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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

01 August 2023

ESCAP ES

Distinguished participants, dear students, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to address you today at the opening of the 11th University Scholars Leadership Symposium.

I thank the organizer, Humanitarian Affairs Asia, for the invitation. And I encourage all scholars and students to learn and engage in various academic activities on certain issues related to sustainable development.

This year marks the midpoint in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Unfortunately, the remaining half of the road will not be what we have anticipated. The multiple overlapping crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, escalating geopolitical conflicts and worsening climate change, are impacting the socio-economic fabric of our societies like never before.

Countries are thrown off track in achieving the SDGs. If the progress continues at its current pace, achieving the Goals will take several more decades.

Distinguished participants, , ladies and gentlemen,

To bring the SDGs back on track, we need accelerated actions with bold leadership, innovative solutions and collective efforts from all segments of society. And in this process, we must recognize that young people will play a very critical role.

The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than 700 million young people, representing about 60 per cent of the global population aged 15 to 24. The region has huge potential to leverage large forces and the powers of young people to forge ahead in our path to achieving the SDGs.

Our youth today shares certain attributes that serve as strong catalysts for economic, social and environmental transformation in the region and beyond.

Young persons are the source of innovation; they bring new ways of solving issues that are not constrained by the convention of older generations; they are eager to challenge the status quo; and they are often at the forefront of social movements and advocacy efforts that push for positive change.

This kind of qualities young people possess makes them well-fitted to address the complex and interconnected challenges of the SDGs and bring new and creative solutions.

Let me highlight a few key points on how we can effectively support this ambition:

First, we need to invest in youth-led organizations and initiatives. These groups provide new ways and platforms for young people to learn, take action and collaborate with others. They also help to amplify their voices, encourage innovations and create a sense of community and solidarity.

Second, we need to provide young people with education and training through formal education and informal learning opportunities. This knowledge and skill development will equip them with a strong foundation to become effective leaders, innovators and problem solvers.

Third, we need to create opportunities for the younger generation to participate in decision-making processes at all levels. This means involving them in policy formulation, design and implementation, and increasing space for them to share their ideas and wisdom. These processes will ensure that their voices are heard and their ideas are not taken for granted.

It is encouraging to witness the dedication of our young leaders and scholars in working towards finding sustainable development solutions and directing their passion to build a better future for societies.

Let me conclude by reminding our young scholars and students that you are not just the leaders of tomorrow; you can be the leaders of today with your fresh perspectives and strong spirits of engagement in driving a better future.

With that, I wish you all a very successful and productive Symposium.

Thank you very much.

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