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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Samarkand Human Rights ForumYouth 2020: Global Solidarity, Sustainable Development and Human RightsVideo message by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights12 August 2020

12 August 2020

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I'm delighted to be a virtual part of this gathering, on the 20th anniversary of the first International Youth Day.

At a time when the coronavirus pandemic and climate change threaten to set back progress towards sustainable development and many human rights goals, it is vital to heighten meaningful engagement and participation by young people across all forms of public life.

They have an enormous stake in the future we are building today.

Around the world, young people are standing up for universal human rights, sustainable development and climate action. Their activism promotes the right of all of us to a healthy planet. The right to live free from discrimination, deprivation and oppression. The right to a healthy and inclusive future.

The value of this activism by young people should be acknowledged and taken into account by all, including governments.

Many indications show that the COVID-19 pandemic will have damaging impact on today's young people. It has massively disrupted education, training systems and the job market. It is generating hunger and increasing poverty. It is exacerbating existing inequalities – including those, which burden many girls and young women, as well as many members of ethnic, racial and religious minorities.

And it may reshape the future of entire economies.

To resolve these issues, and build back better systems, we need to respond to COVID-19 with measures that address and prevent inequalities and development deficits, in both the short and long term.

We need to strengthen social cohesion with measures that uphold justice and respect for everyone – recalling that justice, and human rights, are the best antidote to extremism and despair.

We need to advance resilient, inclusive and sustainable societies. And to do that – to advance greater respect for human rights – we need your support.

In many countries, young people have been joining together to combat the pandemic in their societies, alongside health and social workers. To build back better, we need to enhance these and other forms of partnership to address important social issues – including many that extend beyond health.

This Samarkand Human Rights Forum is an opportunity for young people from across this region to share their experiences – and for Government representatives to listen to them.

It is an opportunity for all actors to seek out ways to strengthen the role of youth in achieving sustainable development, and ensure that policies include the needs – and the voices – of the young.

I thank the authorities for giving us this opportunity for deep, frank and fruitful discussion.