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Distinguished Ministers, Excellencies, Heads of Delegations, colleagues from the UN,

Youth Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen



It is a great pleasure for me to speak to you at this most important conference, the
World Conference on Youth, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I am happy to be addressing you
on this very important occasion.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have made it possible for this
conference to happen, and extend special appreciation to the Government of Sri Lanka
and President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Minister Dullas Alahapperuma. We at UN-
Habitat strongly believe that partnerships between government and youth are critical to
the success of any venture, and applaud this important partnership.

This conference is taking place in the context of the UN Secretary Generals 5-year plan
in which youth is a key focus area. Stemming from the Secretary Generals
commitment, the Envoy for Youths office was created, and Ahmad Alhindawi was
appointed. UN-Habitat has worked closely with the Envoy, member states, and the
youth community in developing and implementing programmes such as the Youth 21
initiative, which seeks to improve youth engagement in the UN system, and as the co-
chair of the Inter-agency Network on Youth Development where a Youth System Wide
Action Plan was developed and is now being implemented.

This conference is also taking place in the context of two critical global trends rapid
urbanization and the growth of the youth population which is nearing 1.8 billion,
representing the largest youth cohort to ever have existed. What is less known is that
these youth live, by and large, in cities and towns; with the cities of the developing world
accounting for over 90% of the worlds urban growth and youth accounting for a large
percentage of those inhabitants. There are some estimates that as many as 60% of all
urban dwellers will be under the age of 18 by 2030.

These are young people who are looking to better themselves, their communities,
countries and the world. They are seeking for opportunities in education, employment,
and finding a place to live and start their own families. Their youthful energy and
innovation can be a positive force for change at all levels if they are pro-actively
engaged as partners. We see this energy in the programmes we undertake globally
from as far as Latin America, Africa, the Asia Pacific to the Europe and the US.

Youth need to have a central role in national and local governance and development
processes and we have seen them lead to great success in some of our programmes
such as the One Stop Youth Resource Centres and the Urban Youth Fund, which have
engaged tens of thousands of youth over the last decade in projects that advance urban
sustainability. I encourage you to connect with our representatives here to find out more
about the programmes.

I also wish to commend the programmes that UN-Habitat has jointly implemented with
the Government of Sri Lanka in the areas of training in construction skills in Northern Sri
Lanka, and in town and country planning with the University of Moratuwa.

We at UN-Habitat are reaching out to youth globally as partners to bring about a better
and more sustainable world. We congratulate youth globally in their overwhelming
response to the My World survey, which has now reached over 2,000,000 people
globally, with 63% of those respondents being youth, and almost 500,000 being youth
from Sri Lanka.

Looking ahead, it is important that the world keeps its focus on youth and urbanization
issues. We have just come from Medellin, Colombia where the UN-Habitat World Urban
Forum and World Urban Youth Assembly were held. Over 20,000 people, over of
them youth, sent a clear message sustainable urbanization is critical to the health and
wellbeing of our worlds citizens, and young men and women have a key role to play.

An additional platform for global engagement on youth issues is the forthcoming Third
United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (HABITAT
III) in 2016. The conference will focus on a new urban agenda in which the issues of
youth and women are critical. We need to hear your voices and ensure your full
engagement in this process. Currently national reports are being prepared through
consultations with key partners and stakeholders including youth and women and we
kindly request you to engage in this process. UN-Habitat avails itself to support you in
this regard.

And lastly, I see that you have a strong focus on the post-2015 agenda at this
conference. Many member states are advocating for a standalone goal on sustainable
cities and human settlements in recognition of its fundamental role in sustianable
development.

As I conclude I wish to reiterate the fact that youth empowerment and urbanization are
dominant global trends and we at UN-Habitat are committed to work with you all to
guide both in a sustainable direction.

I leave it to my colleague Doug Ragan, to brief you more on our work here at the World
Youth Conference.