UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY 56th SESSION
Item 103: Social Development, Including Questions Relating to the World Social Situation, and to Youth, Ageing, Disabled Persons and the Family
Statement by Ms Kirsten Hagon, Youth Representative, for the Australian Delegation
9 October 2001
As the Australian Youth Representative to UNGA 56, I am honoured to address this committee on Policies and Programmes Involving Youth.
The World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond noted that young people are key agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation. In this new Millennium, one of the key challenges is to maximise the opportunities available for all young people to participate more fully and effectively in economic, social, political and cultural aspects of their societies and communities, and to promote initiatives that will empower youth to do so.
Young people deserve to have their views represented and to participate in decision-making, especially about the world they will inherit and pass on to future generations.
The Australian Government has undertaken a number of initiatives to enable young people to put forward their views, enable greater youth participation and to involve young people in key decision making processes. The National Youth Policy gives priority to communication between the Government and youth as well as enhancing the image of young people each year. A National Youth Week highlights the positive contribution of young people to society, focusing on young people's issues and concerns. Other initiatives include national youth media awards to promote a positive image for young people, a youth information web-site with information on youth specific services and resources, as well as different fora through which young people may communicate directly to the Government on issues that affect them.
All of this is supplemented by the invaluable work performed by a variety of youth-run non-governmental organisations, many of which work to overcome the barriers to, or lack of opportunity for, meaningful participation.
Member states can contribute in various ways to increasing the level of youth participation at all levels. One important example is the inclusion of youth representatives in delegations to the United Nations General Assembly and other United Nations Conferences. Australia is one of a number of countries to have adopted this practice, which has been of great value both to the Government, which has benefited from fresh perspectives and bold new ideas, as well as to the young Australians who have had the opportunity to represent their country. We commend this approach to other countries as a vital step in ensuring meaningful youth participation, and reaffirm the call for Member States to include youth representatives in their delegations to the UN General Assembly and other meetings.
The World Youth Forum provides a unique opportunity for young people from around the world to meet, discuss issues that affect young people and put forward their views, to the governments of the world. Australia has provided funding for youth representatives to attend the past two Fora. The Forum offers a potential voice for the concerns of youth around the world. Governments should give serious attention to the its outcomes, and recognise them as an important source of youth opinion on issues. While the United Nations Youth Unit must have the primary responsibility for the forum it is essential that young people and youth organisations have meaningful input into the planning and organising of this major international event, as well as in reviewing its effectiveness.
While it is important to recognise and support these initiatives and continue to develop further local, regional and international initiatives that promote participation and empowerment of youth, we must also work to eradicate a variety of social and economic problems that form barriers to meaningful participation of young people in all areas of society.
Poverty, malnutrition, HIV infection, lack of access to proper health services and education, and use of children as soldiers are major hurdles to youth development in many parts of the world.
These problems not only affect youth today but also threaten future generations. International efforts are vital to addressing these issues that form some of the most insurmountable barriers to youth empowerment and participation.
Australia recognises mass poverty is an issue of fundamental importance. Australia also recognises that education is the most basic building block for development and an essential prerequisite for empowerment and participation of young people. We support national, regional and international initiatives to address issues of poverty, poor education and poor health.
Violence, intolerance, armed conflict and hatred have had a devastating effect on young people around the world. But young people can also provide the hope for a peaceful, secure and less violent future.
Mr Chairperson, I encourage all member states to view young people not as burden or even a challenge but as an invaluable resource. Young people are one of humanity's most valuable resources - make the most of this resource! Thankyou