7 October 2005

Challenges Facing Young People Underline Need to Achieve Millennium Goals, Deputy Secretary-General Says at General Assembly Commemoration Meeting

They Will Inherit What We Create, Good or Bad, She Tells Delegates Marking Tenth Anniversary of World Programme of Action for Youth

NEW YORK, 6 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette's remarks as delivered to the General Assembly plenary meeting to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the United Nations World Programme of Action for Youth in New York today, 6 October:

I am delighted to be with you today for this meeting on a subject as inspiring as it is important and I wish to extend a special welcome to all the young delegates who are with us today.

We are gathered here because we know that young people are our future.  They will inherit what we create in our time -- both good and bad.

Just as the United Nations Charter was written for succeeding generations, so is our present agenda intended to give those who succeed us a chance to build better lives.  That applies especially to the Millennium Development Goals, which fall due in 10 years from now.

Today, almost half the world's population is less than 25 years old. 

Mr. President, you have just shared with us the basic challenges they already face, as described in the Secretary-General's World Youth Report 2005, released earlier this week:

Challenges such as 200 million youth living in poverty; 130 million youth illiterate; 88 million unemployed; and 10 million young people living with HIV/AIDS.

Add to that the distressing statistics about children, who will make up the youth of 2015:  a quarter of all children in the developing world are malnourished -- or half of all children living in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia; 11 million children under the age of five die each year from preventable and treatable diseases; and 115 million children are currently not in school.

All these factors bring home to us the need to redouble our efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals.

Today, we mark the tenth anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth.  The adoption of that document was a milestone, in that it was the first global blueprint for effective national policies on youth.  It highlighted 10 priority areas, drawn together in a comprehensive and practical policy plan.

In the 10 years that have passed since, dramatic changes have taken place that have had profound effects on the lives of young people -- from the consequences of globalization and the rapid development of information and communication technology to the devastating spread of HIV/AIDS.

These upheavals only serve to underline the need for young people to be involved in decisions that affect their lives -- a principle that forms one of the priorities of the World Programme of Action.  I am delighted that today, the General Assembly is acting to put that principle into practice, by inviting a youth representative to address the Assembly and report to it the results of the round-table discussion you had yesterday with young leaders.

Allow me to recognize Ms. Itzel Earrera De Diego, who will report to the Assembly in a moment.  I look forward to hearing from her.

Above all, I hope this occasion will be followed by concrete action out there on the ground, where it matters most.  Real youth participation must come at every level -- locally, regionally, and nationally.

On this tenth anniversary, let us recognize that young people form an enormous resource for the benefit of society; that they are crucial partners in our work to reach the Millennium Development Goals; that their energy is our most valuable asset in our efforts to build a more peaceful, democratic, and prosperous world.

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