Remarks at the event: “our world, our dignity, our planet: the post-2015 agenda and the Role of Youth” Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, 27 May 2015

I am very glad to be here with you today. Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!

Yesterday, I spent the morning with the young people of Ireland. Today, I am with you in this beautiful Palais des Beaux Arts — and I am seeing again the great power of the world’s youth.

Thank you to the European Commission for making this event possible.

We have been brought together today because this is a crucial time for people and our planet.

2015 is not just any other year. 2015 represents an opportunity for transformation. It is meant to be a year of global action, the year we make history, the year we move the world towards a more sustainable and equitable future.

As the torch bearers of the new development agenda, you have a critical role to play in ending poverty, inequality, hunger and environmental degradation. Your actions will be central in ushering in an era in which no one is left behind.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Like many young people across the world, you have been disproportionately affected by economic crises and recession. Globally, over 73 million youth are unemployed. Your peers are three times more likely than adults to be jobless.

Across Europe, more than 5 million young people are in search of jobs. The youth unemployment numbers are staggering: 50 per cent Spain and Greece; 41 per cent in Italy; 36 per cent in Portugal. It is clear that more must be done so that each and every one of you has the jobs, opportunities and other support so that you can flourish in your communities and in your lives.

This is not just a European problem. In recent weeks, we have witnessed the desperate and tragic attempts of migrants fleeing Africa and the Middle East, as they try to reach Europe’s shores. Many of these migrants are young people who also lack opportunities at home to find jobs and security. They have been forced to take perilous journeys and to risk their lives in an attempt to free themselves from poverty and conflict.

And it is not just a question of jobs. Many young people have had their futures torn from them by wide-ranging violence. Young people have been attacked in school or while going to school. They have been forcibly recruited into armed groups. Young women and girls have been subjected to horrific and systematic sexual violence. Extremists have sought to prey on the alienation and frustration that young people might feel.

We need to join hands to confront these ills.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year the United Nations celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the World Programme of
Action for Youth. Later this week, governments and civil society will gather in New York to mark this milestone and reflect on how we can engage even more with young people.

Your views have been a big part of our efforts to shape an inspiring post-2015 sustainable development agenda. Seventy per cent of the people who have taken part in the My World Survey are under the age of 30. Young people have also participate in national consultations across the world. This is as it should be: our future plans should come from the ground up, not the top down.

I know that many of you here today have been involved. I know you have also been active in other ways – speaking out against injustice, marching for climate action, making your priorities clear from the voting booth to the supermarket checkout counter.

I am urging world leaders to include young people in their delegations when they come to New York in September to adopt the new sustainable development agenda and goals.

At the same time, I call on young people across Europe and the world to lead and to press your governments to keep ambition high. The world relies on you to hold us all accountable.

The world needs you to step up this year and beyond – for people and the planet. There is no plan B, because there is no planet B.

You are the first generation that can end poverty – and the last that can act to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

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 “licence” to help steer our future. You have the opportunity – and a duty — to help shape this historic moment.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, let me ask you to continue mobilizing through social media by joining the UN campaign called #YouthNow.

In a short while, some of you will join me for a selfie. I am sorry we cannot fit all of you into the picture. I hope all of you will re-tweet the image. Tell the world that you were here today — and that you will be making your mark on the world in the crucially important weeks and months ahead.
Be a global citizen. Act with passion and compassion. Help us make this world safer and more sustainable today and for the generations that will follow us. That is our moral responsibility.

Thank you.