High Level Event of the General Assembly Marking the 20th Anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth to Highlight Youth Priorities in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

New York, 29 May 2015

Mr. Chair,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Portugal welcomes this High-level Event as a timely opportunity to renew the commitments made 20 years ago when the General Assembly adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth, which constitutes a comprehensive international strategy and guiding policy, in the area of youth development.

Portugal has been a staunch supporter of the Youth Agenda at the UN and has been presenting a resolution on Youth in the General Assembly since 1998 and in the Commission for Social Development, since 2006, initially on its own, and then together with Senegal and Moldova, pushing forward the Youth Agenda.  

We firmly believe that the World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted 20 years ago, continues to provide a response to the serious challenges faced today by the young population. The WPAY, as we call it, remains the most relevant document guiding our action on youth issues.

Adopted by consensus by the General Assembly in 1995 and further expanded in 2007, the WPAY provides a policy framework and practical guidelines, not only for national action, but for international support to improve the situation of young people.

The WPAY is a very comprehensive document that tackles a wide range of challenges young people face today, amongst others on education, employment, hunger and poverty, health, environment, drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, leisure-time activities, girls and young women, full and effective participation of youth in the life of society and in decision-making, globalization, information and communications technology, HIV/AIDS, armed conflict and intergenerational issues. In fact, Portugal firmly believes that Youth Policies are cross-cutting and hence all areas of the WPAY are interrelated and mutually reinforcing.

For Portugal, one of the most outstanding dimensions of WPAY is that its implementation requires the full enjoyment by young people of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as that Governments and I quote “take effective action against violations of these rights and freedoms and promote non-discrimination, tolerance, respect for diversity, with full respect for various religious and ethical values, cultural backgrounds and philosophical convictions of their young people, equality of opportunity, solidarity, security and participation of all young women and men”.

Mr. Chair,

The adoption of the World Programme of Action for Youth in 2000 marked, indeed, a milestone in youth development in the UN. However, there is still room for improvement and we believe that more can be done, especially in the context of the new sustainable development agenda.

Education is the single most important factor contributing to young people’s chances of leading productive and responsible lives and a key aspect for development. Knowledge and education are key factors to the full and effective participation of youth in the processes of social, economic and political development. Increased attention to improving participation rates of young people, particularly marginalized youth, is needed to ensure that they acquire the knowledge, capacities, skills and ethical values needed to fulfil their role as agents of development, good governance, social inclusion, tolerance and peace.

Youth unemployment disproportionately affects marginalized youth, including young girls, who lack general or vocational education and training opportunities. The financial and economic crisis has made the transition from school to work more difficult, especially for young persons lacking an educational background or having one that proves to be unadjusted to the demands of the labour market. Increased efforts towards education accessibility, quality and affordability, as well as non-formal education as a tool to empower youth with marketable skills, are therefore central to global development efforts.

Youth issues must deserve due consideration by the international community in the Post-2015 Development Agenda now under inter governmental negotiation. The Sustainable Development Agenda is an opportunity that cannot be missed to properly tackle the challenges and obstacles hindering youth development, and to promote and sustain secure and healthy lives, higher standards of living including the quality of the environment, and access to education and employment for youth.

All channels, agents and forms of education and training should be mobilized as to achieve universal education for all, and to incorporate the concepts of environmental awareness and sustainable development in schools and educational institutions, as well as to promote human rights education, so that young people are aware of theirs civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights as well as their societal responsibilities.

Portugal values the role of youth organizations as important platforms for youth participation in all levels of society as well as youth workers in promotion of social inclusion amongst marginalized youth.

Giving young people everywhere a real chance to find decent and productive work means youth positive integration in societies; means benefiting from their huge and unique potential for human and socio-economic development worldwide. We cannot afford missing this new opportunity to pursue a more balanced and sustainable development.

Mr. Chair,

Youth has always been and will always be the driving force of our societies. Around the world, youth are drivers of social, political and economic change, claiming respect for fundamental freedoms and rights, improved conditions for them and their communities, together with opportunities to learn, work and participate in decisions that affect them.

It is time, more than ever, to improve investment in policies and programmes to create an enabling environment for youth to prosper, fulfill their potential and enjoy their human rights, and engage in society as responsible social actors.

Twenty years after its adoption, we continue to be strong believers that this Programme of Action remains relevant for youth development. Portugal reiterates therefore its support to this document and to the full implementation of its priority areas which are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.

I thank you.

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