Deputy Secretary-General Stresses Empowering Females, Youth as Vital to Unleashing Africa’s Vast Potential, in Message for Regional Coordination Mechanism

Following is UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed's message to the closing of the eighteenth session of the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa (RCM), delivered by Frank Schroeder, in Dakar on 26 March:

I am sorry that I could not join you today, but I have been fully briefed on your deliberations.

I have been struck by the quality of the discussions over the past two days and the high level of interest from RCM and regional United Nations Development Group members in advancing the continent's youth agenda. It is clear that empowering Africa's youth is vital to unleashing the full potential of the continent. Investing in their future is central to achieving structural economic transformation and lifting the continent from the trap of low growth, high unemployment, poverty and susceptibility to conflict.

With some of the world's fastest growing economies, Africa has vast potential. Our job is to help Africa build on that promise. It is often said that the continent's biggest asset is its young people and that is why they must be put first. Investing in youth is a fundamental issue of human rights. It is also sound economics and a development imperative. We need to provide youth with the right skill sets for entrepreneurship and enhanced national productivity for Africa's rapid development.

A disengaged population of youth is prone to large-scale migration and susceptible to radicalization. Currently, 60 per cent of Africa's total unemployment is among youth. Unemployment rates are even higher among female youth. It is important that we both protect and empower young women and girls. Deep and pervasive gender inequalities persist in Africa and around the world. Closing the gender gap is a fundamental matter of human rights and justice. It also has clear value to all of society.

The potential economic and development gains from gender equality are vast and well-documented, yet they are currently being bypassed. According to a recent study commissioned by the United Nations Foundation, closing gender gaps in access to products and services in the water, contraception, telecommunications, energy, and child-care sectors could expand economic activity by $300 billion annually by 2025.

So we must invest in women, girls and adolescents so they may survive and thrive. This is the goal of the Every Woman, Every Child movement. Bridging the global gender gap will require leadership and investment by the public and private sectors. So, too, will, efforts to close the education gap for females and males alike. Along with income inequality, this lack of quality, relevant education and training represents an unsustainable loss in human development potential. Lack of opportunity is driving migration from rural to urban centres and between countries.

To change these trends, we have to work together in a more integrated and coordinated manner. Most of the solutions we have shared and debated here will rely on all of us working seamlessly together and delivering as an indivisible entity. We have the necessary frameworks in place to guide our collective work.

At the global level, we have the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development. Here in Africa, we have Agenda 2063 and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). These initiatives are mutually reinforcing and need to remain strategically aligned � including through coherent implementation and reporting.

Agenda 2063 and the promising reform of the African Union will ensure we have a much more effective partner. The ongoing United Nations reforms spearheaded by the Secretary-General will ensure we are a more effective partner for Africa. At the country level, African nations are aligning their efforts to the global and regional agenda, tailoring them to their respective contexts with support from our country teams. This is in line with the Secretary-General's vision and the quadrennial comprehensive policy review.

To support our countries to achieve the overarching principle of leaving no one behind, and to deliver on their ambition of building an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, we must overcome silos. We need to strengthen our capacity for collective analysis, programming and funding, as well as joint implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Together, we must convert the youth bulge into a youth dividend.

We need to prioritize investments in women and youth, to maximize their roles as effective agents of peace and sustainable development. With the right investments and policies, we can harness the demographic trends of the continent and ensure that the increasingly youthful population of Africa can fully contribute to the continent's political, social and economic development. As the United Nations Secretary-General has emphasized, this is central to prevention, which is his top priority.

Prevention means addressing the root causes of conflicts and creating resilience to financial shocks, natural disasters and the impacts of climate change. It entails ensuring that the youth can participate at all levels of society's decision-making and have access to economic opportunities.

The United Nations system is committed to prevention and to sustainable development. These are two sides of the same coin. A clear objective of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 is sustaining peace through sustainable development. Prevention will contribute to this end. At the same time, sustainable development is our best prevention tool.

Our deliberations of the past two days will contribute to our planning and programming throughout 2017. I count on us all to scale up our joint efforts at the country, regional and global levels by moving from joint planning and programming to joint implementation. Delivering quality results is central to the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.

I am confident in our commitment and ability.

Thank you.

Source: United Nations