Pretoria, 30 Oct. 2013 – During his first visit to South Africa earlier this month, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi agreed with the UN Country Team to make South Africa one of the 15 countries to pilot UN youth advisory boards. The young people will provide the UN in South Africa with input into issues that are important to them.
The Envoy engaged with the UN family over issues relating to youth, meeting with members of the UN Country Team as well as the local UN Communications Group, and the focal points on youth and UNAIDS.
While in South Africa, the first-ever Youth Envoy also participated in the One Young World Summit in Johannesburg, which hosted over 1,000 young people. The Envoy also made a stop at the SOS Children’s Village in Mamelodi, a township outside Pretoria. Meeting with a group of youth representing several SOS Villages across Africa, Alhendawi reminded them that “Africa is a rich continent, and its biggest asset is its young people.”
The students were enthusiastic about the UN’s new focus on the issues of youth. One student commented, “I am very excited about how the youth are now the UN’s top priority. Africa has so much potential, and now perhaps we will be able to realize it fully.”
Youth represent the largest generation of young people the world has ever known. In South Africa, youth make up the majority of citizens – 78 per cent of the total population is below the age of 35 years and 42 per cent are between 15 and 35 years old. Young people face many challenges, including high unemployment, high HIV infection rates, high numbers of youth-headed households and teenage pregnancy. Youth development is one of the cross-cutting priority areas of the UN’s work in South Africa.