Gyeongju, Republic of Korea

30 May 2016

Secretary-General's remarks at 66th UN DPI/NGO Conference Youth Caucus Event

This is a great way to start my day in Gyeongju. Thank you for organizing this very important meeting for me, youth representatives and leaders of today or tomorrow; that really energizes me all the time.

I am inspired by hearing from the young leaders this morning I have met here. Thank you for sharing your ideas.

Everywhere I go, any place I meet young leaders around the world, I am asking young leaders to speak out. Raise your voice. Raise your voice.

The youth issue has not been much given priority in the world but the United Nations has never neglected the importance of youth leaders. That is why when I began my second term in 2012 I decided to appoint, for the first time in the history of the United Nations, a Special Envoy on Youth of the United Nations Secretary-General: Ahmad Alhendawi, he’s a very young man.

For me and for you, the old era, where existing elders have been making prominent roles in every way of our life has gone. The old era has gone, now [the] new era has come. The United Nations fully recognizes the immense contributions of young people.

Now, I hope you will work closely with my envoy, Mr. Alhendawi. He has been working very hard to network with youth organizations around the world. I am very much impressed, very much energized by such a powerful way the young people are contributing to what the United Nations is doing.

In fact you played a pivotal role in pushing governments to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. And you also raised your voice for the Paris Agreement on climate change. You have been speaking out. And I have really been asking you: raise your voice. You have unlimited power, unlimited authority, legitimate prerogative to raise your voice. Make your governors, mayors, national assembly members even professors and business communities – make them accountable. They should work very closely with you. That is what I have been always saying.

Now young people are finally being recognized for their contributions to peace and security.

For the first time in the history of the United Nations, in December last year, the Security Council has adopted a landmark resolution for youth, because you have a critical role to play for international peace, development and human rights.

Security Council Resolution 2250, I don’t mean to be too detailed, 2250, please remember this number, it’s a landmark resolution. The Security Council, which is the primary responsible organization within the United Nations for international peace and security, has recognized the implications and importance of youth in maintaining world peace.

Now likewise, 16 years ago, in 2000, the Security Council for the first time recognized the role of women in world peace and security. That is another one, very landmark resolution, 1325. Those [resolutions], 1325, 2250 are the numbers which you may have to remember. It may come in your examinations.

Women have now been recognized, [since] 2000. But even now, [women are] much less recognized [than they should be which is] why I have been raising the awareness on the importance of women in the highest possible way, by establishing UN Women. This is the very powerful integrated organization in the United Nations, UN Women. Now I have only established a small office of the Envoy for Youth but we have to expand it. But please remember that the United Nations recognizes the role of women and youth.

Youth we normally say, professors or your parents say, that you are the leaders of tomorrow. But many of you have become leaders of today.

Do you remember Mohamed Bouazizi who is Tunisian jobless street vendor who sparked this Arab Spring in 2011 in Tunisia. That wind is still blowing, still sweeping. Of course depending on where they live, this Arab Spring has not fully impacted the whole world with democratization but very poor, jobless young man has made history. His name will be remembered in world history. Mohamed Bouazizi. But be proud that you are young.

Since you are young, I should tell you this one: while you raise your voice, that’s fine. Have a strong passion, that’s fine. Everybody has passion. It is a prerogative of being young. At the same time, having only passion [means] you have only half. Have compassion, passion and compassion, that means you must have both. Think about what your friends in other parts of the world – what circumstances they would be living in. Without compassion, the world would be strange and miserable. When everybody has only passion, passion without compassion will lead to a strange way, undesirable way, sometimes destructive way and tragic way. When you have too much passion, that’s what happens in many parts of the world. Therefore, passion should be accompanied with compassion. That’s what I’m telling you. That’s my message to you.

Many people are worried that terrorists and violent extremists will recruit young people. That we have to think about. I’m telling European leaders and Asian leaders and African leaders, just think why these young people join foreign terrorist fighters? Because they are just being driven, not because they want it but they are just driven out of society.  Just bring them, engage them, giving them good and decent political, social, economic opportunities. That’s the number one priority: giving decent opportunities.

Likewise women’s potential should also be fully utilized. Half the global population, half the sky, are women. More than half the global population are young people. Among them, the average age of global youth is under 25 years of age. That means this world, planet Earth, has a four billion year history, but this world is very young, full of energy, full of dynamism, full of power. This power, energy, dynamism has not been fully utilized, fully used. The able leader of our community should become one who really tries to transform this power into constructive action.

That’s my message to you. Be proud to be young but be prepared for your days tomorrow. I’m leaving tomorrow as Secretary-General, but who knows that [maybe] one of you will become Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Throughout human history, young people are generally open and idealistic. Today’s young people have enormous powers of networking. It’s a transformative power. Social media will make you as one. There are many young people. We have to unite ourselves.

When the United Nations was negotiating to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals with 17 Goals, the United Nations DPI, under the leadership of Ms. [Cristina] Gallach [Under-Secretary-General for Public Information] we reached out to young people, 8 million people, asking them what kind of world do you want? Just tell us. Then millions of young people responded by saying I want this, I want that, I want that. We compiled and analysed and we presented it to the Member States. That’s why you have the Sustainable Development Goals with 17 Goals, the most ambitious, vision for the future of us as human beings and planet Earth.

Let’s work together, with the United Nations, with your power, to make this world better for all. And I count on your strong engagement, dynamism and energy [which] should be fully used.  I’m positive to do that.

Thank you very much.