Speech of Mr. Kamal Malhotra, UN Resident Coordinator, at the Celebration of International Youth Day 2017

11 August 2017

Mr. Nguyen Trong Thua, Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Home Affairs;

Mr. Nguyen Phi Long, Secretary of the Viet Nam Youth Union and Chair of the Viet Nam Youth Association;

Colleagues from ministries, UN agencies, and international and national partnering organizations;

Youth of Viet Nam;

On behalf of the United Nations system in Viet Nam, I am honoured to be with you today to commemorate this years’ International Youth Day.

Recognizing the importance of youth, in 1999 the United Nations General Assembly declared 12th August International Youth Day, which creates an opportunity to celebrate young peoples’ views and initiatives, and to call on governments to address youth-related issues worldwide. It is also a day to recognize global youth as agents of change and leaders of the future, and to advocate for a stronger inclusion of young people in sustainable development progress and in society more broadly, which is key to progressing the 2030 Agenda and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

This years’ International Youth Day, jointly organized by the UN, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Viet Nam Youth Union, is commemorating the theme “Youth Empowerment for the country’s development”, which is dedicated to celebrating young people’s contributions to sustainable development and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace.

The current generation of youth is the largest in history, and young people often comprise the majority in countries confronting major development challenges. Therefore, considering the needs and aspirations of youth in matters of socio-economic development, climate change, peace and security, amongst others, is a demographic imperative. There are about 1.79 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 globally, who account for a quarter of the world’s population. While sometimes overlooked, youth play a positive, inspirational and active role in promoting socio-economic growth, peace, and sustainable development.

Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development is committed to fostering peaceful and inclusive societies. It affirmed that “Sustainable development cannot be realized without peace and security”. Sustainable Development Goal 16 – Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development – aims to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels. The United Nations World Programme of Action for Youth provides a policy framework and practical guidelines to improve the situation of young people, and encourages governments to “promote the active involvement of youth in maintaining peace and security”.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Viet Nam is experiencing a period of demographic dividend, recording the highest proportion of young people in the country’s history. According to the Viet Nam Population Change and Family Planning Survey in 2015, more than 28 million, a third of the population, are youth and adolescents below the age of 29 years. This demographic window of opportunity presents Viet Nam with a timely and unique opportunity to plan for a transformation and make its next generation of leaders and advocates the drivers of social, environmental and economic progress.

I would like to congratulate the Government of Viet Nam for their considerable efforts in improving the participation of adolescents and youth in the development of youth-related policies and frameworks, especially in the context of reaching middle-income status and achieving significant and rapid economic milestones. Unfortunately, rapid economic development often comes with increased socio-economic inequalities that influence youth participation – the better educated the youth are in Viet Nam, the more interest they will show in political or societal issues, and will more likely become members of an organization or contribute voluntarily.

However, the lack of recognition of the importance of youth empowerment by both policy makers and by youth themselves has created a barrier to the meaningful participation of young people. Gaps between policies and the practical needs of young people remain and these gaps prevent young people from reaching their full potential in contributing to the country’s development. Youth participation in Viet Nam is understood as youth volunteerism – and thus, youth participation in the development of policy remains low. According to the 2015 National Youth Report, published by the Ministry of Home Affairs and UNFPA, less than 15% of youth have even once participated in any part of the policy development process, in part due to the lack of consultation by policy and decision-makers, and in part due to the limited availability of information on youth-related issues together with limited advocacy skills among young people.

The UN has a long-term commitment to its partnership with the Government, and I am pleased to announce that within the One Strategic Plan 2017-2021, which I signed with the Government last month, we have established a new Thematic Group on Adolescence and Youth that will strengthen the leading position of the UN on youth issues in Viet Nam and focus on participatory approaches for young people to gain broader access to Viet Nam’s policy process, which is essential to effectively engage their participation in social, environmental and economic developments. Under the leadership of UNFPA, it brings together 10 UN agencies with a wide range of global experience and networks to support efforts related to youth in Viet Nam.

International Youth Day should remind us all about the importance of empowering young people as important, expressive and active individuals. As members of society, they should influence policies and decisions that affect their lives through their contribution to Viet Nam’s social, environmental and economic development. Today should remind us that we should view youth as partners in achieving sustainable development, and not just as subjects or beneficiaries of our efforts.

Last but not least, let me convey a message to the youth in Viet Nam:

Young people like you are the future of the world. Yours will be the first generation in world history to experience a world largely free from hunger and poverty. You are also very lucky to be children and young adolescents that will become of age in a global era where young people like yourselves have more opportunities and means to publicly voice your opinions and be heard compared with any other generation before yours. It will be your responsibility sooner than you think to find peaceful solutions to the enormous social, economic and environmental challenges ahead, while respecting fundamental freedoms and the principle of equality for all. My best wishes for your future to each one of you today!

I wish you all a happy International Youth Day!

Xin Cảm Ơn!