“Youth must be at the centre of achieving the 2030 Agenda” — Lakshmi Puri

Remarks by UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri at the Youth Annual Assembly of the United Nations on 17 February, in New York.

Date: Wednesday, February 17, 2016

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Distinguished young women and young men leaders, guests and colleagues,

Let be begin with an affirmation that young women and young men are not just the future. You all are leaders, our leaders of today!

We have procrastinated on a youth agenda far too long. With the onset of the 2030 Agenda, I call on the international community at large to provide support to and work with young people in achieving the sustainable development goals.

You have so much we can leverage, your energy, passion, commitment and the knowledge to make it happen, to achieve gender equality by transiting from ‘ink on paper’ to the reality of women and girls and societies around the world.

Today, the world has the largest youth population ever, with 1.8 billion young men and women across the planet. 1.8 billion youth is a demographic fact that cannot be ignored!

With approximately 600 million adolescent girls and young women empowered and educated today, we have the opportunity to create a huge wave of change which will impact how our world looks and functions in the future. We need to invest in young women’s voice, action and leadership for creating social transformation that will make Planet 50-50 the reality of our times.

But we also need to engage with the current and future generations of young men. You, young men have an empowering role as advocates and partners willing to leave behind the entrenched discriminatory practices of older generations to enact the social and economic changes and become true HeForShe champions and be equal drivers of the global solidarity movement for gender equality.

And there is so much that you have done and can do!

Youth today are far more connected and integrated through online and offline communication channels than ever before and you all are often abreast of policy dialogues and discussions, you always have something relevant to say, a view, a thought or a dream and all of that is what makes you extremely relevant, extremely important.

Youth have expressed their voices and taken action in the definition of the Sustainable Development Goals. Your participation ranges from actively engaging in UN Development Groups and supporting national and thematic consultations to participating in the high level panel on the post-2015 development agenda.

In most cases, more than any other age groups, your participation online and offline has been evident, loud and full of inspiring energy.

This is seen for example in the more than seven million youth votes in the global conversation UN Secretary-General’s My World 2015, whose result informed Member States and United Nations discussions about the development agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals.

After the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, our challenge today is implementation.

Although there is no specific SDG on youth, many of the 169 targets and indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals have brought a strong youth-specific focus and furthermore every single SDG will require youth action to succeed.

The stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment is an important launch pad within the development framework, in conjunction with gender indicators in other goals, to mark progress towards achieving gender parity and the likelihood of success in reaching the other sixteen goals.

SDG 5 “Achieve Gender Equality and Empower all Women and Girls” is yet to be realized by all nations — developing or developed. We are in the position not only to make the case, but also to ensure previous gains are not lost and our young women and young men inherit a world where an ‘even playing field’ is not an abstract concept, but a lived reality.

I want to draw your attention to SDG 5 and seek your support in achieving a Planet 50-50 by 2030 — a call made by UN Women’s Executive Director.

Together with youth we can end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

Together with youth we can eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

Together with youth we can eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Together with youth we can recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate;.

Together with youth we can ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.

Together with youth we can ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights for all.

Together with youth we can support reforms to give women equal rights to and control over economic resources.

Together with youth we can enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of girls and young women.

Together with youth we can support adoption and strengthening of sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.

Like gender equality cuts across all goals, we need to reaffirm that every single goal has a youth aspect to it and that without young women and young men, gender equality cannot be achieved and the overall SDGs cannot succeed, and certainly we cannot succeed because sustainable development is about sustainable economic, social and environmental development for future generations and intergenerational equity. Hence youth as the current inhabitants and future inheritors of the planet have to take charge of this agenda. And there are many ways in which you can take the reins and step-it-up for gender equality.

For example,

  • Youth can extensively participate in creating awareness and communicating these goals to their peers and society at large using both online and offline methodologies.
  • Young people and their youth lead organizations and networks can offer their participation by identifying solutions, innovative approaches, and taking action in the implementation of the seventeen SDGs.
  • Young people can play a critical role in becoming the eyes and the ears, which simply means becoming the monitors for the implementation of the SDGs.
  • You, young people, can also promote intergenerational partnerships between youth and older people as well as youth supporting children focused activities to make the 2030 Agenda a reality.

Finally, I am glad to share about UN Women’s youth strategy which has been designed to work with youth champions in gender equality such as yourselves.

Our Youth and Gender Equality Strategy highlights The LEAPs framework that calls upon:

  • Strengthening young women’s Leadership;
  • Promoting Economic empowerment and skills development of young women;
  • Fostering Action to end violence against young women and girls.
  • Additionally, it makes a case for promoting Partnerships with young women and their organizations, as well as partnering with young men in gender equality. Last, but not least, it invites intergenerational partnership to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Let me emphasize here my belief that you can’t always build a future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future, in this case for Planet 50-50 and our youth strategy seeks to do that.

As said before, youth must be at the centre of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and transforming our world — in defining the world you are living in and in shaping the world you will inherit by 2030. With your support, commitment and passion, we all will succeed in achieving our Planet 50-50 by year 2030 latest.

I thank you!!