I have had a very good visit to Ireland over the past few days, and will be leaving right after this gathering. My hosts have saved the best for last!
I am delighted to be with so many young people today.
I can see from your faces that you are excited about the results of last Friday’s referendum on marriage equality. I know that your voices played a big part in this success. Congratulations. I will continue to stand with the LGBT members of the human family. At the United Nations, same-sex partners now enjoy equal rights.
At the same time, the other question on the ballot last Friday – lowering the age at which someone can become President of Ireland from 35 to 21 — was defeated by a big margin. So I think you still have some work to do!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Whether or not young people can become President, you have a central role to play in making history this year.
Yours is the largest generation of young people the world has ever known.
You are the first generation that can end poverty. And you are the last generation that can avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
The world needs you to step up this year and beyond – for people and the planet.
I am therefore delighted to be here for the launch of the UN Youth Delegate Programme in Ireland.
In establishing this programme, the National Youth Council of Ireland and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are showing the importance they place on incorporating the voice of Irish youth into decision-making.
By including young people in its national delegation, the Irish Government will benefit from youth perspectives while helping young people gain a better understanding of the complexities of international negotiations.
I look forward to welcoming the first Irish youth delegates to New York in the coming months.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Those two young people will add a new dimension to an already productive history of Irish engagement in the United Nations. From its efforts to green the Irish economy to its anti-hunger work in Africa, Ireland has been helping the world move towards a sustainable future. As one of the co-facilitators of the process to shape a new development agenda, Ireland has been instrumental in the negotiations aimed at establishing an inspiring new set of sustainable development goals for the next 15 years.
Young people in Ireland understand the stakes involved in this effort. In other countries across Europe and across the world, young people have been disproportionately affected by the economic downturn and recession.
Young people in many places are also caught up in deadly conflicts. Terrorist groups and violent extremists are kidnapping schoolchildren, bombing schools, and forcing young people to carry out suicide attacks. These are outrageous violations of human rights.
One of the world’s greatest challenges in the 21st century will be to create jobs and opportunities, counter the frustration and alienation that are so prevalent, and find ways to harness the great potential of the world’s young people.
Youth are not only victims of poverty and violence. They are agents of change. Youth represent promise – not peril. We need the power of young people all over the world – in rich and poor countries, for peace, development and human rights.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The input of youth has been crucial to developing the next generation of sustainable development goals. Of the seven million people who responded to the UN’s MyWorld global survey, 70 per cent were under the age of 30.
Young people will be central players in combatting climate change and ushering in a low-carbon future. I was encouraged to see so many young people participating in the Climate march in New York and around the world last September. The world needs to hear more young voices defending our only planet Earth.
The months ahead will be critical for sustainable development.
In July in Addis Ababa, the Conference on Financing for Development is an opportunity to mobilize the resources we need.
In September, world leaders will adopt the new development agenda at a Summit at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
And in December in Paris, governments will adopt a universal climate change agreement.
This critical year also marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s membership in the Organization, and the 20th anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth.
My Youth Envoy, Ahmad Alhendawi, says that young people drive change but they are not in the driver’s seat. I agree – and I have called on Member States to give them the license to help steer our future.
I have also made working with and for young people a key priority.
I ask you to join our digital and social engagement campaign called #YouthNow.
I encourage you to speak out and reach out across cultures and communities.
Get angry at poverty and injustice.
The United Nations needs global youth to join hands with us an with each other.
Remember, you cannot spell young without UN!
Thank you again to Ireland and especially its young people for your wonderful global citizenship.
To the two new delegates, see you in New York!
To all of you, I look forward to seeing your contributions in the years ahead as we work together to build a more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
Go raibh maith agaibh! [Thank you!]