As prepared for delivery
Dear Mr. Intigam Babayev, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports
Mr. Farid Babayev, head of the Un Population Fund Office in Azerbaijan
Mr. Carwardine, UNICEF representative in Azerbaijan
Dear partners, friends and our youth.
It is a pleasure to be here today with all of you at this global and international Conference organized on the occasion of World Population Day, and the topic of Sustainable Development and Youth – New opportunities and challenges.
More than 1.8 billion people alive today are aged between 10 and 24 years old - the largest generation of young people in history.
They are providing the energy, creative ideas and determination to drive reform.
But young people also face many challenges.
More than 1 in 5 are not in employment, education or training.
Millions of girls become mothers while they are still children.
Too often, youth are denied a seat at the decision-making table.
And the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in severe economic and social impacts around the world, with millions of young people now at risk of being left behind in education, economic opportunities, and health and heightened risk of violence at home during a crucial stage of their life development.
But at the same time, young people are responding to the crisis through public health promotion, social media, volunteering and innovation.
Young people are and will continue to form a key element in an inclusive recovery and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals during this Decade of Action.
However, the response and recovery must be done in a way that protects and empowers all youth.
If we are to create a more healthier, climate friendly, peaceful and sustainable world for all and fulfil the vision of the 2030 Agenda, we need young people to lead. And for them to lead we need to continue to do more to empower them.
In Azerbaijan we have been working very closely since 2012 with our partners from the Ministry of Youth and Sports to ensure youth participation in decision-making.
Together we have created new platforms to support active youth engagement in global policy debates.
As a result, the country’s first-ever Global Forum on Youth Policies was held in Baku in 2014, bringing together over 700 young leaders from all over the world with representatives of the Government of Azerbaijan, UNDP, UNESCO, the Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, and the Council of Europe.
We have supported the institutionalization of the Model UN movement in Azerbaijan by establishing 9 Model UN clubs in universities across the country, where young people can step into the shoes of diplomats and discuss global issues.
We are also actively working on addressing the unemployment challenges that young people here face by establishing training centres where young people can gain new skills and get support to find jobs. These include the Baku Training Center and the Employment and Innovation Centres in Masally and Ganja. Already we’ve trained over 300 young people and over 75% have managed to find jobs immediately after graduation.
In 2018 we helped introduce the first Sustainable Development Goals Youth Ambassadors initiative in Azerbaijan. The 17 young ambassadors have since been very active in advocating the importance of achieving Agenda 2030. They have organized a number of events, including tree-planting, beach-cleaning, and awareness-raising campaigns.
And they have been particularly active on digital platforms during this pandemic, encouraging their peers to stay safe, counter misinformation and help their communities in every possible way they can.
Young people have also been very active in our hackathons showing they have fresh ideas, solutions and visions for a better future.
We must continue to work together with youth and for youth to ensure sustainability.
Today’s young people have a unique stake in the dialogue on a range of issues, and they can make their voices heard in the most inspiring ways.
They can volunteer, vote, join youth-led organisations, movements and networks. Start grassroots projects. Contribute to data collection, analysis and research. Start new campaigns.
Youth have the ability to contribute to resolving some of the biggest challenges of our time, including promoting gender equality and overcoming the impacts of pandemic diseases and climate change.
UNDP strongly believes in the leadership of young women and men and we are committed to ensuring that youth can realise their potential, lead from the front, and drive positive change.
We believe in youth’s power to make things better and leave no one behind.