UN envoy Yamamoto's International Youth Day message in Hasht-e-Subh
The following article, by Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, appeared in today’s edition of the leading independent daily, Hasht-e-Subh (8 a.m.), on the occasion of International Youth Day, which is marked annually on 12 August.
Honouring Afghanistan’s Young Generation
By Tadamichi Yamamoto
I’ve had the opportunity over recent years to meet with a generation of young inspiring Afghans – youthful citizens who constantly renew my confidence in this nation’s future.
The United Nations understands the power of youth:
The UN has observed International Youth Day since 1999, drawing attention to the power all young people hold to make positive changes in their communities and country. Over the last two years the Security Council has adopted two landmark resolutions recognizing youth are essential agents in building and sustaining a lasting peace, as well as in both deterring and resolving conflicts.
Today, International Youth Day 2017, is dedicated to the celebration of the young generation’s active role in conflict prevention, inclusion, social justice, and a sustainable peace.
In Afghanistan, the young generation is, indeed, a mighty force: Some 68.5 per cent of all Afghans are less than 35 years old, meaning it has the second youngest population in the world.
Students, journalists, peace activists – young men and young women – who are making their mark in different fields, particularly peacemaking, have impressed me wherever I’ve travelled in Afghanistan.
My conversations with these young Afghans encourage and enthuse the UN’s work.
The youth I’ve met have raised their voices against the wanton violence of war and divisions along ethnic or religious grounds. They see beyond the troubles of Afghanistan’s past – and focus on the nation’s future.
On the occasion of International Youth Day, we at the UN would like to thank all young Afghans for lighting the way and restate our commitment to lending our support in your work to create a stable, peaceful and prosperous nation.
We also believe that the young voters – who cast well over half of the votes in the 2014 election – will continue to positively engage in the upcoming elections. Many more Afghans too young to vote in the last elections will have their opportunity in future polls. Use your vote. This is the way to drive positive development in Afghanistan.
Finally, in order to sustain and enhance youth engagement, the UN believes it is crucial to underpin education in all fields. This must also include Afghanistan’s poor and disenfranchised children, including the hundreds of thousands of young Afghans who have been displaced by conflict and are living in the hardship of make-shift camps.
In celebrating youth day we must keep them in our hearts and minds, and redouble our efforts to ensure they are not forgotten are do gain access to education.
I am reassured, personally, that the National Unity Government is taking steps to help educate a new generation of leaders. President Ashraf Ghani has, himself, shown a determined interest in including young Afghans in government decision-making in greater percentages than ever before.
Our UN Mission and the UN as a global body has been encouraged by the government’s growing and strong commitment to youth, and we will continue to support all efforts to create a diverse cadre of young men and women to lead Afghanistan into a peaceful and tolerant future.
Tadamichi Yamamoto is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and the Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).