Closing of the Commonwealth Youth Summit

Nov 5, 2017

Dr. Josephine Ojiambo, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General,

Honourable Floyd Green, State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Jamaica,

Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dr. Lim Kok Wing, Founder of Limkokwing University,

Distinguished Guests and Participants of the Commonwealth Youth Summit;

Dear friends,

It is a privilege to participate in today’s ceremony because I believe that you as youth leaders can make a huge difference – in a world that has experienced unprecedented gains in human development in the last decades, but in a world that has a long way to go to ensure that no one is left behind, and in a world that is yet to embark on a development path that stops degrading the environment of our vulnerable planet.

I have no doubt that you have had a very productive Summit, conceiving concrete projects and action plans that you will lead yourselves, when you return home to the many countries that you’ve come from.  The United Nations through agencies such as UNDP, UNFPA and ILO have been happy to support you during this event over these past few days.

I am confident that your continued passion for a better world will translate into significant contributions to the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals - to leave no one behind and ensure sustainable development.

So, let me congratulate all of you here, and especially the Commonwealth Youth Council with the support of the Malaysian Government, for your efforts in ensuring a successful action-oriented summit. You deserve a big round of applause!

Role of young people

I mentioned the important role of young leaders:

In Malaysia, we see admirable efforts by young people, such as Hospitals Beyond Borders; Teach for Malaysia; Project 100%; young journalists like R.AGE, IM4U, MyCorps and many others who are making significant contributions to improving lives and sustainability of the planet.

There were never more young peoplebetween 15 and 29 on the globe – 1.8 billion. We need to enhance the space for youth participation and contribution so that such valuable potential can be properly used and strategically channelled. And in my experience it is all about individual leadership. Real change can only happen if each one of us plays our part. Hence, each one of you here, from across the Commonwealth nations, has the potential to be a positive agent of change and an inspiration to others.

Dear friends –

The topics of this Summit, from Climate Policy to peace building, were well chosen, as they are key to the transformational change required to achieve by 2030, the world’s most ambitious development agenda in history.

I would like to share a few thoughts on the themes of the conference from my own work experience:

Climate Change Action

If there is one thing that many young people around the world have in common, including all of you here, is your passion for the environment and climate action. I am sure you have discussed the overwhelming evidence how fast this is happening and how CC is likely to propel us into a world that we cannot even imagine – with new coast lines due to sea level rise, with new vegetation zones and impact on food security, with new sicknesses and with a manifold increase of disasters.

I know that as immediate heirs to this planet, you realise the urgency to address climate change not just for yourselves but for its importance to the survival and wellbeing of generations to come. You must be the voice of future generations to claim intergenerational justice.

I also want to stress that is important to focus on other environmental agendas, such as the threats on biodiversity in water (oceans) and on land (acidity of the oceans is quickly increasing because of the waste/overfertilization and is killing micro-organisms, triggering a domino effect through the food chain. Similarly important is the fight against extinction of species on land at up to 1000 times the natural rate).

The SDGs call for urgent action on environment and climate change – the perhaps biggest challenge of the 21st century and you I trust you will play a critical role.

Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship

The other topic that you would have dived deeply into - “Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship” is very relevant and important to lifting the many young people that have fallen victim to the economic and social pressures of our times. Approximately 700 million young people in the Asia and Pacific region face economic uncertainty and 300 million are either unemployed or underemployed. Increasing the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship is a clear target under Goal 4 of the SDGs.

There is also a second aspect: The dark side of the 4th industrial revolution. More job replacement through artificial intelligence and other technological innovation is unavoidable. Engaging in entrepreneurship you can ensure that the power of technology is used for people-centered purposes.

Two UNDP initiatives: UNDP’s Regional Youth Project on Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship or Youth CoLab is establishing a common agenda for countries in the region to invest and empower youth to implement the SDGs through social innovation and entrepreneurship. Youth CoLab is also creating a network to provide grants for incubation and financial mechanisms for youth-led programmes. And so, I am glad that my colleagues from Bangkok, were able to be here, to help facilitate some of the Summit sessions.

You may also have heard of UNLEASH. Earlier this year in Copenhagen, UNDP together with its partners, embarked on a first of its kind global innovation lab for a thousand young innovators. UNLEASH creates a platform for talents, such as yours, to add value directly and access a unique ecosystem of actors, who can take your ideas and innovations to the next level. We are therefore, looking into the possibility of bringing UNLEASH to the region in the next year or so – to make this unique opportunity accessible to even more young people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,


Peacebuilding is not an easy issue, but I hope that your session on this topic, culminated in actionable outcomes. Over 600 million young people strive to survive in fragile contexts and conflict affected areas. In 2015, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution, recognising the positive role youth can play in conflict prevention, the prevention of violent extremism and peacebuilding. That same year, the interconnectedness between human rights, good governance and peace was reinforced through Goal 16 of the SDGs.

I myself was posted in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the war and saw how difficult it is to rebuild trust after a conflict. This is why the UN sees prevention of conflicts as an important perspective in everything we are doing. I can only stress the importance of tolerance and the respect for diversity, the protection of human rights, and economic and social inclusion as key parameters for prevention/peace building (SDG 16). And as UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said in August, “Empowered young men and women can play a critical role in preventing conflicts and ensuring sustainable peace.”

Global Inequality and Social Cohesion

Prevention is also deeply rooted to a key principle of the 2030 Agenda, which is to leave no one behind. For many, this seems to be an impossible task, especially when too many citizens of this world are unable to enjoy the development gains of our times. Over 60 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes; millions of children, women and men are undocumented and/or stateless with no access to basic services. And we also, contend with issues of modern-day slavery, forced labour, child labour, and migrant labour that requires concerted efforts and transboundary cooperation. Hence, I am happy that the team from ILO, well experienced in these areas, was here to facilitate your discussion on this issue of Global Inequality and Social Cohesion.

The world has achieved tremendous progress but the gap between the rich and poor, the have and have-nots, continue to widen; as do inter-ethnic and inter-religious divisions.  However, if we as individuals, young and old; communities; business; and governments play our part and stay true to our collective commitment of achieving the SDGs, and to international conventions and treaties, we can close the gaps and mend the divisiveness that exists.

Moving forward with the SDGs

To ensure its attainment over the next 13 years, implementation of the SDGs must be accelerated at local levels. We need to move rapidly from planning to action and put in place effective implementation strategies, and also robust monitoring, evaluation and reporting mechanisms – at both national and sub-national levels.   And young people, like you, have the unique potential of fuelling these processes with your energy, dynamism, creativity and innovativeness.  And you don’t have to do it alone.

The world has committed to providing “children and youth with a nurturing environment for the full realization of their rights and capabilities, helping their countries to reap the demographic dividend, including through safe schools and cohesive communities and families.” And we see both public and private actors increasingly partnering on this collective effort, across the globe.

As the Summit comes to a close today, I wish you all the best and great success in the translation of your ideas into tangible outcomes that will make a positive difference to people and planet - building on your experiences and ideas developed here in Kuala Lumpur through the Commonwealth Youth Summit!

Thank you.

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