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Speech by Mr. Babatunde Ahonsi Interim UN Resident Coordinator At the International Youth Day Dialogue (Pre-Recorded) - 1 August 2020, Beijing



Distinguished Guests,

 

 

Youth Advocates and Representatives,

 

 

And to all the young people watching today,

 

 

I stand here, as Acting Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in China, to share our most warm welcome to all of you as we celebrate International Youth Day for 2020.

 

For the last twenty years, since its first commemoration in the year 2000, International Youth Day has provided us all with the opportunity to champion the unique voices, issues and actions of young people. We at the UN not only use this day to recognize their achievements and creativity but to ensure that young people continue to be engaged in making meaningful contributions to global issues and that their role is central to our decision-making processes.

 

In 2020, The UN marks its 75th anniversary in a time of great world-wide upheaval, compounded by an unprecedented global health crisis with severe economic and social impacts, much of which has impacted on the lives of young people. Now more than ever, the world needs solidarity and greater cooperation on the global challenges we face. In marking this anniversary, the ‘UN75’ initiative has sought to turn 2020 into a year of dialogue, where we can come together to discuss our priorities and how we can build back better. Despite this year’s setbacks, young people here in China have stood tall to this test and have made their voices known. To all young people listening, I commend the spirit that you have shown and the ingenuity that you have displayed through your participation in UN75, as our work on this initiative continues today.

 

2020 also marks a crucial year for strengthening our commitments to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established in the 2030 Agenda as our blueprint to achieving a better and more sustainable future for everyone. The SDGs remain a significant priority for the UN and for the many brilliant young people here with us today who will inherit the planet of tomorrow. With only ten years left to deliver the SDGs, it is more important than ever for young people to mobilize in this, the ‘Decade of Action’.

 

It is in this spirit, and in this context that the theme for International Youth Day in 2020 is Youth Engagement for Global Action.

 

The UN, in its time operating in China, has seen the nation blossom into the world’s second-largest economy, from a situation that may be unrecognizable to young people today. When the UN started in China in 1979, 97 per cent of Chinese people in rural areas lived below the poverty live. Today, with only 1.7 per cent of people in rural China living under the poverty line, the UN in China’s focus is to ensure that “no one is left behind”, young and old, as we walk the last mile of eradicating poverty together and shift to developing a sustainable future.

 

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has put it rightly in the video message – “Realizing the promise of this generation means investing far more in young people’s inclusion, participation, organizations and initiatives.” At the cornerstone of the UN’s efforts here in China, is the critical need to engage young people in the process. In my time, as the former Representative for the UNFPA in China, the originality and resourcefulness of young people have never ceased to amaze me as I continue to advocate for their place in society. In the most recent UNFPA effort in promoting sexual and reproductive health services in China, particularly for girls with disabilities and young people, I have seen young people actively participate throughout the process. Whether it is through their involvment in research, workshops, or projects, creating the platforms for youth participation is crucial, whether in person or online. My efforts will not relent as shouldn’t yours, in ensuring that young people remain at the front of the queue in tackling our societal issues.

 

Youth engagement is at the heart of the work done by UN agencies in China, with 2020 being a special year for this outreach. It is in this context that we joined forces with one of the country’s most innovative technology and social media firms, Tencent, in launching the Youth Dialogue Series at the beginning of May. Altogether, the eleven online youth dialogue events hosted by twelve different UN agencies covered a diverse range of topics and brought them together with young people all over China who made meaningful and exceptional contributions to the issues discussed. I wish to congratulate all who participated in this process and eagerly anticipate seeing the ideas discussed come into life, as this new generation of young leaders emerges.

 

Today, at this event, I look forward to continuing this listening process and learn from the background, stories, and ideas of our Youth Advocates speaking today. With experiences ranging from literature to entertainment, from rural to urban, our young speakers today display the tenacity and capability of all young people to become leaders in their fields and act for the greater good. I eagerly anticipate what this event has in store.

 

I wish to express my gratitude to Tencent for supporting the organization of this event today, and for our valued partnership here in China. Our work today, on the Youth Dialogue Series, and countless other past endeavours to promote the work of the UN in China does not go unnoticed. I hope that we continue this vital work on our shared values in the future.

 

Finally, I would like to convey my appreciation for all the young people here with us today, and to all those watching this event behind a screen somewhere in China and around the world. I also want to share with you some advice on how you can contribute to today’s theme of “Youth Engagement for Global Action”. Your generation will inherit the world that my generation will leave you with. If you are concerned about the world and want to make it a better place, act today. For a start – make your voice heard by completing the one-minute survey at the UN75 and the UN China website. Let us work together to ensure that your generation leads the way in building that better future.

 

Thank You.

 



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