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Statement by Colm O’Rourke, UN Youth Delegate for Ireland

71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Third Committee

Statement by Colm O’Rourke, UN Youth Delegate for Ireland
5th October 2016

Madame Chair:

What should be the priorities of those in power? That’s a question I posed to the numerous young people with whom I consulted in Ireland, before my departure to the United Nations. The question wasn’t met with silence or difficulty, rather, it was met with enthusiasm, passion and a willingness to be heard.

Unsurprisingly, the priorities varied for each young person, with issues relating to housing, equality, education, employment and identity being highlighted. However, the issue of youth participation came out as a key priority for all young people, if we are to build more democratic, inclusive and prosperous societies.

Furthermore, young Irish people are fearful of what the future may hold for them and their European identity. There is a fear that a seed of political extremism has been planted, that the bonds that hold society together may begin to fracture and that the future may not be as benign as it is today. This can be seen in many places, close to home.

Measures implemented to support youth participation will help counter extremism. Through the Sustainable Development Goals and Global Citizenship Education, young people must be engaged, included and have ownership of actions and activities in their countries, regions and world so they may become agents for change. Let’s start with the implementation of compulsory student councils in all educational institutions, lets ensure that youth organisations be not just run for young people but also run by young people, that educational institutions recognize civic engagement as a way to gain credits and let us ensure the establishment and strengthening of regional youth councils.

Many politicians may not realise this yet, but the reality is that they need us, they need young people to provide the solutions to age-old problems, and fresh perspectives to a world that finds itself questioning its identity.

My experience of being a United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland has taught me that young people place their trust in society, but they ask that society place a little more trust in them.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh