Buenos Aires, Argentina

09 August 2016

Secretary-General's remarks at meeting with Argentinian Youth and Civil Society Leaders, hosted by Mr. Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, Mayor of Buenos Aires [as prepared for delivery]

Excelentísimo Señor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, Alcalde de Buenos Aires, Distinguidos dirigentes de la sociedad civil y de asociaciones juveniles, Señoras y señores:

 

            Me complace enormemente estar aquí con todos ustedes. Me alegra poder reunirme con un grupo de dirigentes tan dinámico. Les agradezco mucho su compromiso y su apoyo.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

            This is my third trip to Argentina as Secretary-General. The last time I visited on my birthday, in June, 2011.

 

It was right after the volcano Puyehue had erupted in Chile. There was a huge ash cloud. Our flight was cancelled. I had to take a bus to Buenos Aires.

 

It was a very long ride – 700 kilometres. But it was worth it because we stopped at a little gas station and I had the chance to eat some delicious alfajores. That was one of the best treats I ever had on my birthday.

 

All of my friends in Argentina were saying, “Please remember –Chile gave you ash – Argentina gave you alfajores!”

 

            This time, I am coming from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

 

            All of the athletes are spectacular – but I met some true superstars.

 

            They are members of the refugee team.

 

            There are millions of refugees in our world without any home, government or protection.

 

            But the International Olympic Committee decided to give refugees their own team.

 

            They had to flee their homes – but now they are chasing gold.

 

            Whether or not they get a medal, these athletes are already winners.

 

            Some of them turned to sports to cope with their loss.

 

            One of them, Yusra, is an 18-year old swimmer from Syria. She said, “I want to show everyone that after the pain and after the storm comes calm days.” And she called for people to follow their dreams even when they seem impossible.

 

            Five of them were from South Sudan. They were living in refugee camps. They had no training equipment or proper shoes. The weather made it even harder. But they refused to give up.

 

            These refugees show the immense power of the human spirit – which we need to transform our world.

 

I was like them once. I had to flee my village during the Korean War.

           

            The United Nations came to our rescue with food, supplies and security.

 

I saw that international solidarity saves lives.

 

            When we join forces, ensure that all people live with the dignity they deserve.

 

            We now have an ambitious and achievable plan to end poverty around the world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

 

            Youth and civil society groups helped push governments to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

            Now I ask you to make leaders keep their promises.

 

            Countries are already starting to make these Goals a reality.

 

            Last month in New York, we held the first High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Many of the speakers agreed that these Goals are for people. That is why it is so important to empower individuals, especially youth and women.

 

            Gender equality is essential to sustainable development. We can never have progress if we hold back half the world. When we unleash the power of women, everyone will benefit.

 

            We also need leaders at all levels – including cities.

 

            I applaud Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta for taking up the challenge.

 

            Today, more than half of all people live in urban areas – and that number is going to jump to 60 percent by 2030.

 

            Cities face many pressures – but they also drive progress.

 

            With the right planning and management, cities can become incubators for innovation.

 

            The United Nations will focus on the links between urban policy and sustainable development this October at the Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador.

 

            This will be another important chance to open a more sustainable future.

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

            The young people here today are part of the largest generation of youth in history.

 

            I am passionate about empowering youth. That is why I appointed the first-ever United Nations Youth Envoy. And everywhere I go, I reach out to youth with a simple message: people may say you are leaders of tomorrow, but I see you as leaders of today.

 

            You are more than recipients of the SDGs – you are owners. This is your plan for social justice, environmental protection and economic progress. There are 169 targets in the SDGs – and 65 of them reference young people.

 

            Get involved. Raise your voices. Make your mark.

 

            The older generation has achieved some progress – but many leaders have failed to deliver what people deserve.

 

All of you have powers of networking that my generation could never have imagined.

 

Stay connected – but more than that, be united. Base yourselves on our common values and help open a new future.

 

            In our world, we cannot look at issues separately. Development is essential to peace. Justice is part of development. Peace demands human rights.

 

            Young people are at the heart of all these challenges.

 

            More and more countries realize this.

 

            For the first time in history, the Security Council last December adopted a landmark resolution, 2250, on youth.

 

            The Council acknowledged what I have been saying for a long time – if young people are good enough to fight in wars, they deserve a chance to make peace.

 

            You are the young peacebuilders who can advance progress.

 

            Argentina has shown the power of people to change the world.

 

            Later today, I will go to the Remembrance Park and Museum.

 

            Its exhibits prove the power of Argentines to overcome tragedy and change the course of history.

 

            Today I call on all of you to bring that resilient, positive spirit to the global arena.

 

            Be a global citizen. Look beyond the borders of this country and this continent. Join the United Nations in building a better world for all.

 

            Thank you.