Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

4 October 11

Social Development: Statement by Mr. Dirk Janssen Youth Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Statement by Mr. Dirk Janssen

Youth Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

on the occasion of the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly, Third Committee, under agenda item 27 b) "social development, including questions relating to the world social situation and to youth, ageing, disabled persons and the family"

New York, 3 October 2011


 Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year, throughout the world, millions of young people sent a wake-up call to their governments. They demand action and attention for the meagre prospects they experience. They want to be free to form their lives, climb on the social ladder and participate in building their societies.

Last April, when the revolutions were dynamic and developing, fellow Dutch youth and I skyped with a young Middle Eastern woman called Kinda. Kinda was one of the young women standing on streets and squares to demand her freedom. She used the internet to support fellow peers in neighbouring countries. To us, she said: ‘I am very eager to develop my potential for the benefit of myself and others, but I demand my rights and freedoms to be respected because without it, no progress is possible’. That conversation made us more conscious about our own freedoms, opportunities and responsibilities.

Today, I ask your attention for a new development seen in The Netherlands and worldwide: the fact that young people are becoming a globally interconnected generation. Firstly, I will describe the broader meaning of this development. Secondly, I will discuss its implications for political decision making and governance and give two recommendations.

These recommendations come forth from my encounters as Dutch Youth Representative with over 2500 young people and consultations with national and international youth organizations.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s world faces a unique situation as its youth is becoming more and more globally interconnected. Social media like Twitter and Facebook went up from 0 to 200 million and 600 million members in respectively 5 and 7 years and connected people, particularly youth, like Kinda and me, around the world. 5 In the Netherlands, in a poll covering 11.000 youth between the age of 12 to 18, over 54% indicated they have friendships outside Europe.

That poll illustrates that true interconnectedness is not just about sharing an internet connection, but about discovering face-to-face that your similarities with your African peer are greater than your differences. It illustrates that interconnectedness is not only about both having a cell phone, but about understanding different cultures because your classmates come from all sort of creeds and motherlands.

So what does becoming interconnected really mean?

Firstly, when our interconnectedness becomes tangible, as was the case with Kinda and me, it forces us to become conscious about each other’s presence. It forces us to acknowledge each other’s humanity. And it forces us, again and again, to accept our responsibility towards each other and the planet and think about the consequences of our actions to others.

Increasingly, youth understands this philosophy. Moreover, youth organizations, such as Students for Tomorrow, HOPE XXL and Cross Your Borders in The Netherlands, lead by example. They inspire many to meet the standard of ‘Do no Harm. Do Good’. This can apply to buying sustainable and fair products, fighting for each other’s human rights or being friendly to each other despite our differences.

Hence, when we see our interconnectedness as an opportunity for a positive exchange, it enables us to do good and understand each other better. In addition, interconnectedness also means that we become more informed about what happens to our peers and friends on the other side of the world, what our governments do and what is discussed here at the UN.

Dutch youth knows that we have the lowest youth unemployment in Europe and that the large majority of Dutch youth enjoys great opportunities and lives in comfort. But they also know that if you are migrant youth, you are twice more likely to be unemployed, that if you are youth with disabilities you only have 9% chance of working for a regular employer and that if you are a under-aged asylum seeker your children’s rights are under pressure.

Youth organizations were closely watching the developments regarding the High Level Meeting on Youth. They have seen the engagement of many missions and UN agencies. But they also see the lack of political priority and financial support and the little meaningful youth participation during the International Year of Youth and during youth resolutions.

Worldwide, young people have access to the online reports of the Worldbank, IMF and other organizations. They are aware of the fact that 13% of young people worldwide are unemployed as a result of the economic and food crises as well as the more alarming heights recorded for young women and youth in particular regions. Most importantly, they know, often because of personal experience, the real tragedies, endured injustice and waist of the potential of millions of youth that lie behind these figures.

Interconnectedness therefore does not only give us information, it makes us demand together and loudly that our governments start to act and prioritize youth. To governments and the UN, we say it is time to turn the tide before you miss the boat:

a) Let us participate. Structural systems of participation for issues that affect youth now or in the future are needed at all levels of governance and decision making. This includes youth representatives from all countries at the UN. If you don’t want to lose young people’s faith in political institutions and if you want to use their potential for the benefit of all, meaningful participation and inclusiveness are essential.

b) Prioritize providing perspective to all youth. This requires respect for youths rights and freedoms, investment in their empowerment and particularly, working opportunities. Concretely, and based on best practises in The Netherlands, I call upon the Member States to consider setting up a structural dialogue between employers and educational institutions to avoid skills mismatches so that students can be ensured that their skills will be needed on the labour market.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen,

Think about Kinda and the millions of youth that now gain a voice that can reach far and wide. If we listen to them and let them participate, if we turn our promises on paper into real reforms and reality, and if we have the courage, the wisdom and the decency of granting them the same rights, liberties and opportunities that are granted to us, I am convinced that they can clear the coast of hopelessness and work on the dream of dignity for all.