Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme in 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. She also chairs the United Nations Development Group.

12 February 2017 – I am pleased to join you at this World Government Summit Side Event on Youth and Governance: Perspectives on the Arab Human Development Report 2016.

This report is titled: Youth and the Prospects for Human Development in a Changing Reality. We see the World Government Summit as an excellent forum for discussion on the topics addressed by the report.

The Arab Human Development Report is an independent report commissioned by UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Arab States. This latest report is the sixth such report in a series which began in 2002. The reports have addressed a broad range of development issues in the Arab States region from the perspectives of its citizens.

Analysis in these reports is grounded in the human development paradigm championed by UNDP since 1990. This school of thought holds that people are the real wealth of nations, and that the goal of development should be to expand their choices to live lives they value, and realize their full potential.

Within that tradition, UNDP has been associated with more than 800 human development reports at the global, regional, and national levels, and there have been many at the subnational level too. Next month in Stockholm we will launch the latest global human development report — Human Development for Everyone.

The human development paradigm resonates strongly with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. These set out a visionary agenda for transforming global development over the next fifteen years to build a more peaceful, inclusive, and sustainable future for all. The agenda asserts that youth are agents of change, and therefore that their efforts are central to achieving sustainable development.

The 2016 Arab Human Development Report focuses on how to empower and engage youth in this region. It calls on Arab States to invest in youth capabilities and opportunities, and to include youth in civic and political processes with the aim of building the peaceful, inclusive, and sustainable societies which the 2030 Agenda envisages.

Investing in youth is a critical priority in the region right now. Young people between the ages of 15 and 29 make up nearly one-third of the region’s population, and another third are below the age of fifteen. This demographic profile means that young people will make up a large proportion of the region’s population for the next two decades, creating an historic opportunity for a major demographic dividend. Failure to seize that opportunity would both deny the region the potential dividend and thwart the hopes and aspirations of this large youth generation.

Indeed, recognizing the state of crisis in parts of the region, and the movement towards increased youth empowerment, the report notes that constructive engagement of youth is essential for laying durable foundations for the peace and development the region overall so badly needs.

The report explores the many challenges which youth in the Arab region continue to face. Access to education has expanded considerably in recent decades, but too often the quality is poor and the qualifications gained do not equip youth to participate in the economy. Unemployment among youth in the region is high, particularly among young women. Amid these constraints, young people are having to wait longer to establish an independent home and form their own family units. These extended periods of waiting for the future dash hopes and put youth at risk of exclusion and frustration.

The report also recognizes how severely many young people in the region have been affected by the crises of recent years. Significant numbers have been displaced or had their lives upended by conflict. There have been deaths, bereavement, and lost years of schooling and livelihoods on a scale which could not have been envisaged six years ago.

In response to these challenges, this Human Development Report argues for a new model of youth engagement which is based on more inclusive and effective governance — a model which the report calls “development fit for youth”. This model has three linked pillars:

• First, increasing and improving investments in the capabilities of young people. Access to quality education and health services are foremost here, along with the provision of housing and social services so that youth can enjoy a decent standard of living.

• Second: the range of opportunities for youth must be expanded, from access to decent work and support for entrepreneurship to promotion of justice and equality, freedom of expression, and participation in civic and political life.

• Third: the role of youth in achieving peace and security must be enhanced. Research undertaken for this report suggests that the great majority of youth are ready to be part of finding solutions to the crises facing the region. Engaging youth in peacebuilding, as envisaged in UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace, and Security, will have far reaching benefits.

The report calls on development partners to boost support for youth as enablers of sustainable development in the region. At UNDP we are expanding our efforts and programming in support of youth, including in this region.

Our Regional Bureau for Arab States is inviting contributions to its Arab Youth Trust Fund which has been established to advance implementation of this HDR’s recommendations. It will aim to support programmes which build youth capabilities and provide opportunities. Its mission will also include support for governments to create development policies fit for youth, and support for networks which can bring policy makers and young people together to find solutions to shared challenges.

We very much look forward to hearing today’s discussion on the Human Development Report, and hope that it will stimulate debate on development fit for youth in the region.