It is often said that young people are our future. They are our present, too. It is today, and not tomorrow, that we must invest in young people and include them in solving the great challenges of our times.
Today, more than a billion and a half people are between the ages of 10 and 25—the largest-ever youth generation—and they are approaching adulthood in a world their elders could not have imagined. The world has been hit by the food, financial and climate crises and many young people are eager to help steer our world into greater balance.
To ensure their full participation, we must invest in their health, education and leadership. This is especially true for adolescent girls, many of whom face discrimination, and are denied opportunities and life choices. Today, more than half a billion adolescent girls live in the developing world and they represent a huge untapped potential. If educated, healthy and empowered, they can build a better life for themselves, and their families and nations.
Fifteen years ago in Cairo, at the International Conference on Population and Development, governments agreed that meeting the needs of current generations should not come at the expense of future generations. And, to achieve sustainable change, they agreed to invest in education and health for all, including reproductive health, to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality, and to involve young people in finding solutions to the issues that affect their own lives and our common future.
Today, I call on governments and policymakers to embrace young people as partners, leaders and agents of change. Now is the time to make greater investments in young people, especially adolescent girls, so they can reach their full potential. Investing in young people today is an investment in a sustainable future.