8 August 2001


NEW YORK, 7 August (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of the message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan for International Youth Day, 12 August:

On International Youth Day, we celebrate the contributions that young people make to our world, and promote awareness of the challenges young people face. On this, the second observance of International Youth Day, two issues merit special attention: health and unemployment.

The special session of the United Nations General Assembly on HIV/AIDS held in June highlighted the alarming vulnerability of young people to the disease. Every minute, five people between the ages of 10 and 24 are infected with HIV. Worldwide, that age bracket accounts for at least one third of all people living with HIV or AIDS. The special session identified measures that can help curb the spread of the virus among young people, such as providing access to the information and education necessary to reduce vulnerability to HIV. I strongly encourage governments to carry out the steps to which they agreed in the Declaration of Commitment.

There are roughly 70 million unemployed young people in the world today, and many more are struggling for survival on low wages and in poor working conditions, often in the informal sector, with little or no job protection, benefits or prospects for the future. Unemployment affects young people disproportionately: the 15-to-24 age group accounts for more than 40 per cent of the world's total unemployed, and youth unemployment rates are typically two to three times higher than the rates for adults. Being unemployed as a youth takes an enduring toll, damaging prospects for employment later in life. To break this destructive circle of despair, poverty, and social instability, the United Nations, International Labour Organization and the World Bank have jointly launched a Youth Employment Network to come up with proposals that cover the full range of the challenge of youth employment. I strongly urge governments and our many other partners to support this initiative.

Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society's margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies.

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