UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative's remarks at the International Youth Day celebrations in Moroto district
Your Excellency the President of the Republic of Uganda
Hon. Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development
Hon. Cabinet Ministers present
Hon. Members of Parliament present
Religious and Cultural Leaders
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honour to join you today to celebrate and recognize the important contribution that youth are making in this country, and the rest of the world.
I feel very welcome here in Moroto, where the UN family has enjoyed great hospitality from the district leadership and the central government, in our collaborative efforts to support of the development aspirations of the people of Karamoja, and the region.
When I was last here in June this year, I was greatly privileged to have with us, Maama Janet Museveni, the First Lady, to launch the Karamoja Resilience project – a project that is now creating economic opportunities, and helping to empower the people of this region.
Unlike other parts of the country, the potential of youth in Northern Uganda has not been fully unlocked due to the challenges arising from years of conflict and the breakdown of the social and economic infrastructure. Many of them are unemployed, ill-educated and lack formal skills making it difficult to have a decent life.
Today's event is not simply a ceremonial commemoration. It is an opportunity for us to reflect on whether our policies and programmes are strategically empowering our youth.
The theme of this year's national youth day, "unlocking young people's potential for sustainable development through collective investment," is very much in line with government's vision and efforts to transform this country to a middle income status.
However, no country can attain its social and economic development goals without the active participation of its youth. And while some may see the high numbers of youth as a social and political risk, we see them as catalysts and agents of economic and social transformation.
But in order to harness their potential, we must make the right investments in their education and learning, and to provide them with relevant skills to get employed and to create their own jobs. We must also avail opportunities for apprenticeship and mentoring, and ensure they have equal access to reproductive health services in a safe environment.
In this year's global Youth Day theme is "Youth and Mental health" we are also reminded that economic opportunity alone is not enough to empower the youth. We must also ensure that young people are healthy, both in body and mind.
We need also to ensure that youth are part of the decision making to determine their future and to strengthen partnerships with youth-led organizations.
Allow me your excellency, on behalf of the UN family to commend your leadership and the efforts that have been made to put in place some legal and policy measures to unlock the potential of youth in this country, such as development of the National Youth Policy, the National Employment Policy for Uganda, the Skilling Uganda Strategic Plan 2012-2022; the student loan scheme, the youth livelihood programme; the introduction of ICT Incubation centers; as well as the National Youth Council- all of which provide a framework for youth engagement and employment.
However, the benefits of these programmes have not yet been felt by many youths, particularly in Northern Uganda. As development partners, we are concerned that the region is still lagging behind the rest of the country in all development indicators despite the efforts of government and other partners to provide support over the years.
I am pleased to inform you your excellency, that we have initiated discussion with the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to support a comprehensive analysis of the vulnerabilities and human development needs of the people of Northern Uganda to enable us provide the right kind of targeted support and interventions for this region.
In the meantime, efforts must be made to operationalize the national youth policy and action plan without further delay. The UN stands ready and prepared to facilitate this process to increase support for youth in development. The UN has worked with the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development to develop a Youth Entrepreneurship Manual and that UN is also working with the same Ministry to finalise the National Action Plan for Youth Employment.
We have recently re-focused our attention and efforts to address (i) Gender Equality, Women Empowerment and Gender Based Violence (ii) Maternal and Newborn Health (iii) Youth Engagement and Employment, for the remaining two years of our strategic partnership with government.
We see these three convergence areas, as the 'game changers' where we can work more innovatively and collectively as the UN System to make a difference, more especially here in Northern Uganda where we have started seeing the fruits of this convergence.
We will continue to mobilize resources for innovative pilot initiatives to inform policy development, and to provide technical support to build the necessary capacity to realize the development goals of this country.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As UN member states negotiate the new Post-2015 Development Agenda, we are hearing a strong call for a Post-2015 Agenda that prioritises investment in youth.
The Open Working Group, tasked with developing Sustainable Development Goals, has identified seventeen (17) potential focus areas, which Member States are currently reviewing. The UN has also provided support for this process in Uganda and last Friday a national consultative forum was held under the leadership of the Honourable Sam Kuteesa, the newly elected President of the UN General Assembly, to discuss the means of implementing the sustainable development goals agenda in Uganda.
We are pleased to see the inclusion of many of the critical issues that were missing from the MDGs, that could help unlock the potential of youth in Uganda and globally.
We have worked in partnership with the National Planning Authority and sector ministries to develop an Issues Paper on Youth to intergrate their concerns in all the key pillars to make sure that economic performance translates into substantial reduction in poverty indicators and creation of employment opportunities.
I would like to conclude by reiterating the UN's commitment to continue partnering with government, other partners and the people of Uganda to advance the empowerment of youth in this country.
I thank you for listening, and wish all the young men and women present here today, a wonderful day of celebration.