Speech of Michael Croft, UNESCO Head of Office in Viet Nam, Vice Chair of Thematic Group on Adolescents and Youth of UN in Viet Nam

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It is my pleasure to be with you all today, on behalf of the United Nations in Viet Nam and its Working Group on young people, to celebrate this year's International Youth Day. The event is a public affirmation of the United Nations' commitment to empower young people, especially in a country like Viet Nam where a third of the population are youth and adolescents below the age of 29. This reflects a wider global situation, as the current generation of youth is the largest in history.

But considering the needs and aspirations of youth in matters of socio-economic development, climate change, peace and security, is much more than a demographic imperative. Too often overlooked, youth play a positive, inspirational and active role in promoting socio-economic growth, peace, and sustainable development. Inter-connected globally like never before, young people want to and already contribute to the resilience of their communities, proposing innovative solutions, driving social progress and inspiring change. Young people's empowerment, development and engagement is an end in itself, as well as a means to build a better world. The UN recognizes it cannot achieve its mission without partnering with young people and ensuring they are not only heard but understood, not only engaged but empowered, and not only supporting but leading global efforts and processes.

This year, we celebrate the Day with the theme of "Safe and Friendly Spaces for Youth" across the globe. What do we mean by this? Safe and youth-friendly spaces can refer to physical and virtual places, environments, platforms and mechanisms where young people can gather, exchange, express opinions, engage in activities related to diverse needs and rights and have their voices and concerns taken into account and addressed properly. They can range from decision-making forums to recreation avenues for arts, culture, and sports; from digital spaces world where young people access information and interact with each other to community-based physical places.

Here, the important issue to stress is access, and access for all, including vulnerable and marginalized youth who have been affected by social, economic and physical hardship. These groups of young people, in particular, are often most vulnerable to socio-economic development, as well as having difficulty in accessing information, knowledge to demand solutions for challenges. They experience intersecting forms of marginalization, the struggle with the brunt of global barriers to realisation of basic rights and issues such as gender-based violence, social exclusion, climate change and migration, etc. Working together, we need to ensure that no one is left behind.

I would like to congratulate the Government of Viet Nam on its considerable efforts in improving the participation of adolescents and youth in the development of youth-related policies and frameworks in the past years, especially amidst all the different challenges as a middle-income country at a time of rapid social and economic change. The United Nations will continue to support these efforts, and to work with youth with the aim of increasing the participation of young people in developing, implementing and monitoring the policies that affect their lives as well as to nurture safe and friendly spaces for all youth as part of their basic rights. Youth need to be able to speak up and speak out, to lead their lives and build the world they want to live in – and as well to speak out for those who are not here today and who are less fortunate in having access to places where their voices are heard.

Dear friends, the UN Secretary General put it very well when he said recently that "The hopes of the world rest on young people. Peace, economic dynamism, social justice, tolerance — all this and more, today and tomorrow, depends on tapping into the power of youth "

Well, today is your day. Enjoy it and have a great celebration!

Xin cám ơn !