International Youth Day Virtual Forum 2021 Youth Empowerment in times of COVID-19
12 August 2021
IYD 2021 is organized by Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Youth & Sports, ISIS Malaysia, UN in Malaysia, SUHAKAM, Malaysian Youth Council and UNAM Youth
YB Senator Tuan Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Bin Wan Ahmad Kamal, DeputyMinister of Youth and Sports
Dr. Zainah binti Shariff, Deputy Director General, Youth Development Division, Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia
Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth
Distinguished moderator, speakers, participants, and organizing committee
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to this commemoration of International Day of Youth in Malaysia on the theme "Youth Empowerment in times of COVID-19".
The UN turns 76 this year amid an unprecedented global public health crisis. As the world grapples with the virus and the devastating socio-economic impact it has had on lives and livelihoods, we need global and national solidarity in order to recover and get back on track to achieve the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Serious global challenges need our urgent attention in the economic, social and environmental spheres. However, the SDGs remain the most relevant and comprehensive roadmap to achieve the future that we want and need; and in our efforts to build back better.
A whole of society approach is critical towards this end. And young people like you, have an important role to play.
We can view the youth of today as Generation SDGs - the largest generation of young people in history, who can play a significant role in shaping development fo the future that they want in the aftermath of COVID-19.
The global theme this year, "transforming food systems: youth innovation for human and planetary health," underscores the potential of youth as active partners in the global society contributing to implementing the SDGs.
It is a generation that is deeply concerned about the issues plaguing our planet - be they from tertiary institutions and the youth workforce in private, government and CSO.
As our partners of today to the leaders in the present and of tomorrow, there are five roles that youths can play to realise the SDGs - as:
Critical thinkers: Asking questions, identifying and challenging existing power structures and barriers to change, to exposing contradictions and biases. We see many young people who are social media inlfuencers who do just this.
Change-makers: With the power to act and mobilise others bolstered by broader connectivity and access to social media.
Innovators: Youth best understand the problems they face and can offer new ideas and alternative solutions.
Communicators: Young people can be partners in communicating the development agenda to their peers and communities at the local level, as well as across countries and regions.
Leaders: Youth-led organisations and networks, in particular, should be supported and strengthened because they contribute to the development of civic leadership skills among young people, especially marginalised youth.
We should acknowledge that the Youths of today will be our leaders and role models in the present and of tomorrow - as we reach the 2030 deadline and transition post-2030.
When we talk about youth participation, I want to stress that we must first, listen to them. We must enable youths to speak up and be heard. An opportunity to be heard could lead to the boldest ideas and innovation. Provide them with the space, the platform to engage and listen to them and respond in a principled, constructive and supportive way. The future is theirs, and they should shape it.
Hence, the UN has a dedicated Youth 2030 Strategy with a strong commitment to working with youth. The Strategy seeks to significantly strengthen the 'UN's capacity to engage young people and be informed by their views, insights and ideas. It also seeks to ensure the 'UN's work on youth issues is pursued in a coordinated, coherent and holistic manner.
The Strategy is to guide the entire UN as it steps up its work with and for young people across its three pillars – peace and security, human rights, and sustainable development – in all contexts.
I quote the UN Secretary-General ""We must commit to engaging young people fully ---- not only as a symbol or simply to check a box. The goal must be meaningful participation"."
With this, we must pave the way for more platforms for us to listen so as to empower youths in Malaysia.
COVID-19 continues to affect all segments of the population in Malaysia. Youth are among the groups hardest hit. There has been immense economic and social impact – from employment to opportunity loss.
And on the social front, multiple lockdowns have majorly disrupted personal and social lives.
However, like other major crises, COVID-19 has presented us with a huge opportunity to change the way we do things – in all aspects. We have the chance to change outdated, unfair and inefficient policies as we embrace the new normal and build back better.
During this pandemic, we have seen youths coming to the fore to support communities across Malaysia. As an example, in Selangor, two 19-year-old youths created the ‘Feed Selangor’ website where you can locate food banks in the Klang Valley, find mental help support and guide local NGOs to people in need. There are also, countless young volunteers supporting the government in all PPVs across the country.
As we look to recover from this pandemic, as I said earlier, we must listen to youths and invest heavily in youth-friendly and responsive policies and services, youth programming, digital transformation and enhancing skills, youth employment opportunities, and the future of work, as well as youth entrepreneurship for sustainable development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our esteemed panellists today will exchange ideas on empowering young people and their role in policymaking, youth engagement in SDGs and the economic impact of COVID-19 on youths.
The youth are the torchbearers of sustainable development and the drivers for a more fair, just and inclusive world - we must bring them into the fold and most importantly - we must listen.