With 1.8 billion young people, this generation of youth is the largest the world has ever known. This generation is not just a number, but represents unprecedented momentum for change. Youth is coming strong at all fronts, demanding opportunities for social, economic, political and human development more than ever before. With this momentum, the youth agenda has become prominent in all development discussions around the world.
This is particularly true at the United Nations where Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has given significant priority to addressing youth development in the work of the Organisation. Today we are witnessing a momentous commitment to enhancing the lives of young people around the world, both on the part of the UN and of its various partners. This is a stepping stone for building a better future for today’s youth, as well as for future generations to come.
Under the Secretary-General’s leadership, and in order to accelerate the implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth, the United Nations system has a common work plan dedicated to youth development. Developed by the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development, this work plan considers employment, education, human rights, citizenship, and political inclusion and entrepreneurship to be the top priority areas to guide the work of the UN family with and for young people.
The UN Volunteers Youth Strategy, which was recently launched at the United Nations Headquarters, recognises the potential and uniqueness of the youth constituency, and emphasises skills development, knowledge and personal growth. This strategy aims to increase volunteering opportunities for young people and enhance the quality of their volunteering experience.
Less than a year ago, UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon appointed his first ever Envoy on Youth. As the holder of this position, my role is to bring the voices of youth to the United Nations system, and in parallel, to bring the work of the UN closer to young people around the world. Working with different UN agencies, governments, civil society, academia, media, and other stakeholders is central to the development of the youth agenda globally.
Serving as the Envoy on Youth also means acting as a global advocate for young people’s rights, regardless of their socio-economic status or ethnicity, as well as paying special attention to marginalised groups, including young women and girls, young people with disabilities, young people in conflict and post-conflict zones and young people with HIV/AIDS.
In May 2013, my office presented a set of recommendations for youth inclusion to the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. This document aimed to highlight the most pressing issues that young people face, and was drawn from several outcome documents from the various consultative and inclusive processes, such as the MYWorld survey, as well as a large number of youth fora.
As we approach a decisive time for human and sustainable development, now is the time to respond to these shared priorities by making young people full partners who can truly have an impact on their own future by having their say, as well as by taking action on development, to achieve the future they want.
Ahmad Alhendawi of Jordan is the first ever UN Envoy on Youth. He assumed office in February 2013
© UN Photo/Rick Bajornas. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marks 1,000 days until the Millennium Development Goals expire with members of the Spanish National Youth Council, the European Youth Council and volunteers of the UN Millennium Campaign