On the Occasions of International Youth Day Celebrated in Sana’a on 26 August 2014

Aug 26, 2014

Mr. Paolo Lembo, UN Resident Coordinator during the event

By Mr. Paolo Lembo, UN Resident Coordinator Yemen
With an average age in Yemen being 17 years old, it is the young people of this country that will shape and safeguard the New Yemen. The UN remains committed to stand along with the people of Yemen and assist the youth in the country in your difficult, but promising hard work to build the future you want.

Since young people took to the streets in 2011 demanding fairness and justice, youth have appropriately engaged in the National Dialogue Conference with commitment and wisdom. The NDC outcomes related to youth include political empowerment, education and economic empowerment.

Politically, the outcomes involve creating a new independent authority with a mandate to steer and supervise public policy and monitor its implementation. This will be done to ensure protection of youth from social and health risks and violence, and institute clear policies and mechanisms for youth participation and inclusion in public policy making.

In terms of education, the proposal is to promote gender equality and improve education for young Yemenis across the country, with the right to free, high-quality education, mandatory at the primary level for all Yemenis. The outcomes also commit the state to providing the necessary incentives and appropriate environment to ensure girls education.

Related to employment, recommendations include the establishment of a ‘Skills Development Fund’, achieving employment by training qualified youth in a decentralized manner. To this end, UN is engaging in a process that identifies bottlenecks to fighting poverty, with a special focus on employment for young people and women, and rural livelihoods. Last week 200 stakeholders, devoted to fighting stubborn poverty in Ibb and Taiz, were gathered to identify exactly what is holding back development progress in the two governorates.

I am confident that the partners brought together can detect the concrete bottlenecks in order to better address them. As the UN, we commit to join efforts with you to remove hinders to development, always with the concerns of poor and marginalized at heart.

In an ongoing survey, and thanks to pro-bono efforts by all mobile phone operators in Yemen, we ask the people of Yemen: What is important to YOU in the future? By calling 2015 for free all mobile subscribers with a Yemeni number are invited to have your say. So far, 215,000 Yemenis have participated; almost half being young people between 16 and 30 years old. On top of the list of priorities we find ‘a good education’, followed by ‘better job opportunities’ and ‘a responsive government’.

Again, I wish to reassure our commitment to support you towards that future, and ensure that the priorities you have identified are heard in Yemen and beyond. Another encouraging finding from the survey so far is that Yemenis between 16 and 30 place stronger emphases on equality between men and women than older voters, giving me faith in a future of this country where the resourceful female half of the populations finds space to contribute and thrive.

This year’s theme for the International Youth Day is mental health. As noted by the UN Secretary-General on this day, a new publication from the United Nations shows that 20 per cent of the world’s young people experience a mental health condition each year. He calls for openness around the issue of mental health. He notes that young people who are already vulnerable, such as those involved in the juvenile justice system, orphaned youth and those having experienced conflict situations, are even more hampered by stigma and other barriers surrounded the issue of mental health than others. This leaves them adrift when they are most in need of support.

In Yemen, events in recent times have put you under stress. You have experienced devastating personal losses. You are exposed to fear of today and the future. A fragile security situation, high costs and high unemployment makes it challenging to remain calm and persistent in your demand for the future you want. I cannot even imagine, but only recognize, the encounters many of you have been faced with, and I am deeply in awe of the resilience you continue to demonstrate. In this context, and in line with what the Secretary General said, I encourage openness around issues of mental health and wellbeing. It also calls upon on us to protect the wellbeing of each other.

Openness will ease our individual burdens and help us mend our wounds, though the wounds themselves will remain. At a different level, for Yemen to heal as a nation, I reassure our commitment as the UN to support a transparent and an independent openness around injustice that has occurred, and that has contributed to the individual traumas of many people in this country.

Lastly, on this day, I wish to congratulate the young people of this country with your achievements and your impressive commitment to reach your aspirations. I am confident that you again will, despite difficult times, see a prosperous future for all, as Yemen has been known throughout history. We as the UN are at your service in reaching those aspirations for all the people living in this country. 

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