UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka on Sunday paid a special tribute to outgoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, telling a youth summit in New York that she like he decried the continued marginalization of young people, especially those living in poverty.
“Our beloved Secretary-General, Mr. Annan is stepping down after 10 years at the helm of the organization. The fact that member governments granted him two terms as Secretary-General is sufficient testimony to his great leadership! Let us applaud him!,” Mrs. Tibaijuka told the UN Global Youth Leadership Summit. “Mr. Annan leaves office decrying the fact that labour markets are having difficulty providing stable occupations with good prospects for young people, barring those who are highly trained. Without decent work, young people are susceptible to poverty, and crime. He leaves office urging us to pay more attention to education and, in particular, to the transition from education to employment.”
Mrs. Tibaijuka said the poverty scourge was getting younger and more urbanized – meaning more and more young people in urban areas were being afflicted.
“The exclusion of so many young people around the world from decision-making, education, health, and from basic services is both a violation of their human and civil rights, and a failure of sound economic policy,” she said.
The Executive Director urged young people to examine closely the phenomenon of urbanization and growing slum settlements in many parts of the world. She also emphasized the importance of youth participation and underscored the link between decent work and decent shelter and called for the establishment of an urban youth fund to have a hands-on approach to youth initiatives.
“Have no doubt: towns and cities are growing at unprecedented rates setting the social, political, cultural and environmental trends of the world, both good and bad,” Mrs. Tibaijuka said.
Others who addressed the meeting included Mr. Annan himself, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, the Italian Minister of Youth and Sport, Ms. Giovanna Melandri, a Zambian youth leader, Ms. Barbara Hachipuka, and the UNDP Administrator, Mr. Kemal Dervis.
The Summit aimed at engaging young people in decisions about the future of their communities and their regions in a globalizing world, and also gave young professionals a chance to network with their peers. In his opening speech, Mr. Annan thus urged young people to hold their governments to account on applying the Millennium Development Goals aimed at reducing poverty.
Young people from India, Mexico, the United States, and Senegal took the floor and urged the UN-agencies to work together and to raise the awareness about the goals as well to enhance youth participation in UN agencies.
The meeting was scheduled to wind up on Tuesday with the adoption of a declaration laying out key concerns and new commitments. UN-HABITAT consults closely with young people around the world on its youth policy.