For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1668
Release Date: 10 August 2000
Assembly President, Saluting World's Young People, Stresses Need for Youth Participation in Social, Economic, Political Affairs

NEW YORK, 9 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message of General Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia) on the occasion of the First International Youth Day, to be celebrated on 12 August:

One-sixth of the world’s six billion people is its youth.  Young people represent the future of humankind and must be involved in shaping the world they will live in as adults.  It is imperative, therefore, that we pay full attention to this vital sector of the global population and focus on their particular needs and circumstances.

It is in this context that we observe the first International Youth Day, proclaimed by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth in August 1998, and endorsed by the General Assembly in resolution 54/120 of 17 December 1999.  Indeed, the idea for an International Day originated with young people themselves who gathered at the first World Youth Forum of the United Nations System, in Vienna in May 1991.  The fourth such gathering will take place in Dakar in August 2001 -– the first one in the South -– and will offer an opportunity for African youth to strengthen their role in national development and international cooperation.

A society’s progress is based, in part, on its willingness and capacity to involve young women and men in building and designing the future.  However, the shifting global situation has created conditions that have made it more difficult for youth to be involved.  The United Nations has long recognized that the imagination, ideals and energies of young people are vital for the continuing development of the societies in which they live.  In addition to their intellectual contribution and their ability to mobilize support, young men and women bring unique perspectives that need to be taken into account.
The United Nations has played a major role in global and national activities relating to youth.   The call by the General Assembly for the observance of 1985 as International Youth Year:  Participation, Development, Peace, drew international attention to the important role young people play in the world, and, in particular, their potential contribution to development and the goals of the United Nations Charter.

A decade later, in 1995, the Assembly adopted an international strategy, the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond, which focuses on measures to strengthen national capacities regarding youth and to increase the quality and quantity of opportunities available to young people for their full participation in society.  The Programme of Action identifies 10 priority areas for action aimed at improving the situation and well-being of youth: education, employment, hunger and poverty, health, environment, drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, leisure-time activities, girls and young women, and the full and effective participation of youth in the life of society and in decision-making.

A majority of the world’s youth population (the age group between 15 and 24 years old) live in developing countries, and their numbers are expected to increase.  In both developing and developed countries, the needs and aspirations of young people are still largely unmet.  Economic difficulties experienced in many developing countries are often more serious for young people.  Youth are also affected by a growing incidence of substance abuse and juvenile delinquency.  Young people in industrialized countries comprise a social group that faces particular problems and uncertainties regarding the future, due in part to limited employment opportunities.   

The problems facing youth challenge today's societies and future generations as well.  They include:  limited resources available for funding youth programmes and activities; inequities in social, economic and political conditions; gender discrimination; high levels of youth unemployment; armed conflict and confrontation; continuing deterioration of the global environment; increasing incidence of disease, hunger and malnutrition; changes in the role of the family; and inadequate opportunity for education and training.

Policy-makers in Government and other stakeholders in society have the responsibility to address issues affecting their youth population and to ensure their participation in the social, economic and political developments that will shape their lives in the years to come.
On this, the first of many International Youth Days, I salute young people everywhere.  They aspire to full participation in society, and they deserve the opportunity to make a difference.

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