"Widening the democratic space:
The role of youth in public decision-making"
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to declare open the first Forum on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, dedicated to the widening of democratic space and the role of youth in public decision making.
I would like to warmly welcome and congratulate Mr. Ahmad Al-hendawi, the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy on Youth, and His Excellency Mr. Daniiar Mukashev, Permanent Representative of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva, who have kindly accepted the important task of co-chairing this session of the Forum.
I would also like to welcome the representatives of Member States, United Nations specialised agencies, international and regional organisations, and national human rights institutions, as well as non-governmental organizations, academics and experts.
I am very pleased to see that this inaugural session of the Forum has been successful in bringing together young people from all over the world, to share and discuss their personal experiences.
This Forum was established by the Human Rights Council in 2015 through its resolution 28/14, which emphasizes the importance of dialogue among relevant stakeholders on issues related to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. With this resolution, the Council recognised the value of sharing best practices, challenges and opportunities for States in their efforts to secure respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The importance of further exploring the relationship between these three areas was also highlighted.
Strengthening youth participation in public affairs should be a core objective for any society aspiring to inclusiveness, democracy and respect for human rights. And it is crucial that barriers to the participation of all people are removed, including for young people in situations of vulnerability or exposed to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
In its resolution 2250, the Security Council unanimously recognised that youth should be actively engaged in shaping lasting peace and contributing to justice and reconciliation. It further recognized that a large youth population presents a unique demographic dividend that can contribute to lasting peace and economic prosperity if inclusive policies are in place.
The Human Rights Council also plays an important role in drawing international attention to the obstacles faced by young people around the world in the exercise of their right to meaningfully and effectively participate in public decision making. The Panel discussion on “Youth and human rights”, held last September, brought some of these issues to our attention. We know that the role of youth in the realization of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is essential. We also know that more must be done to facilitate and improve the participation of young people in public and political life. And we know that we need to mainstream the rights of young people in human rights mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review process, by involving youth organizations in national consultations.
Over the course of today and tomorrow, we are provided with the valuable opportunity to explore these and other issues in greater depth, with the view to ensuring that young people are given the means to fulfil their role as actors of change and progress in society.
When looking out at the large number of participants here today, and in particular the young people, I am confident that this meeting will greatly contribute to advancing our dialogue and to achieving the overall objectives of the Forum.
I would like to reaffirm the commitment of the Human Rights Council to protect the rights and lives of all individuals who cooperate with the United Nations and its mechanisms in the field of human rights. The Council condemns any and all acts of intimidation or reprisal against such individuals and groups. As President of the Human Rights Council, I will continue to urge States to prevent and ensure adequate protection of those individuals against any such acts.
On the occasion of International Youth Day this year, the Secretary-General reminded all of us of the important role that young people should play in our societies, by stating:
“The world’s young people – who make up the largest generation of youth in history – can lead a global drive to break the patterns of the past and set the world on course to a more sustainable future.” Today, I gladly join the Secretary-Generalin calling for the empowerment of young people to lead us in finding solutions to the many challenges that we face.
I wish you every success in your discussions, and I pledge the full support of the Human Rights Council to this endeavour.