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United Nations Human Settlements Programme

Programme des Nations Unies pour les tablissements humains - Programa de las Naciones Unidas para los Asentamientos Humanos

Statement by Dr. Joan Clos, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Executive Director of UN-Habitat at the opening of the Youth 21 Building for Change meeting in Nairobi, Kenya on 15 March 2012 Honourable Arvinn Gadgil, Junior Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Your Excellency Severine Macedo, National Youth Secretary of Brazil, Mr Aeneas Chuma, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr. Sahle-Work Zewde, Director General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi Your Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Youth representatives and colleagues in the United Nations, It is a great honour to address you today. I would like to thank each of you today for joining us here at the Africa headquarters of the United Nations. I know that many of you have travelled from around the world to be here. It shows your commitment to work more closely with young people, and to take into account the concerns of youth around world. I also would like to congratulate the youth representatives for your presence here. It shows both your commitment to a better future, and to taking your engagement with the United Nations system to a new level. This engagement is something we have to work out carefully between ourselves to ensure that it works in all our interests and in our city streets at a time we are becoming an urban world a world where in little over a generation from now, two-thirds of humanity will be living in towns and cities.

Check against delivery And it is our cities, the greatest legacy of our human civilization, which need very careful nurturing, now and in the future. I welcome you here today as city changers for a better urban future, as the torch bearers of our World Urban Campaign for a sustainable urban future. Our engagement with youth began in earnest in the International Youth Year in 1985. Since then, the United Nations has acknowledged the importance of youth in its work. At UN-Habitat, the city agency, we have for the past decade given young people a place at the youth assemblies held every two years on the eve the World Urban Forum meetings. It is here where we take heed, encourage new thinking and new resolutions on youth matters. I believe we are leading the way in supporting youth-led initiatives through the UNHabitat Urban Youth Fund. Thanks to the support of the Government of Norway, it enables us to work and consult with young people on new projects and novel ideas on a daily basis in cities around the world. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, You have just heard our Secretary-General reiterate his pledge to appoint a special youth advisor. He is worried about high unemployment rates in many countries around the world. According to the most recent United Nations World Youth Report in 2010 the global youth unemployment rate was 12.6%, dramatically overshadowing the global adult unemployment rate of 4.8%. And he is very worried that young women lag still further behind. Youth, defined by the UN as being in the 15 to 24 year age group, make up more than 70 per cent of the population in the poorest countries in the world; many of whom live in the informal settlements of slums of urban areas, and huge numbers of them live on less than two dollars a day. Since its formation in 1976, UN-Habitat has always welcomed partner groups, and is recognized for its work with youth and women. In 1996, youth were recognized by UNHabitat as a key partner in The Habitat Agenda, the landmark outcome of the Habitat II summit in Istanbul. Five years later, when UN-Habitat was elevated to a fully fledged programme of the United Nations, we have substantively increased our engagement of youth, with the recognition that along with urbanization, a large youth population is the defining feature

Check against delivery of the 21st century. This growth within the agency is a reflection of the significance, commitment and passion that UN-Habitat places on partnerships with youth. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, As we make headway into the 21st century, we must make a concerted effort to ensure that our cities are sustainable, equitable, prosperous and inclusive. We are talking of free, clean, sustainable cities of people, stones and rules. And for this we have to plan in advance, looking at least 30 years into the future. We must plan at scale. We must plan in phases. We must plan for social integration, density, efficiency. We must push for national urban policy in all our countries. After all, we know and understand the situation facing us only too well. This is why we are city changers. This is something very serious we have to tell the rest of the world. This is why we have the World Urban Campaign and why we urge you all to become city changers yourselves in your own ways. It is why too we want to hear your ideas. Indeed, your deliberations here this week are an important landmark on the road to the Rio+20 global summit in June, and the World Urban Forum in September. In coming days, your mission is daunting indeed: You need to help us explore mechanisms for increased youth engagement in the United Nations and input to the mandate for the proposed Special Advisor on Youth. Together we shall define ways to engage young people meaningfully at all levels through the creation of mechanisms such as a Permanent Forum on Youth Issues. This is an historic opportunity. Lets make history together! Lets get in! Thank you.