Mohammed said this at a dialogue between some of the organisation’s senior officials and youth leaders, held in Madrid, Spain, to commemorate the World Cities Day, observed annually on Oct. 31.
“Young people are an integral part of a growing network of local and global voices uniting around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which promise a more just, equitable and “greener” world by the 2030 deadline.
“As strong advocates for climate action and social justice, they have a key role in efforts to achieve sustainable development that benefits both people and the planet,’’ she said in a statement.
According to her, today’s young people have social media platforms at their disposal, and while these can be great communications tools, she warned against using it wrongly.
The UN top official, however, warned that youths could cause people to have a narrow view of things, instead of seeing the wider world and multiple perspectives.
She also spoke of the importance of representation, and the need to open spaces for the youth, adding that young people themselves should also make their voices heard.
The deputy secretary-general said the UN must let young people speak, and really listen to them.
Mohammed underscored why it was necessary to have youths at the table especially given the current global crises.
She also said that democracy belonged to the young, adding that but lately many did not vote, meaning they were not represented.
The deputy chief called for youths to defend democracy, fight for it, and safeguard the rights of youths.
In addition, she spoke on how youth and gender must be mainstreamed across the UN system and reflected in all its work.
She recalled that as far back as the Habitat III UN conference on housing and sustainable urban development, held in Quito, Ecuador, in 2016, young people came up with their own benchmark to review global progress thus far.
UN entities in Spain were encouraged to invite youth representatives from different sectors to participate in the dialogue.
They included Lina Amir, youth representative from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, who shared her perspective from the health and prevention sector.
She spoke about how young people are discouraged from taking part in politics, for example, due to factors such as fear and insecurity.
Amir suggested that knowledge is necessary to overcome this, and decision makers should create more programmes that help young people gain confidence.
She added that more intergenerational spaces need to be established to find common solutions, while dedicated spaces must be created to incorporate youth opinions in political debates.
“Youths should gain a deep understanding of the world, and of environmental, social and economic sustainability, as well as the 2030 Agenda as a roadmap for the future.
“This training should be mainstreamed across all educational levels – from kindergarten to university,” he said.