Young people need safe spaces to pursue their dreams – Guterres

The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has emphasised that the world’s young people need safe spaces: public, civic, physical and digital spaces where they can freely express their views and pursue their dreams.

“In making the world safe for young people, we make the world better for all,” the Secretary General explained, “We must invest so that young people have access to education, training and decent jobs to achieve their full potential.”

He said this on the occasion of International Youth Day 2018 event organised by the UN Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos; United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Strategy for Mentoring Initiative & Leadership Empowerment (S.M.I.L.E), on Saturday 11 August 2018, at University of Lagos Akoka Lagos.

He acknowledged that the hopes of the world rest on young people; and emphasised that the United Nations is strongly committed to listening to the voices of young people and opening pathways for meaningful participation in decisions that affect them.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Her Excellency, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, in her goodwill message, noted that youth activism is on the rise world over, particularly via social media due to broader connectivity and accessibility, therefore, their needs must be attended to. It is in the light of this, according to her, that President Muhammadu Buhari demonstrated its support to youth participation in governance by signing into law the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ bill which is a landmark victory for Nigerian youth.

Princess Orelope-Adefulire who was represented by Mr Gbenga Akinbayo, expressed her trust that activities of 2018 International Youth Day would complement efforts of the Federal Government in youth development.

The Youth Day observance featured three discussion panels under the central theme: “Safe spaces for youth”. The first panel discussed ‘Safe spaces for youth online; the second panel discussed the sub-theme, Youth Involvement in the Civic Space‘; while the third panel discussed ‘Improving Youth Well-being’.

Discussing the Safe spaces for youth online, the Communication Lead of Microsoft Nigeria, Mr Oluwamuyemi Orimolade, emphasised that “The future of the world is technology and technology drives the future; and the future is now.”

He posited further that more people would lose their jobs while more jobs would be created. “Position yourself now and be prepared for the future.” He added.

In her remarks, the Ms Jaiyeola Ayanbadejo of UNFPA, acknowledged that the hope of the world lies with young people of whom more than 400 million live amidst armed conflict or organized violence; and millions face deprivation, harassment, bullying and other infringements of their rights. She enjoined all to make the world safe for young people to make the world better for all.

The President of S.M.I.L.E, Mrs Bimpe Bamgbose-Martins, in her closing remarks, called on governments, private sector, development partners, civil society organisations and other stakeholders to encourage youth innovation and creativity as a driver of national development.

Addressing the press at the event, the Director of UNIC Lagos, Mr Ronald Kayanja, explained that the 2018 theme recognises that youth need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves.

According to him, “Safe spaces ensure the dignity and safety of youth.  Safe spaces such as civic spaces enable youth to engage in governance issues; public spaces afford youth the opportunity to participate in sports and other leisure activities in the community; digital spaces help youth interact virtually across borders with everyone; and well planned physical spaces can help accommodate the needs of diverse youth especially those vulnerable to marginalization or violence.”

The event was also attended by the South Africa’s Consul-General in Lagos, Mr Darkey Afrika. International Youth Day is marked on 12 August every year.