National UN Volunteer Nguyen Thi Dieu Hang (with microphone) fields questions from youth during an assembly on HIV/AIDS prevention at a school in Hanoi, Viet Nam. (UNV,2008)

UN Secretary-General's new plan to expand UNV to open its doors to young people

To make the UN more relevant to young people, the UN Secretary-General announced that he will expand the United Nations Volunteers programme, to open its doors for young people, and will appoint the first-ever United Nations Special Adviser on Youth.

Too often, work to assist youth is “piecemeal” and lacks coordination across the UN system, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during his visit to Vienna on 16 February.

“I am determined to bring the United Nations closer to people and make it more relevant to young people,” said Mr. Ban, acknowledging Vienna as “one of four UN headquarters worldwide.”

“This is fundamental to our entire agenda – crucial to everything we do,” said Mr. Ban. “Half the world is women – and half the world is under 25 years of age.”

“They (youth) are still marginalized and underprivileged.  That is one reason we will expand the United Nations Volunteers programme,” Mr. Ban said.  “Today, the average age of UN Volunteers is 37 – we will open the doors for young people and are looking for support.”

Mr Ban said he will appoint the first-ever United Nations Special Adviser on Youth.

“We need a top-to-bottom review so our programmes and policies are working with and for young people,” he said.

In January, the Secretary-General outlined a series of actions he believes the global community must take over the next five years to build “the future we want.”

These included sustainable development; preventing and mitigating conflicts, human rights abuses and the impacts of natural disasters; building a safer and more secure world; supporting countries in transition; and working to engage the talents of women and young people.

“I want to focus on providing women and young people with a greater say in their own destiny and a greater stake in their own dignity,” the Secretary-General said.

Citing “the largest-ever generation of young people”  as “a dividend…not a threat,”  the UN Secretary-General’s action plan calls for existing programmes to deepen the youth focus on employment, entrepreneurship, political inclusion, citizenship and protection of rights, and education, including on reproductive health.

Vienna, Austria