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Youth participation – the power of young people towards SDGs achievement

Today we are all gathered here at the Green One United Nations House in Hanoi to celebrate the International Youth Day 2021. As we are sitting here, physically and virtually, Viet Nam, like most other countries, is making every effort to fight against the new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Young people, like all others, have been greatly affected by COVID-19 since early 2020. 

Yet, every day we heard stories of many young doctors and nurses saving the lives of those suffering from COVID-19, while across the country, many young people are helping their communities to deal with the pandemic, often in very innovative and creative ways. They are all our heroes – they contribute to the sustainable development of Viet Nam, a country which puts a lot of importance on the participation and empowerment of young people.  

Today, the United Nations in Vietnam is very happy to join the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union to celebrate the International Youth Day 2021 and amplify young peoples’ voices, actions and initiatives, as well as their meaningful, universal and equitable engagement in the progress towards SDGs. The theme for this year for Vietnam therefore is “Youth participation – the power of young people towards SDGs achievement”.

Dear young people,
In 1999, in its resolution 54/120, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers of Youth, which took place in Lisbon from 8-12 August 1998, that the day 12 August be declared International Youth Day (IYD).  Since then, world leaders have several times reaffirmed young people’s unique and crucial role in policy-making and decision-making processes at local, national, regional and international levels. With COVID-19, young people worldwide have faced challenges, but have also tapped into their creativity, innovation, and commitment to addressing emerging issues holistically and effectively, often using new forms of political, economic, cultural and societal engagement and participation with online and offline methods.

Viet Nam is not an exception to this worldwide movement, and such engagement of young people in the process of achieving developmental goals is critical more than ever. Viet Nam is now in the midst of a demographic transition, where the country has the largest number of young people in its history. The Result of the 2019 Population and Housing Census shows that Viet Nam recorded 20.4 million young people aged 10 – 24, which accounts for 21% of the total population. As such, Viet Nam is in the demographic window of opportunity, which was identified in 2007 and is projected to last until 2041, indicating the presence of the demographic bonus, which can accelerate socio-economic growth of the country if appropriate investment is made on young people. 

The United Nations in Viet Nam acknowledges the efforts of the Government in providing adolescents and youth with opportunities to design, participate in and contribute to the socio-economic development of the country. The approval of the revised Youth Law by Vietnam’s National Assembly during its 14th session in June 2020 is one of the greatest strides for Viet Nam to ensure young people’s roles, responsibilities and rights in the national development process. The Youth Law explains young people’s participation, states clear responsibilities of the Government, the Viet Nam National Youth Committee and other organizations, and ensures the allocation of the state budget for the implementation of the Youth Law. Moreover, specific policies to support young people from ethnic minorities and those aged 16 to 18 were included in the policy provisions.

However, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs’ report on Vietnamese Youth (2015 -2018), youth empowerment and participation in policy and decision-making processes are still limited. Nearly 40% of young people never participated in processes linked to the development of policies related to youth.  Celebrating the IYD today is surely one of the many opportunities that are given to young people to participate in the development process in most meaningful and constructive way.

The United Nations in Viet Nam will continue to support the Government of Viet Nam and young people in fully implementing the Youth Law, the Youth Strategy and other related policies to ensure the issues of inclusion, particularly the inclusion of vulnerable young people, leaving no one behind.

I wish you every success in today’s celebration. Happy International Youth Day, Viet Nam!