Statement

Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem on International Youth Day 2018

12 August 2018

We want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and make good on our pledge to leave no one behind. We want to build lasting peace. Therefore, young people belong at the centre of our collective efforts. Let us embrace young people as active partners on this journey together.

None of our ambitious global goals can be achieved without the meaningful participation of young people. They are our future. And—1.8 billion strong—they are our present.

Yet young people, especially adolescent girls, face formidable challenges staying healthy, getting an education, and making their own decisions in life. Threats to their rights and well-being today jeopardize their potential to become engaged, productive citizens tomorrow.

We have the power—and responsibility—to help every girl and boy make a safe and healthy transition through adolescence and adulthood. Every space should be a safe space for youth—the home, the classroom, the health centre, the tables where policies and peace agreements are penned.

For UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, working with and for young people, and promoting youth leadership and participation, have been a long-standing tradition. Our efforts enable young people to develop the skills, knowledge and support they need to make informed decisions about their bodies, lives, families, communities, countries, and our world. 

Young people are at the forefront of UNFPA’s actions to build more equitable, resilient societies where prosperity is shared by all. We joined hands with our partners to advance the role of young people in humanitarian action and conflict transformation through the Compact on Young People in Humanitarian Action and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, and we are committed to continuing to co-lead this vital work. And the UN Strategy on Youth to be launched in September represents the unwavering, collective commitment of the United Nations family to step up our work for and with young people, under the leadership of the Secretary-General.

All over the world, young people say: “Nothing about us, without us!” At UNFPA, we have heard, learned and taken this principle to heart. Our partnerships with young people are, and must always be, based on their active and meaningful participation.

Hundreds of millions of adolescent girls are waiting to claim their power and fulfil their potential. With our support, they can claim their rights and realize their aspirations. With our support, they will shape their own future – and the world’s.