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Statement by Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin
Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNFPA
International Youth Day
12 August 2012

Today, we celebrate the world’s 1.8 billion young people. And we pause to consider that 43 per cent of the world’s population is under the age of 25—a figure that rises to 60 per cent in the least developed countries.  It is the vision of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, to deliver a world where the potential of each of these individuals is fulfilled.

Today’s youth are growing up fast in a world that is changing with unprecedented speed.  Because of their dynamism and imagination, young people can respond to these challenges in innovative ways. With the right investments, today’s young people can reach their full potential as individuals, leaders and agents of progress.  And the world clearly needs their energy, their participation and their skills.

Young people can transform the social and economic fortunes of the developed and developed countries alike—but that will take action on health, education, employment, sexual and reproductive health and a commitment to real civic engagement. Yet progress on youth issues lags in every part of the world.

In April this year, the United Nations Commission on Population and Development drew attention to the urgent need to invest in youth and protect their human rights, better equip them to adapt to our rapidly changing world and to seize opportunities for jobs, health, and political participation. This includes the right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, free from coercion, discrimination and violence.

UNFPA has a long track record of building alliances and forging partnerships with governments, development partners and youth organizations and helps leverage investments in young people, particularly those who are poor, vulnerable and socially excluded. UNFPA is drawing on this wealth of experience in 2012 to give young people a stronger voice in shaping United Nations development goals by leading a Global Youth Forum planned for December in Bali. The event will be led by young people, for young people and will ensure that the challenges and opportunities they see today are addressed by all of us in partnership now and well into the future.

The vision and activism of today’s young people should be recognized as central to development. Governments, civil society organizations and the international community all have a role to play in ensuring that every young person’s potential is fulfilled. This is a task that must be done. With collective efforts and resources, we can create just and healthy lives for young people and the generations to follow.