Your Excellency Mr. Alvaro Jose de Mendonca e Moura [Portugal],
Ladies and gentlemen,
I wish everyone a warm welcome. I would like to read a message to you all from the Secretary-General:
Thank you for hosting this event today and for your commitment to developing the skills of young people.
In particular, I thank a young woman who was instrumental in bringing Member States to agreement on the establishment of a World Youth Skills Day, in 2014.
At that time, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake was a youth delegate in the Sri Lankan delegation. It is particularly fitting that today, Jayathma is here in her new role as my Envoy on Youth.
Jayathma, I look forward to working closely with you as we strive to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Since the first World Youth Skills Day in 2015, youth unemployment has remained stubbornly high. Around 71 million young people are unemployed. Young men and women are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. And even when young people have jobs, they are often of low quality or in precarious conditions.
In many developing countries, young people who leave secondary or tertiary education can find themselves without employment, education or training. They may also lack basic literacy and numeracy skills, and face discrimination due to race, ethnicity or gender.
This makes it difficult for them not only to navigate the labour market, but to navigate life. Young people who are disconnected from society may be vulnerable to negative social pressures, including criminality and extremism.
All this means that we must look beyond the short-term and take a broad and holistic approach to equipping young people with the skills and knowledge necessary for the fast-changing labour market.
We need greater investment in quality education and the development of skills, coupled with other provisions including better forecasting of the labour market and improved childcare provision.
Businesses, schools and universities, and governments must work together in a strong partnership to bring skilled students from the education system to working life.
The Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, which unites UN entities, young people, the private sector and academia, is a step in the right direction.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Young people are some of the greatest change-makers and innovators we have.
We must help young women and men to achieve their potential not only for their own sake, but for all of us, and our communities and societies.