Bakhodir Burkhanov: Vanuatu National Dialogue on Youth Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Nov 1, 2017

Acting Director-General of Youth and Sports, Mr. George Maeltoka

Acting Director of the Department of Youth and Sports, Mr. Paul Nalau

Directors of Government agencies, Ministry officials present today

Secretary-Generals, Youth and Sports officers from provinces

Development partners

Representatives of Youth Councils from around the country

Youth leaders, young women and men

Colleagues and friends:

It is my privilege to welcome you to the Vanuatu National Dialogue on Youth Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I would like to thank the Government of Vanuatu and the dedicated team at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.

What is this event all about and why are we focusing on Youth? 

Firstly, six out of every ten youth in the world are in Asia-Pacific – equivalent to almost 700 million young people in 2015. Pacific may not have such a large share of this population, but socio-demographic changes within our region are equally transformative.

Secondly, young people today are more connected, more creative, more informed and more persuasive than any previous generation. All around the world, young people are responding to the challenges of the day with innovative approaches. Young people are contributing fresh ideas; they are reaching out, building bridges and making connections. They are creating the world that they want and driving human development for themselves, their communities and the society as a whole.

Indeed, they are already the torch-bearers of the Sustainable Development agenda who will take us all through to 2030 and beyond.

Yet the challenges they face are unprecedented, too – ranging from multiple forms of inequalities and social exclusion, to unemployment and climate change. Too many young people are frustrated with the education that is not keeping pace with today’s world; are out of work or in insecure jobs; or have too few opportunities to express themselves, share their values and take part in the decisions that affect their lives.

What is UNDP’s offer?

UNDP has long been engaged in promoting opportunities for youth across all spheres of development. We nurture and spread best practices, and scale them up for greater impact. 

From regional perspective, we have the Youth CoLab project, empowering young people to be leaders of change. The project’s main objective is to establish a common agenda for Asia-Pacific countries to invest in and empower youth to accelerate progress on the SDGs through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship. 

UNDP is keen to work with stakeholders to establish partnerships in the areas of policy dialogue and research on youth and SDGs, youth innovation and entrepreneurship, social engagement and participation, and exchange programs. 

By strengthening the social entrepreneurship ecosystem, the project will invest in and create a sustainable and innovative platform for budding youth-led social enterprises to generate sustainable impact in their communities. To this end, the Project focuses on five priorities: 

  • Inspire and Engage young people through innovation and localized actions for SDGs;
  • Incubators and Innovations to foster and incubate youth-led entrepreneurship for SDGs such as the ‘Youth Empowerment Alliance of Incubators’;
  • Knowledge and Research to inform new youth entrepreneurship initiatives;
  • Networking and Policy by supporting youth summits to set the agenda for region-wide initiatives on youth and SDGs;
  • Sustainability to ensure financial sustainability of current and new youth empowerment initiatives.

How does Vanuatu relate to this regional initiative?

Vanuatu is ranked 112 out of 170 countries regarding youth development and engagement in tackling the development challenges. This is based on the 2016 Global Youth Development Index covering education, health and wellbeing, employment opportunities, political and civic participation.

The National Youth Policy defines young people as those aged between 12-30 years, and this group accounts for about a third (1/3) of Vanuatu’s total population (234,023) as recorded in the latest National Population and Housing Census (2009). This is a massively productive force for progress and growth, and much more can be done to enable them to contribute to national development. Indeed, the National Youth Policy acknowledges the vital contribution of youth and focuses on three areas, namely: education and entrepreneurial pathways; personal development; and public participation.

This National Dialogue is initiated to provide an engagement platform and to assist the Government of Vanuatu and key partners in creating national solutions to address the challenges of youth so they can become the agents of change and actively participate in the development process at all levels.

Today in this room, we have key stakeholders who can make this happen. Most importantly, it is you, the young people of all backgrounds, provinces and communities. As a group and individually, you can make a difference in helping Vanuatu realize its vision for development and achieve the Global Goals. Whether you are running a social enterprise or still studying, I hope you will continue to strive each day to make the world a more equal, peaceful and sustainable home for all.

It is often said that young people are the future. Well, you are also our present and we need your leadership, creativity and perseverance to achieve these Goals. 

Our future depends on you and the future is now. I wish you all the best in your endeavours; please know that UNDP stands with you.

Thank you for your attention.

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