‘It’s your future to define’, says UN deputy chief, urging young African leaders to push for Global Goals

24 February 2020

Meeting in Zimbabwe with young leaders from across the African continent,UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed on Monday encouraged the lively gathering to “use your youth power, for it’s your future to define”, telling them to use technology effectively to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Use your phones not to sow hatred and division, but to bring us together to achieve the [Goals],” she said, adding the youth should take their future seriously and work hard to ensure no one else controlled their narrative.

Ms. Mohammed, who is in Zimbabwe to attend several key meetings, including the Sixth African Forum for Sustainable Development, said today’s youth had more tools to use in their quest for a better future than those of yesteryear. These include gadgets like mobile phones./p>

 Use science, technology and innovation for change  

“You are young. It’s your time now, not tomorrow. Use your youth power, for it’s your future to define,” the UN deputy chief told the gathering. 

Earlier, the young leaders had shared their desire for their governments to enact inclusive policies; eliminate conflicts and poverty; create the much-needed jobs; act against climate change; promote gender parity; give the youth opportunities to participate in decision-making processes; and facilitate and fund innovation hubs, among other issues and ideas.  

“What I have heard here today is inspiring. You have given me more energy to go back and fight the good fight,” Ms. Mohammed said, promising the young people that she would take their concerns and suggestions on how to move the continent to the next level – with youth involvement – to the continent’s leaders.  

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed in conversation with young Zimbabweans at the opening of the 6th African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development in Zimbabwe.
UN Photo/Daniel Getachew
Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed in conversation with young Zimbabweans at the opening of the 6th African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development in Zimbabwe.

The role of youth

Among the youth on the panel was Aya Chebbi, the African Union Youth Envoy, who highlighted youth perspectives on UN-African Union collaboration.   

 While welcoming the UN-AU Framework on peace and security and other collaborative mechanisms, she called for a more visible youth component “to guide our work.”   

 In the ensuing discussion, speakers highlighted, among others, the importance of institutionalizing “generational co-leadership” to ensure a genuine transition to the younger generation, as well including young people in the issue-based coalitions.   

Asked by Ms. Mohammed how they saw the future, most of the youth were optimistic that it was bright, but a few were more pessimistic, saying nothing was likely to change.  

The event was part of series of conversations being held over the coming year for the campaign, UN75, marking the 75th anniversary of the UN Charter and which aims to listen to people’s hopes and fears – as well as their expectations of the UN – in a rapidly changing world. 

Through these conversations, the UN aims to build a global vision of 2045 – the Organization’s centenary, increase understanding of the threats to that future, and support enhanced international cooperation to realize that vision.  

The discussion on Monday was held under the theme ‘UN@75 - The Future is Now: African Youth Engagement for the Decade of Action.’ 


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