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Annual Youth Assembly opens in New York

Aug 5, 2011, 1:21 PM | Article By: Nfamara Jawneh in New York

The 9th Annual Youth Assembly kicked off on 3rd August 2011 at the Headquarters of the United Nations in New York.

The three-day event, on the theme “Committing Youth Leadership to the MDGs”, brought together over 600 young people from 40 countries across the world.

In his address to welcome the participants, Patrick Sciarratta, Executive Director of Friendship Ambassadors Foundation (the event organisers) said it was a great moment for them to have young people from all over the world attending the assembly.

He said it is a unique opportunity for young people to meet, share and learn from each other and diplomats.

Susan Rice, US ambassador to the United Nations, acknowledged the many challenges facing the world’s young people, stressing that common problems, indeed, require common solutions.

“You are growing up in an amazing time. We need young people in every country to rise up in tackling global challenges,” she said.

While urging young people to think seriously, and to travel the world to learn, ambassador Rice said the recent developments in the Arab world manifest the power of youths.

In delivering the United Nations welcome address, Maher Nasser, Director Outreach Division, Department of Public Information at the UN, expressed gratitude in addressing a large group of young people gathered from many countries around the world.

Underscoring the importance the United Nations places on young people, Mr Nasser called on the delegates to follow the call to action in support of the goals of the United Nations.

“With more than 60 percent of the world’s population under the age of 30, time and numbers are on your side. Use them and use them well.

“In addition to numbers and time, you have more tools to shape your future than any previous generation. Paradoxically, the challenges and crisis that you have inherited from previous generations are enormous,” he told the conference.

According to Nasser, the vast majority of young people live in developing countries, where challenges abound and many do not receive the education and opportunities they deserve. 

He stated that even in developed countries, the current economic conditions make it more difficult for young graduates to join the job market.

Mr Nasser added that, at the United Nations, they work every day to address these issues, and to build a brighter future for all.

“Your presence today demonstrates this shared commitment to the work and goals of the United Nations and, in particular, to the Millennium Development Goals that are the overarching theme of your Assembly,” he stated. 

He further stated that the eight Millennium Development Goals form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries, and by all the world’s leading development institutions, to meet the needs of the world’s poorest people.

These goals, he went on, are ambitious, but achievable.

“They have a deadline - 2015. We are less than five years away. We have made enormous progress. But we need to do much more,” he said, adding that the latest assessment of progress towards the MDGs indicate that, despite significant setbacks owing to the global economic crisis and surges in food and energy prices, the developing world as a whole will reach many of the MDGs.

He also stated that by breaking the figures down, great regional and country level differences exist, and not all parts of the world are on track in meeting the goals set. 

Overall, he added, great strides have been made in providing universal primary access to education around the world.

However, he stated that key areas that require intensified efforts are the reduction of poverty, child and maternal mortality rates and improved access to drinking water and sanitation.

“We are listening to young voices, and including your calls for action in United Nations programmes; the call to promote human rights or children’s rights or nuclear disarmament, to put an end to violence against women, to place emphasis on development that is sustainable, and to replace corruption where it exists, with good governance,” Nasser further told the delegates.

Describing young people as the building blocks of any nation, Nasser said in years to come, the world will look to young people for the crucial role in meeting economic, demographic, environmental, global health and technological challenges.

Meanwhile, the South African Permanent Mission to the UN is the endorser of the 9th Youth Assembly. Its ambassador was represented by a mission staff.

In his statement, ambassador Baso Sangqu spoke on the many programme initiatives by his government to empower the youth. He cited the creation of a national youth development agency in 2009, as an example to spearhead all development programs for the youth.

Other speakers at the ceremony included Gambia’s Sering Falu Njie, deputy director policy, UN Millennium Campaign, and two inspiring youths from India and Lebanon.