New York

1 June 2015

Secretary-General's remarks to High-Level Event on the Demographic Dividend and Youth Employment [as delivered]

Thank you for this opportunity to speak on the important subject of youth empowerment and employment.

I thank General Assembly President Kutesa and the co-organizers: the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Population Fund. I am honoured by the presence many distinguished ministers today.

I welcome the many experts who join us today.

The world now has the largest generation of young people in history.

I place great hopes in their power to shape our future.

They are part of the first generation that can end poverty and the last that can avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

That is why I speak about – and with young people – whenever possible.

Last week, I was in Ireland to launch the Government’s youth delegate programme.

I hope all countries will include young people in their official delegations at the United Nations.

That is all the more important in this milestone year of 2015.

As you know, this year we hope to change the course of human history with twin priorities.

First: to adopt the new development agenda at our Special Summit on Sustainable Development here in September.

And second: to adopt a universal climate change agreement at the Paris Conference in December.

The hashtag #YouthNow campaign I launched in February has generated nearly a billion digital engagement.  I am pleased that many of you attended last Friday’s High Level Event of the General Assembly to mark the 20th Anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth. I was struck by how many participants described youth unemployment as a key challenge in attaining sustainable development.

At the same time, Member States also saw the youth demographic dividend as a great opportunity.

We renewed our commitment to the World Programme of Action. And I stressed that we cannot talk about sustainable development without the active involvement of youth.

Since development and peace are interlinked, I also stand for empowering young people to address security matters.

A lack of jobs feeds insecurity. A jobs-rich country can have a wealth of stability.

Young people are forced to bear the brunt of conflicts. They should be given the chance to carry the banner of peace.

That is why I am calling for empowering young people in a holistic manner across the international agenda.

When we give young people decent jobs, political weight, negotiating muscle and real influence in our world, they will create a better future.

I especially call for investments in young women and adolescent girls. They face more obstacles than young men and boys. And they deserve special support in seizing opportunities and claiming their rights.

We all appreciate the massive waste of human capital in our world where 74 million young people cannot find work.

Today I will propose four steps to rise to this challenge and harness the demographic dividend.


First, we must address high fertility in countries where there is still a large unmet need for contraceptive services. I call for increasing access to family planning and reproductive health care services. We must safeguard the freedom and rights so that families can choose the number and timing of their children. Greater investment in reproductive health services will also reduce unintended pregnancies, prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and help adolescents lead healthy lives.

Second, we have to ensure that young people get quality education and training. Governments should focus on matching education, skills and the needs of the labour markets. When we encourage entrepreneurs to create more entry-level jobs, we create more jobs for young people.

Third, we need coordinated planning and investments with a focus on human rights and human dignity.

And fourth, we need social protection systems to help end poverty and fight persistent inequalities. These steps will help ensure that no young person is left behind.

Last month, I attended a meeting of the Security Council on youth. It was chaired by the Council’s youngest-ever president, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein Bin Abdullah II of Jordan. He will turn 21 this month.

The Crown Prince said, “We have to direct our energies not to answer the question ‘What should we do?’ because the actual question is ‘How should we do it?’”

I count on all of you to help us answer this question – and respond to the expectations and aspirations of the world’s youth.

Thank you.