The Secretary General remarks at the University of Calgary

“A Call to Youth: The United Nations and Canada in a Changing World”

Calgary, 12 August 2016

Dr. Dru Marshall, Provost of the University of Calgary,

Distinguished faculty and students,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour to be here. Thank you for coming out in summertime.

I have always wanted to visit Calgary. I thought about coming in April to celebrate the last day of classes. The problem is: I look terrible in Bermuda shorts!

Unfortunately, I am too late for the Calgary Stampede.

And I arrived on a Friday morning – so I missed Thursden!

I will have to come back to catch these traditions.

They are fun – but more than that, they show Calgary’s strong sense of community.

Today, I encourage you to see our world as your community.

This morning, I met with local and provincial authorities. We agreed that Calgary has a global mission.

This University is preparing you well.

But education is not something you take – it is something you use to give back to the world.

I am here with a call to help us rise to three global challenges: sustainable development, employment and peace.

And I’m especially pleased to be here today – because August 12th is International Youth Day.

The United Nations and Canada are in sync – especially when it comes to the power of young people to change the world.

I am proud to have appointed the first-ever United Nations Youth Envoy, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the only world leader who is also Minister of Youth.

When we met last February in Ottawa, we agreed that young people can drive change.

This is essential to rising to the first challenge I raise today: to end poverty while protecting our planet.

We have a visionary plan: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This is a pact between governments and people.

Leaders pledged to address poverty, injustice and environmental degradation.

This plan is universal. It covers all people, in all countries.

I applaud Canada for starting to work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

I am particularly encouraged by attention to First Nations peoples. I met a number of their representatives this afternoon to show my solidarity.

Indigenous peoples around the world are central to addressing global warming.

I hope that all Canadians, including indigenous leaders, can push for ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change by the end of this year.

Shifting to a low-carbon future should not hurt employment.

The leaders of Alberta understand this. Even before the Paris Conference, Alberta announced a climate action plan. And I commend Alberta’s serious steps to significantly reduce or cap greenhouse-gas emissions.

There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This year, the United Nations will name the first-ever class of 17 young leaders for sustainable development. We already have 18,000 nominations, including many young Canadians. We will bring the winners to the United Nations in September.

All of you can be sustainable development leaders. The Goals are comprehensive. You may be interested in human rights or justice. You may be fascinated by agriculture or medicine. You may want to care for the elderly or teach in schools. Any path you choose can lead to a more sustainable future.

Distinguished faculty,

Dear students,

The second challenge is youth unemployment.

There are more than 70 million unemployed youth. More than twice as many young workers live in poverty.

This is a massive challenge – but young people can be part of the solution.

My Youth Envoy has been pressing governments to invest in young entrepreneurs.

Today I am also announcing the appointment of a new Special Envoy for Youth Employment. Mr. Werner Faymann, former Chancellor of Austria, will work with my Youth Envoy and the International Labour Organization to address the jobs challenge.

Youth can do more than find jobs – they can create them.

Just feel the energy in this room. You are full of ideas.

Don’t only seek jobs; invent them.

Sure – you may fail. But remember: every successful entrepreneur climbed to the top on a stack of failures. The trick is to keep climbing.

Along the way you will get something more valuable than any material reward. You will gain resilience, confidence and compassion for others.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The third challenge is peace.

Right now, millions of young people are affected by conflict.

I am outraged at this injustice.

And I am concerned that some see youth as the problem.

Violent extremists may prey on young people – but the vast majority of young people want peace.

When we invest in them, they can take care of the rest.

No one can move a young person better than their peer.

For a long time I have been asking why young people are sent to war without ever getting the chance to make peace.

Young people can break barriers, reach across divisions and forge understanding.

The United Nations Security Council has finally recognized the importance of youth.

Last December, it adopted Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security.

Today I can announce that we are forming a new Advisory Group to study progress on that historic resolution.

Nearly half of the Group’s members are young. Some of them survived conflict. One lost her father in war. Another was shot. Others were refugees.

The Group’s experts come from around the world, including Canada.

I expect their report will advance progress.

We need you to help generate change. Raise your voices. Prove that youth are not a liability – they are an opportunity. Build trust in your communities. Help the United Nations build peace in our world.

Distinguished faculty and students,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I began this trip to the Americas with a stop in Brazil for the Rio Olympics.

This year, the International Olympic Team did something extraordinary.

They created a refugee team.

I met its members. Whether or not they earn any medals, they are already winners. They embody the Olympic spirit to show that people can do even more than anyone ever dreamed.

The Olympic spirit is alive and well here in Calgary. Everyone remembers 1988. This campus itself was the home of the Olympic Village.

I think about the refugees in Brazil – and the ones here.

I heard about one mother who resettled in Calgary after her son – who is deaf – was shot in the neck. She said, “I dream that my kids will do something good for Canada, because Canada saved us.”

Dear friends,

There is no place like the University of Calgary. I am sure you are the only campus with your own giant prairie chicken.

You have something else – an inspiring motto: “I will lift up my eyes.”

Let us lift up our eyes with global vision to see the potential for a just, peaceful and prosperous world.

Be a global citizen.

With this great vision, let us create a better future for all.

Thank you.

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About STELLA VUZO

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