Remarks by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator at 4th African SDGs Youth Summit
09 March 2022
Opening remarks by Dr. Catherine Sozi at the 4th African Youth SDGs Summit
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, young African men and women,
It is a true pleasure to join you today at the opening of the 4th African Youth Sustainable Development Goals Summit.
I am always very happy to support initiatives that bring together young people who are passionate about learning and creating innovative change to benefit their society, their country, and the world.
Allow me to emphasize how particularly important this summit is for the African continent, which has the youngest population in the world with more than 400 million young people aged between the ages of 15 to 35 years. Africa's large youth population presents a complex task that requires strategic investments in education, health, energy, skills, economic reforms and good governance.
If harnessed effectively, the continent’s youth population creates an opportunity for a demographic dividend, where the relative abundance of working-age people can lead to increased savings, higher productivity and more rapid economic growth. The 2030 Agenda is our collective key to unlocking these opportunities for the youth.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With the undertaking of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our world has resolved to leave no one behind by ending extreme poverty and preventable deaths. We have also called for integrated action across sectors to tackle complex development challenges.
The 2030 Agenda recognises children and youth as ‘critical agents of change’ in the SDGs platform and for the ‘creation of a new world’. This recognition must translate into actions that governments and other stakeholders take to implement the SDGs. If made a reality, these commitments to listen to and act on young people’s views, including those most likely to experience discrimination and exclusion, will fulfil young people’s rights and ensure that governments develop strategies and plans that build on and learn from young people’s experiences, innovation, and expertise. Young people are entitled to hold the state and its decisionmakers accountable for their duties and performance. We cannot let this opportunity slip by.
In order to be able to be a critical agent of change, the present status of young people needs urgent attention by Government around the globe.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic overturned our lives last year, more than one in five young people were unemployed, or not enrolled in an education or training programme.
Millions of girls become mothers every year, often while still children themselves.
There are an estimated 408 million young people who right now live in countries affected by armed conflict and the number is on the rise. Even more troubling is the fate of those who have been forced to actively engage as child soldiers.
Furthermore, mental health issues among young people continue to see an unprecedented rise. This phenomenon has been significantly aggravated by the pandemic.
There are so many other areas that could be mentioned. The ills of and disadvantages to young people in many parts of the world abound.
It is therefore important for youth – for you – to be empowered by investing in your human capital and in innovative solutions that you create. You are our main hope to truly build a more sustainable, just and peaceful world.
Simply put, we will not be able to end poverty, ensure gender equality, reverse climate change and, overall, achieve the SDGs by 2030, if we fail to equally empower all young people taking account of your diversity and the power of your differences in thoughts, ideas, cultures and traditions that you represent globally.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The 4th African Youth SDGs Summit comes at a critical time as we call for finding and accelerating sustainable solutions for all the world’s biggest challenges - ranging from poverty and gender to climate change, inequality and closing the financial gap.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the implementation of all 17 SDGs has also revealed that what began as a health crisis has quickly exacerbated further to become a devastating human and socio-economic crisis. While the current situation can impede progress towards the achievement of the SDGs, their accomplishment is now all the more urgent and necessary.
It is our conviction that young people need to be full-fledged partners in the work of the UN and other stakeholders to build a better world for all, as you are both beneficiaries and partners.
We must ensure that you are not only heard but understood; not only engaged but empowered; and, especially, not only supporting but leading the global efforts and processes to accelerate progress towards the SDGs.
We understand that the challenges you face across the continent are enormous, and that addressing them requires a huge effort.
I assure you, that as you convene here for the next few days to discuss your ideas, your dreams and your visions, we are listening. We need to hear what you would like to see put in place for your future as well as to how you will join in the efforts to create a better world for all of its citizens.
Ladies and Gentlemen, young African brothers and sisters,
I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the organising team -- inspiring youth leaders -- for their continued efforts in advancing the engagement of African youth in the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals. I admire your dedication, perseverance and ambition.
I also express gratitude to the Summit partners and sponsors in Africa and to the Ministry of Planning and Development for agreeing to host the Summit this year in Ethiopia.
Let me close by highlighting that today, more than ever before, young people in Africa and around the world are demonstrating extraordinary courage, leadership, solidarity and innovation in their desire to build a more sustainable, peaceful and just world for current and future generations — even in the midst of this global pandemic.
I look forward to engaging with all of you and to be inspired by you -- our young people of this great continent.