Speech by Mr. Arthur Erken, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam at launch of The State of World Population 2014 Report

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Date: 19 November 2014    
Event: Launch of The State of World Population 2014 Report
Venue: Au Co Theater,  Huynh Thuc Khang street, Ha Noi

Mr. Le Quoc Phong, Secretary of the Youth Union/ Chairman of Viet Nam Student Association
Mr. Leu Vu Dieu, Vice Chairman of the Viet Nam Farmers' Union;
Mr. Ho Sy Hung, Deputy Director-General of GOPFP;
Mr. Vu Thanh Liem, Director of the Center for the Central Youth and Adolescent, Youth Union;
Representatives from government, the diplomatic community, civil society organizations and the media, my fellow UN colleagues,

A good afternoon to you all, and especially a good afternoon to all the youth representatives who are with us here today.

On behalf of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Viet Nam, I am very pleased to launch UNFPA’s The State of World Population 2014 report, entitled "The Power of 1.8 Billion: Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future". Allow me to thank, from the outset, the Center for Central Youth and Adolescents of the Youth Union for co-organizing this special event.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Our world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24; that is 25% of the world's total population. What we are witnessing today represents a unique moment in humanity's common history! Never before were there this many young people in the world....and never will there be this many young people in the future! Today’s record 1.8 billion young people present an enormous opportunity to transform the future.

Distinguished guests,
Before handing over The State of World Population 2014 report to Mr. Le Quoc Phong, the Secretary of the Viet Nam Youth Union, I would like to reiterate some key messages coming out of this report:

Young people are our future
First, the largest global youth bulge in human history will have a profound effect on every aspect of our common future. The effect can be overwhelmingly positive if young people are able to develop their capabilities, have access to education and health, including sexual and reproductive health, and find opportunities to fulfill the promise of their lives through, for example, decent employment.

Education is critical. The skills and knowledge young people acquire must be relevant to the current and future needs of our economies and enable them to become innovators, thinkers and problem-solvers. Equally critical are investments in the health, including in the sexual and reproductive health, of young people. When young people can make a healthy transition from adolescence into adulthood, options expand for the future.

Obstacles that threaten a generation

Second, despite evidence that more and more governments are starting to pay greater attention to youth through public policy initiatives, young people as a whole still confront many obstacles.

Millions of young people the world over do not go to school, or if they do, they miss even minimum benchmarks for learning. Employment prospects are often dismal, with jobs unavailable or poor in quality, leading to a worsening global youth unemployment crisis. Up to 60 per cent of young people in developing regions are not working or in school, or have only irregular jobs. Over 500 million youth struggle to survive on less than $2 per day, a level of impoverishment from which many may never emerge. A yawning digital divide sidelines youth in poor countries from the technology essential to operating in modern economies.

Sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, which are pivotal to young people’s realization of their full potential, are blocked because of large gaps in the provision of information and services. In most countries, laws, policies and regulations have yet to align with the realities in which young people live today.

Acting now to demographic dividend

Third, while these obstacles can be complex, they can all be overcome.

The report states that with the right policies and investments in human capital, countries can empower young people to drive economic and social development and boost per-capita incomes. In other words, with the right policies and investments, countries can realize a “demographic dividend,” made possible by falling mortality and fertility rates. With a larger working population and fewer dependents, a country has a one-time opportunity for rapid economic growth and stability. A demographic dividend of this magnitude could lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and catapult economies forward.

To realize this dividend, investments are needed to develop our human capital, pursue economic models that improve employment prospects, promote inclusive governance and the enjoyment of human rights.
 
Making the post-2015 count for youth
And finally, adolescents and youth are central to the future post-2015 development agenda. Safeguarding their rights and investing in their future by providing quality education, decent employment opportunities, effective livelihood skills, and access to sexual and reproductive health and comprehensive sexuality education that emphasizes gender equality, is essential to their development and that of their families, communities and the country as a whole. How we meet the needs and aspirations of young people and enable them to enjoy their rights will define our common future.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Viet Nam is recording the highest proportion of young people in its history. Young people between the ages of 10 to 24 years old now represent nearly 40 per cent of the total population. This so-called 'demographic window of opportunity', which remains open until 2040, presents Viet Nam with a one-time and unique opportunity in its history to plan for this transformation, to make this golden period the driver for socio-economic prosperity the way other countries in Asia have so successfully done, by ensuring that everyone counts and that every young person is educated and supported to achieve their full potential. We can't afford to let this period be wasted. Now is the time to invest in our young people!

I would like to recommend that you study the 2014 State of World Population Report, and I seek your assistance in disseminating the key messages of this report as widely as possible.

Thank you very much for your attention and participation in this event.
Xin cam on!