals.

Young people’s views were reflected in my synthesis report on the post-2015 agenda.

I proposed a set of six elements that are critical to sustainable development: Dignity, People, Prosperity, Planet, Partnership and Justice.

All of these matter to youth.

Dignity is a world where young people can get good jobs.

Prosperity is meaningful when we fight inequality which affects too many young people, especially young women.

Our Planet is yours to inherit. That is why we must combat climate change. We need your ideas to help reduce emissions and become more climate resilient.

We need Partnerships because our world is interconnected. We cannot succeed alone.

Justice demands governments that listen and respond to all people, including youth.

I am counting on Member States to adopt a bold, ambitious agenda at their special summit in September. I called on them to include youth in their delegations.

In December, we need leaders to adopt an agreement on climate change.

2015 also marks the 20th anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth, which remains valuable today.

To commemorate this milestone, I am happy to announce the launch of a digital and social engagement campaign called #YouthNow [“hashtag YouthNow”].

It celebrates achievements so far – and it advocates more actions for youth leading up to the post-2015 development agenda.

I hope you all join this global campaign – and change your profile pictures to show your support.

This May, the General Assembly President will convene a special event to stress the importance of the Programme of Action.

I thank my Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, for leading our global campaign. He is my ambassador to you, and your representative to the United Nations.

Dear friends,

More than a year ago, I visited a school in Mozambique. A young woman named Raquelina asked me if a girl could become UN Secretary-General – and if so how.

So I invited Raquelina to come to all of my meetings here at Headquarters on World Youth Day.

I am mentioning this not because I want you all to ask me for a visit. Unfortunately I do not have that much room in my office!

The point is that you should be bold.

There is a great deal of turmoil in our world – but we have values, strength and resolve to fight for peace and progress.

I count on all young people to be part of this historic 70th anniversary of the United Nations as global citizens who act for our common future.

Thank you.