Good afternoon, representatives of UN-HABITAT, of governments both national and local, mayors, partner organizations, our fellow youth, ladies and gentlemen, and most especially Mama Tibaijuka:
My name is Kristoffer Sundøy, and I have been elected by UN-HABITAT’s Youth Advisory Board to address you today on behalf of the youth delegates present at this Forum. We are youth who live in cities. We are full of ideas, creativity, and energy. Yet even as we represent well over half the world’s total population, we are still not full partners in the institutions, processes and decisions that affect our lives. We live in cities in great numbers, yet our voices are rarely given equitable space or accorded the same respect and consideration as those of adults.
In writing this Statement, we are attempting the impossible – to hold the many and varied perspectives, dreams and challenges of youth across the world in mind, and to distill a unified message in a few minutes’ time. . And we will try anyway! What we say here is the tiniest tip of the iceberg of the deep need for genuine, authentic inclusion and engagement of youth.
We sincerely and gratefully acknowledge UN-HABITAT’s efforts at creating the platform of the World Urban Youth Assembly, among many initiatives to support youth as leaders under the guidance of Dr. Tibaijuka. We recognize and applaud the significance of the recent resolution by the Governing Council to make the Youth Assembly an integral part of all future World Urban Forums. We hope that as the integration of these events evolves, UN-HABITAT and the many partners from governments, civil society, private sector, academia and other fields will strive harder still to support full youth inclusion and involvement, and we have some ideas for where this can begin.
First, as UN-HABITAT moves towards the next World Urban Forum, we ask that member governments come together and commit the resources necessary to ensure that the World Urban Youth Assembly can support the inclusion of many more youth from many more countries, and to become a more focused and effective vehicle for training and building the capacity of youth delegates to be directly and powerfully involved in the Forum, from planning through to implementation.
Second, we commend UN-HABITAT’s and Dr. Tibaijuka’s leadership in launching the much-needed Urban Youth Fund, the success of which we have witnessed this week, with youth beneficiaries sharing their best-practice programs. We urge UN-HABITAT now to expand the Fund vastly, to reach 10 million by 2012 as an interim goal and work towards a day in the future when the Youth Fund will operate with as much scope and recognition as any of the Funds and Programmes devoted to other key population groups, such as UNIFEM or UNICEF which champion the needs of women and children. We call upon donor governments will follow Norway’s lead and commit their support to the Fund, in addition to private and other sector involvement the Fund will grow in scope to become a truly meaningful match to the magnitude of urban youth in need of such support.
Third, we would like to exhort UN-HABITAT to strengthen its engagement with key areas and groups of youth, so often overlooked. These include the geographic regions in Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, and the former Soviet states, as well as cross-sections of youth including young people with disabilities, and Indigenous youth in cities. We particularly wish to highlight the needs of urban Indigenous youth, who may live within the borders of so-called “developed” countries and yet still experience exclusion and disadvantage. We therefore ask for more creative and flexible approaches to supporting urban youth-led development across the division of “developed” and “developing”, to overcome limitations of programming by donor governments.
Fourth, we want to say that the findings of the first-ever State of the Urban Youth Report stimulated great interest and thought-provoking discussion amongst the five hundred or so youth present at the World Urban Youth Assembly last week. We exhort UN-HABITAT and its partner organizations to continue and also to expand participatory action research into the issues facing urban youth. We ask particularly that there be a focus on exploring the nature of urban violence and the role of gangs and other parallel, non-legitimate organizations. We urge a holistic and inclusive approach to this research that involves young people as full partners rather than simply views us as victims or perpetrators. We are certain that young people around the world are, as we speak, committed to transforming their communities into peaceful, healthy spaces, and we want their experiences to be highlighted, and their successes to be shared and replicated widely.
Last but certainly not least, we wish to reiterate how deeply youth need space – legitimate, safe, welcoming space, in cities as well as at events such as this one. We congratulate UN-HABITAT on its catalytic role in starting up Urban Youth Centres in pilot projects in three cities in East Africa, and six in post-conflict countries in several regions. It is now time for UN-HABITAT to disseminate the knowledge gained in these pilot projects widely, and for municipal partners and local governments to take up the tools and build such Centres in cities and towns throughout the world.
As we come to the end of our time in Rio de Janeiro, we wish to thank the government and people of Brazil for hosting this global event, the team of people at UN-HABITAT who under Dr. Tibaijuka’s leadership have hosted the World Urban Youth Assembly and the World Urban Forum, and all the partner organizations and governments present, for coming together here to advance knowledge in the field of sustainable urban development.
Finally, we would like to speak our thanks directly to Mama Tibaijuka, whose passion for the cause of youth is rare and powerful. We thank you, and we hope that your successor will take up the torch you have lit and continue your mission to bring youth to the table as full partners in the urban dialogue.