Opening Remarks at the Commemoration of the International Youth Day

August 12, 2020

International Youth Day

Director of Ceremonies,

Ms Thandiwe Gxaba, Acting Executive Secretary of the Benguela Current Commission;

Esteemed Panelists, Moderator;

Colleagues from UNDP and the BCC;

Distinguished guests joining in online;

Members of the media;

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Good Morning

· It is my distinct honour to be part of this event today and deliver the opening remarks on the occasion of the 2020 UN International Youth Day.  I am delighted that this year the Benguela Current Convention (BCC) through the UNDP-supported Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME)  Project has joined us in celebrating this day under the theme:  Youth Engagement for Global Action.

Distinguished Guests,

· In 1999, the General Assembly of the United Nations endorsed the recommendation made by the  World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth stating that 12 August be declared International Youth Day.

· International Youth Day allows us to celebrate young peoples’ voices, actions and initiatives, and recognized their engagement and contribution on issues such as Mental Health, Civic Engagement, Peace, Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production.

· The theme of the 2020 International Youth Day “Youth Engagement for Global Action” seeks to highlight how the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels is enriching national and multilateral institutions and processes. The theme also draws lessons on how youth representation and engagement in formal institutional politics can be significantly enhanced.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

· Namibia has one of the youngest and fastest-growing populations in Southern Africa. 62% of the working-age population in the country are between the ages of 15 and 34, the age group broadly defined as “youth” and projections indicate that the number of 15 to 24-year-olds will have doubled by 2045.

· This youthful population is a crucial resource. However, without sufficient job prospects, it is a resource that will remain untapped. Each nation must invest in the youth to ensure balanced and equitable growth.

· As policymakers and development practitioners we need to focus on how well national plans and initiatives are achieving the goal of maximizing the youth potential and capacity. The fourth Sustainable Development Goal focusing on Quality Education calls on Governments and institutions to provide inclusive and equitable quality education to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

· This encourages us to explore how we are shaping education to become an effective instrument for achieving sustainable growth.

Director of Ceremonies,

· It is undeniable that the current times are unprecedented and filled with confusion and uncertainties. With the economic impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the country and world at large, now more than ever is the perfect opportunity to engage with the youth to identify innovative solutions to the intricate problems facing countries. This can only be achieved by creating safe platforms where young people’s voices can be heard to harness and nurture their talents, creativity and potential.

· In addition, challenges such as climate change and the COVID-19 outbreak that the world faces now need collective global action; and youth participation and innovation must be encouraged to address these challenges.

· This year's International Youth Day aims to focus on youth engagement through three interconnected streams, as follows:

Engagement at the local and community level. For example, a recent undertaking by Namibian Youth with support from the Government and the UN to respond to Covid-19. The Namibia youth successfully implemented a 4-day door-to-door Covid-19 educational campaign that saw young people share educational information on the COVID-19 pandemic across Namibia.

Another stream of this year’s theme focuses on Engagement at the national level; such as formulation of laws, policies, and their implementation). As you may know, Namibia has a policy on Climate Change that amongst others also aims to mainstream youth, gender, child welfare and vulnerable groups into climate change responses at local, regional and national levels. As a result of this objective, the Young People of Namibia have successfully founded the Namibia Youth Coalition on Climate Change (NYCCC). The coalition is engaging many more young Namibians in taking climate change action. 

The last stream focuses on Engagement at the global level. The UN has set up a global online campaign running today. Use the Hashtags #YouthDay, #Youth4GlobalAction, and #SDG16 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms to help spread the word and strike up a conversation surrounding youth engagement for global action.

It is fundamentally important to have youth engagement and participation in various developmental issues. The UN has long recognized that young people are a major human resource for development and key agents for social change, economic growth and technological innovation. Participation in decision-making is, therefore, a key priority area of the UN agenda on youth.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

· Tangible actions have been undertaken by the UNDP in this regard through the launch of the Accelerator labs. These labs are a new service offering from UNDP that works with people, governments, and the private sector to re-imagine development for the 21st century. Only sixty countries globally are piloting this new programme and Namibia is one of them, having launched the Namibia Accelerator Lab on the fifth of July 2019.

· A recent undertaking by the UNDP Namibia Accelerator Lab is a Service Innovation Hackathon, that was completed just two weeks ago. This initiative called on young people amongst others to come up with an innovative prototype idea that will help solve government service delivery challenges.

· A first of its kind, this hackathon proved to be a success with 68 entries submitted by young Namibians around the country.  38 entries were shortlisted and 16 were chosen to present their proposals.  Five proposals made it to the final judging phase and of which three were picked as the overall winners, with prizes handed over to them on 31 July 2020.

· The winning Application by young people is the Pro-Food App. The app digitizes Namibia’s local and traditional food system flows thereby providing mapping, visualizing and monitoring capacity to allow food to be located, procured and distributed to the end beneficiary more transparently.  The App allows broader participation in the local and traditional food value chain through a “one-stop-shop approach” for local small-scale producers (e.g. women cooperatives & single producers) to procurement hubs and partners (e.g. Government, Semi-Government, Food aid programmes; Private sector) to end users (e.g. consumers and distributors of food parcels) and to end clients (e.g. beneficiaries).

· Another endeavour by UNDP is the launch of the new ocean innovation challenge on 8 January 2020.  This unique new support has been designed to accelerate the progress of the fourteenth Sustainable Development goal, Life Underwater by the identifying, financing, advising and mentoring of genuinely innovative, entrepreneurial and creative approaches to the ocean and coastal restoration and protection that sustains livelihoods and advances the ’blue economy’

Ladies and Gentlemen,

· This year’s celebrations are timely for us because the Government of Namibia just launched a new Public Sector Innovation Policy. This policy provides a framework on how to comprehensively manage and speed up the public sector through good governance, accountability, transparency and improved performance service delivery as part of the Harambee Prosperity Plan.

· I am particularly delighted to note the support offered by the BCC to youth initiatives over the years. One being the support for the first youth summit hosted by participants from Angola, Namibia and South Africa, to express their ideas, concerns and recommendations for the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem region.

· I am happy to note that the youth are committed to meaningful participation around the work of the BCC. One of the commitments from the summit was that the youth will strive to increase awareness of all citizens on the ocean and coastal issues through innovative means such as technology, the cybersphere, media platforms and social networking mechanisms such as  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so forth. I am looking forward to seeing the results of these and other commitments.

· As I conclude my remarks, I wish to recognize partners who have actively stood with the Government in mitigating the challenge of youth empowerment. Your contribution to the empowerment of young people is commendable and I look forward to our continued fruitful support.

· I would also like to assure you that the United Nations System in Namibia is committed to Youth engagement and participation. As such, I would like to announce that the UN in Namibia in partnership with the Ministry of  Sport, Youth and National Service is currently in the process of setting up a new programme known as UN Youth Namibia. I wish to encourage the youth to be on the look-out for this programme and make meaningful contributions to it.

· Finally, I would like to leave you with a quote by a young leader that I think all of us would know and that is Greta Thunberg. She says and I quote "You must unite behind the science. You must take action. You must do the impossible. Because giving up can never ever be an option."

·Thank you all once more for being part of these celebrations and I wish you a happy International Youth Day. I thank you.