I thank the Dominican Republic Presidency of the Security Council for organizing this open VTC. I also thank the Secretary General for his briefing. I echo the sentiments of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and the other young briefers. Their concerns and aspirations have to be taken into due cognizance by us. Today’s meeting comes at a time when the whole world is fighting against the dreadful COVID 19 pandemic. Many young medical professionals, emergency personnel, peacekeepers, and peacebuilders are at the forefront of this battle. Yet, many others are stranded at their home passing through an uncertain time. The pandemic has far-reaching impacts on our young generation. We must, therefore, pay heed to their voices for overcoming the crisis and reversing its potential adverse impacts on our peace and development gains. We need to invest more to help them adapt to new situations and to be part of the solution.
Bangladesh welcomed the adoption of the Security Council Resolution 2250(2015). We consider the subsequent progress study The Missing Peace and its follow-up resolution 2419 to be important contributions to the YPS discourse. They helped putting the YPS agenda on a truly multidimensional and forward-looking trajectory. We also welcome the first ever report of the Secretary General on the agenda. Its recommendations provide a comprehensive framework of promoting youth’s potential role as active agents of building and sustaining peace. It is crucial that young people all over the world get the opportunity to unleash their positive energy and realize their potentials to create a sustainable and peaceful world. For that the peace and development actors must work hand in hand building on the momentum of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
A fairly young country, Bangladesh will enjoy a demographic dividend till 2035 from its large youth population. They carry forward the proud legacy of earlier generations of youth who played the leading role in our nation’s independence and democratic struggles and now in our strides towards peace and development through participation in nation building efforts. We are working to harness these historical and demographic dividends into development dividends. We are making policy intervention to tap into the immense source of transformative energy of our young women and men and turn them into true agents of change. Our Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has launched the vision of an inclusive, knowledge driven economy under the slogan of “Digital Bangladesh” where youth are the foot soldiers. Our Youth Development Policy 2017 exemplifies our efforts on not leaving any young person behind. The policy upholds our constitutional provisions to ensure rights, justice, and equity for all young people. We actively encourage a ‘whole-of-society’ approach to inculcate in youth moral and ethical values of human dignity, pluralism, diversity, and non-violence. We have been actively working towards greater inclusion of the voices of the youth in major policy debates as well as involving them in planning and implementation of our national development plans including in the SDGs. New generation leadership is occupying greater space both in government and private sectors. We have already started receiving rich dividends of these multilayered initiatives. Our entrepreneurial young generation is leading in e-commerce and e-business alleviating unemployment issues and social frustration. In crises and calamities, they have always been at the forefront through spontaneous engagements and left their marks. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, they are contributing in many ways—starting from innovative digital tools and ideas for tracing infections to raising awareness at community levels. Going forward, we wish to work more closely with the international community and the UN in implementing the UN Youth Strategy “Youth 2030” in alignment with our national priorities. We also hope to spearhead further dialogue involving the youth around implementing the YPS agenda. We look forward to drawing up a comprehensive National Action Plan on YPS.
Investment in YPS agenda makes eminent sense from all considerations. The key challenges faced by our youth today are not necessarily unique to any particular context but have global ramifications. Keeping this in mind, we would like to underscore the following specific points:
First, YPS agenda should be used to develop stronger narratives to change the general mindset about youth’s potential to contribute to peacebuilding; support and recognize their role in preventing conflict and sustaining peace; and restore the youth’s trust in governments and multilateral systems. For that, we underscore the importance of adequate financing for national and local level initiatives aimed at amplifying the participation of the youth in peace processes.
Second, we must institutionalize involvement of the youth in the promotion of a culture of peace and thereby promote tolerance, intercultural and interreligious dialogue within and across societies. We also need to use them as agents to tackle stereotypes, counter hate speech and xenophobia sweeping the globe.
Third, we must utilize the ‘tech-savvy-ness’ of the youth and provide them with some alternative spaces for engagement through youth associations and networks. This would allow them guide decision-making and ensure their overall inclusion. For that, we need to empower the youth through the promotion of media and information literacy as well as through constructive social media engagements.
Fourth, young men and women remain vulnerable to violent extremist narratives that can take them to the path of radicalization and terrorism; they are also easy prey to organized crimes networks. This is particularly worrying in conflict situations and humanitarian crises as we are experiencing around the world. We need to engage young role models to dissuade them. Also, we need to develop practical ways at global, national and community levels to include the youth in the development of relevant programmes and initiatives aimed at preventing terrorism and violent extremism.
Fifth, quality, inclusive and transformative education can turn our youth into truly global citizens; help shape global discourses; foster the youth’s critical thinking; and provide them with skill sets for building social cohesion as well as civic and economic engagements. We must ensure them affordable access to such type of education.
Sixth, with the right environment and tools, young people can indeed prove to be a force to reckon with for conflict prevention and sustaining peace even in the most difficult situations. As a major T/PCC, we have experienced how young people among our troops and police continue to make a difference in the UN peacekeeping operations.
Seventh, the YPS and WPS agenda have many essential common threads. They need to reinforce each other in their efforts to overcome the traditional gender norms and practices, which disproportionately impact on the potentials of young women in many contexts across the world. The Peacebuilding Commission and UN Peacebuilding Fund have demonstrated some useful precedents and results in this regard such as the Gender and Youth Promotion Initiative (GYPI). We need more structured engagements for sharing good practices among UN agencies and national governments in this regard.
Eighth: we need to collect and analyze age-disaggregated data to yield stronger evidence-based policy interventions and build institutional capacity for implementation of YPS agenda and reduce structural barriers to youth participation.
Finally, the COVID-19 crisis has given us a real demonstration of the digital transformation that we have gone through during the last couple of decades. In developed parts of the world, the digital connectivity is helping immensely to maintain business continuity during this difficult time. Yet in many other parts of the world internet connectivity and digital platforms still remain a faraway thing. We need to work together to eliminate this digital divide particularly among the youth. We must ensure equal opportunities for the youth from every corner of the world so that they can thrive together.
I thank you.