Delegate: Mr. Wedershoven
Mr. Wedershoven (Netherlands): It is with great honour and gratitude, but also with equally great concern, that I address the Assembly today.
(spoke in French)
“Representatives and leaders of Europe, we appeal to your sense of solidarity and kindness to come to our rescue in Africa. Help us; we are suffering terribly.”
(spoke in English)
That plea is from a letter written six years ago by two boys from Guinea, Yaguine Koita and Fodé Tounkara. It was found with their dead bodies in the landing gear of a plane en route to Europe on 2 August 1999. The boys had embarked on a dangerous journey in an attempt to flee from danger in the hope of a brighter future. Risking their lives seemed a better option to them than staying home. I find their courage and despair as moving today as I did when I myself was a young boy growing up in the safety of the Netherlands.
The world today offers hardly more opportunities to young people than it did to Yaguine and Fodé. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees informs us that more than 20 million young people are fleeing from the same danger: the lack of prospects. Their despair becomes easier to understand when we realize that almost 90 million young people are unemployed and make up more than half the world’s unemployed. Imagine the obstacles 500 million young people entering the workforce over the next 10 years — young people with little opportunity to earn a living — will face. Those sobering statistics, together with Yaguine and Fodé’s cry for help, compel me to draw the Assembly’s attention to the problem of youth unemployment.
Denying young people their rights — such as the right to decent work or the right to seek and express their sexual or cultural identity — places our future at risk. This is a question of human dignity and world security. Increasing employment opportunities for young people not only addresses the primary concern of young people throughout the world, but also contributes to more sustainable, equal development. [*20*] Millennium Development Goal 8 seeks to develop and implement strategies designed to create decent and productive work for young people and is one of the quick wins for achieving the Goals. Youth employment
is also a priority area in the World Programme of Action for Youth.
We are not asking that members sign new agreements or declare new intentions, but we need them to act.
Governments alone cannot do the job, but must cooperate with micro-financing institutions, entrepreneurs, civil society and, last but definitely not least, young people themselves. Research by the International Labour Organization indicates that young entrepreneurs have a significantly higher than average success rate and a positive track record in paying off microcredit loans. The United Nations proclaimed 2005 the International Year of Microcredit. Young people should be a target group for microfinance projects and institutions.
Several initiatives inspired me this year, such as the Youth Employment Spark project — a youth-led network for young entrepreneurs that helps young people to learn from one other and inspire others to take positive action. Such examples are proof that the Millennium Development Goals are within reach and that young people themselves, if given the chance, have a great deal to contribute.
I would like to underline the importance of having more youth representatives at this session of the General Assembly than ever before. Not only are we experts on issues concerning youth; we are the best placed to explain decisions taken and to bring positive messages to our peers at home. I would like to thank the Member States that give young people opportunities for meaningful participation, and I urge Member States to include youth representatives in all relevant discussions of the General Assembly and other forums.
Young people call on Member States to promote initiatives to increase universal access to financial services, including microcredit, and support networks for young entrepreneurs; learn from and support important global initiatives, such as the Youth Employment Network and the Youth Employment Summit; and translate and implement United Nations resolutions, such as the World Programme of Action for Youth, into national action plans.
(spoke in French)
“So you see, if we sacrifice or risk our lives, it is because we in Africa have suffered too long and need your help.”
(spoke in English)
I can only hope that I have contributed to ensuring that Yaguine and Fodé did not die in vain. Can we act as an international community, hold ourselves accountable for the many great promises and resolutions made here, restore our faith in this institution and have hope for a better future? Yes, we can. We, the young people, stand ready to do so.
UN Doc.: A/60/PV.27