Remarks by Robert Piper, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nepal International Youth Year 2010-2011

12 Aug 2010

Right Honorable Prime Minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Honorable Minister of Youth & Sports, Ganesh Tiwari Nepali, friends, colleagues and, most importantly, young people of Nepal.

It is a great privilege for me to speak to you today at the beginning of a very, very important year. International Youth Year starts today, 12 August 2010, and for the next year, the focus of many people around the world, as well as in Nepal we hope, will be on young people.

The UN's definition of 'youth' is somewhat less generous than the Government's - from 15 years to 24 years of age. Yet even under this more narrow definition, we are speaking of as much as 20% of Nepal's population - four and a half million Nepalis in the prime of their life.

Their significance has not been overlooked by the UN family. We are proud of the work we have done alongside the Government in this important domain. Of the work of our UN Youth Focal Points to contribute to the development of a National Youth Policy. Of our collaboration with the Ministry on Youth Responsive Budgeting. Of our work with the Ministry of Local Development and the National Planning Commission to place national UNVs across 75 districts, helping mobilize young people to participate in development and encourage a sense of volunteerism. We believe we have made a difference through our contribution to the five-year National Youth Employment Plan, and through our support to 'Choose your Future' programmes, Youth Peer Educators Groups and Child clubs throughout the country.
We have been fortunate to have been supported in our work by our own UN Youth Advisory Panel, with members representing a cross section of Nepali society. We listen to them to learn how better to engage young people and will be looking to them to help us make the International Youth Year a success. A number are present today, and I take this opportunity to thank them for their generous contribution.

While we have not overlooked the significance of 'youth' in our development agenda, we also recognize that vast challenges remain. We need to do more and we need to do better.

Youth Employment Plan notwithstanding, it remains a real concern that an estimated 40% of the youth labour force is underutilized. That translates into almost one and a half million young people with time and capacity to work and give more. This is an untapped resource Nepal needs to harvest. A seam of gold no country can afford to ignore. Here, the country can find that extra energy needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Can find the ideas and courage needed to build the peace. Too much of this talent, seems to be heading out of Nepal, with youth making up some three quarters of those working abroad. Nepal must urgently create more jobs and opportunities for its youth at home.

It is surely a concern too, that too much 'harvesting' of this energy and talent, is being done by political parties. The youth sector is riven with politics. In schools, on campuses, too often youth are being used as the 'shock-troops' of political conflict, too often leading to violent confrontation. One is never too young to be politically aware. Never too young to stand up for a cause. But violence has no place in youth politics. And if by 20 or even 18, party-affiliation has become a way of life - and livelihood - parties risk creating levels of dependence and expectations they will struggle to sustain for the decades ahead. And these youth have potentially closed themselves off to a vista of other more productive and rewarding life-options. Please let us see less youth at the barricades and more youth in the central committees and policy-making bodies of the parties.

Special concern is also warranted for a particular subgroup of youth, namely adolescent or young women. Young women in Nepal face unprecedented challenges ranging from poor access to services to sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. This group deserves our special attention in our efforts. If nothing else, because investing in young women makes good sense. If you educate a girl, you educate a family - the benefits from investing in young women will be reaped for generations to come.

Right Honorable Prime Minister,

The theme for the International Youth Year is "Dialogue and Mutual Understanding". The Year aims to encourage dialogue and understanding across generations and promote the ideals of peace, respect for human rights and freedoms, and solidarity. The theme encourages young people to dedicate themselves to fostering progress, including the attainment of the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Young people cannot do this alone. Young people need our support. They need access. They need openness. Hence, the UN's framework for the International Year of Youth focuses on three areas; increasing the commitment and investment in youth; increasing youth participation and partnerships; and increasing inter-cultural understanding.

As we launch the International Youth Year, on the eve of the World Youth Conference in Mexico, the UN calls on decision makers across the world to listen to the needs of young people and to respond. To enter into meaningful dialogue with young people to develop a mutual understanding on how to jointly address the development challenges facing us. Let us enter a partnership across the generations to fulfill the promise of the Millennium Declaration and to create a more peaceful and just Nepal, for now and for the future. Thank you for your presence. Let?s make this a year a watershed.

Thank you.