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Voices and activism of young people positively impacting the world: UN

Ms. Maria Ribeiro, UN Resident Coordinator for Zimbabwe

Ms. Maria Ribeiro, UN Resident Coordinator for Zimbabwe has said the voices and activism of young people are making a difference and moving the world closer to the values and vision of the United Nations Charter.

She made the remarks on the occasion to celebrate the International Youth Day held virtually today so as to respect the COVID-19 guidelines. The International Youth Day is being commemorated this year under the theme: “Youth Engagement for Global Action”.

“The UN Secretary-General stated in his message for the occasion that the theme highlights the ways in which the voices and activism of young people are making a difference and moving the world closer to the values and vision of the United Nations Charter.

“This year, the International Youth Day takes place in two contexts:

  • The new reality of COVID-19 and its impact on all of us and particularly we have seen here in Zimbabwe the impact that is having on people’s lives and livelihoods, but hopefully as well it is giving opportunities for innovation and change. Nevertheless, it is adding an extra burden to many of us, particularly we remember the situation of the young people who have the burden of not being able to go to school to pursue their education and continue with their livelihoods
  • It is indeed the 75th anniversary of the UN Organisation, which is your organisation, it belongs to 193 Member States throughout the world. This is also a special occasion is to have the young people to have their voice heard and share their ideas and aspirations,” Ms. Ribeiro said.

The UN senior official said Zimbabwe’s young and resilient professionals are leaving their mark on the world. In that regard, it is the human rights advocates, artists, writers, filmmakers, innovative business leaders and of course athletes, such as the now Honourable Minister Kristy Coventry who have inspired and continue to inspire many young people.

At the sixth Africa Forum on Sustainable Development, Zimbabwean youth were present and visible through the various stands on the innovations and entrepreneurial and the commitment to green economy and development projects in their communities.

The UN in Zimbabwe and elsewhere, is supporting many young people to get involved in the green economy, education, fighting climate change, and also engaging in new technologies.

The youths are involved in many innovation initiatives.

Ms. Ribeiro said one of the people who struck her most at the SDG Forum in Victoria Falls was the young climate advocate Nkosilathi Nyathi, who had been the youngest speaker at the Climate Change Forum in Madrid previously and was also speaking at the opening Forum.

“He is a real example as a young agent for change in the protection of the environment and climate change in the area he lives in which is very close to Vic Falls as well. We have seen young Zimbabweans step up to the mark in response to Cyclone Idai, in mobilising and responding to COVID 19 and other areas as well,” Ms. Ribeiro said.

She urged young Zimbabweans to recommit to their role of being agents of change in their community and to contribute towards building peace. Coinciding with this, the UN Resident Coordinator said it was high time to protect and promote human rights. That implies walking the talk and changing attitudes.

Ms. Ribeiro called for a renewed commitment to climate action and to acting, working, and living in a way that contributes towards a sustainable environment.

“As we celebrate 75 years of the United Nations, we recognise that to keep the promise of this generation means investing far more in young people’s inclusion, participation, organizations, and initiatives. That doesn’t mean that young people are important because of the future, young people are important because of today and because of what they can contribute and bring to their families and communities today.”

The history of the UN is interwoven with peace, human rights, democracy, and human development. And these are all tied in with the commitments to change that in some ways she was challenging young people to take on.

“I would also want to invite you to make your voices heard globally by going on www.UN75.Online, this is an invitation that the Secretary-General has made to young people the world over.

Going forward, allow me to leave you with some factors that need your urgent attention and action today:

  • Demand a high quality of education and the job-related skills that go with it. It is through this that you can grab hold of the economic opportunities available and be leaders and entrepreneurs in your own right. 
  • Stand firm for the values and principles that will ensure society respects human rights.
  • Engage with a spirit of voluntarism, putting your ideas, time, and energy into working towards the goals of human development and strive to help Zimbabwe achieve its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals. This can’t be done without the participation of the youth in Zimbabwe.
  • And recognize and promote the role and contribution of girls and women in equal measure and with equal respect. A country that ignores or disrespects more than half of its population cannot move ahead and will not achieve a higher human development status. We know here in Zimbabwe the promotion of gender equality and addressing gender-based violence is a priority for many stakeholders and groups.”

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende