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Opening Remarks delivered by H.E. Ambassador Ib Petersen, Permanent Representative of Denmark to the UN, at UN Youth Assembly, 1 February 2017

08.02.2017  01:19


(Check against delivery)

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour to be here today together with 900 young leaders from around the world.

We are here to showcase and celebrate the enormous potential you – as young leaders – possess and to empower all of you to act on the Sustainable Development Goals.  

With the current largest generation of young people in the world – estimated to 1.8 billion young people – your discussions over the next two days are more timely than ever.

Denmark is a lead endorser of the Youth Assembly as we are highly dedicated to youth. You are the torch bearers of the 2030 Agenda and your actions are essential to ensure an era in which no one is left behind.

Youth is a group, not a topic. We have to move beyond talking about youth, but instead discuss global challenges with youth. Fortunately, the conversation has already begun. Youth played an important role in shaping the Sustainable Development Goals – through national consultations, the UN Major Group for Children and Youth and the MyWorld Survey, which more than 7 million young people answered, giving their input on what would make a better world for them. When the SDG’s were adopted, this room – the General Assembly Hall – was filled with heads of state and government and on the  balcony, 193 young people with Malala in front watched over them and made sure that the voice of youth was heard.

The conversation has to continue, and we need you to be involved every step of the way. We need you to advocate and to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. And we need you to hold your governments accountable to the promise made in September 2015 when the 2030 Agenda was adopted. Don’t let them forget their promise and be sure to show them how you can help them deliver on it.

Denmark is committed to promote youth engagement, the rights of young people, and encourage innovative youth solutions in order to create sustainable development for and with young people.

This is why youth figures prominently in Denmark’s new strategy for development cooperation and humanitarian assistance, which was adopted 2 weeks ago. In the strategy youth is seen as a cross-cutting theme - relevant to all our thematic priorities whether we are talking about migration or promoting peace, security and human rights or ensuring sustainable, inclusive growth.

To inform the implementation of the strategy’s focus on youth we have commissioned a review of youth-related engagements in Danish development programmes. The review will inform us how to optimize and operationalize the strategic focus on youth - bilaterally, regionally and multilaterally. Youth is consulted and engaged throughout the review process - both in the design and recommendations of the review as well as on how a final seminar to present the findings will be organized.

In addition to the review, we have also hired two youth advisers; one at the Permanent Mission in New York and one at our Mission in Geneva. They are hired to challenge us and help us find out how to incorporate the strategic focus on youth – internally at the mission and externally within the UN system. We have to embrace that youth engagement is just as much a learning process for us as it is for you -as young people- and together find a way to promote intergenerational dialogue.

Although the strategy - where youth figures prominently - is new Denmark already has great experience with youth engagement. To mention some examples;

There are established youth panels in many of the Danish municipalities that provide inputs to the mayors.

A representative from the Danish Youth Council is member of the Danish Council for Development Policy that provides strategic advice to the Foreign Minister on Denmark’s development cooperation.
At the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen last year in May young people made up 20 % of participants with 200 Women Deliver Young Leaders and 300 Youth Scholarships. There was a two day pre-conference for young participants.
Danish medical students - who are part of International Medical Cooperation Committee- have together with Rwandan medical students developed curriculum on comprehensive sexuality education in Rwanda. This curriculum has been included in the public school system.

Danish and Tunisian youth have collaborated on hosting workshops for young people who wish to become entrepreneurs where they prepare them to start their own small business.

It is key to regard young people as individuals with the same fundamental rights and entitlements as other members of society - and not as a marginalized group. We need to discuss how to create an enabling environment, where everyone – including young people - is able to exercise their fundamental human rights and participate meaningfully as agents of positive change and torch bearers of sustainable development.

Let me conclude by repeating my key message; Denmark is highly dedicated to youth and does not only see you as beneficiaries but as partners and leaders in creating a sustainable future.

I hope you will all have a great conference and leave New York inspired and ready to take action on the Sustainable Development Goals.

… before I give the floor to my Australian colleague please let me take a selfie with you all.

Thank you!