Global Youth Summit draws more than 19,000 students

The Philippines should take advantage of its young population to effect change and end poverty.

This was the statement made by the United Nations to the country’s 20 million youth during the widely attended Global Youth Summit in Mall of Asia Arena Saturday.

Speaking to a mammoth crowd of more than 19,000 young people from different parts of the country and abroad, Titon Mitra, the Country Director of the United National Development Programme (UNDP) said the Philippines should take advantage of its young population to effect change and ultimately end poverty and the effects of climate change.

“There are 1.4 billion people 10 to 24 years old in the world and 87 percent of the young people are in developing countries. 700 million are in Asia Pacific region and the Philippines has the third youngest people in the region. 30 percent of Filipinos are under 15 and the median age is 26. That’s a lot of young people that can make the difference and I know most of you want to make a difference,” Mitra said.

He pointed out that the youth has a very important role in effecting change because the world has only 10 years left to implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by 193 countries, including the Philippines, during the UN General Assembly in September 2015.

The 17 SDGs were agreed upon to implement programs on the whole sustainability agenda – poverty, human development, the environment, and social justice – for the transformation of humanity and the planet by year 2030.

“We set ourselves 15 years and we only have 10 years. The clock is ticking and we have to change the footprint we have on this earth. Our UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had said, ‘we will be the first generation to end poverty and we will also be the last generation to live with the worst impacts of climate change’ and if we don’t succeed the future generations will judge us very harshly. So the message is really simple if we continue on as business as usual we are going to be in deep, deep trouble. It’s not an option,” Mitra said.

The Global Youth Summit 2018 was the best attended gathering of youth leaders so far with more than 19,000 filling the MOA Arena Saturday afternoon. Global Peace Foundation and SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Prime Holdings, organized the annual event.

Royston Cabunag, Director of the SM Cares Program for Children and Youth, said the immense attendance at the Summit is a testament to the commitment of today’s youth to bring about change in every aspect of their lives. “This shows their passion and commitment to make a difference and all we have to do is harness that power to its fullest potential,” Cabunag said.

He said SM has always believed in the power of the youth not only because of their sheer number but the novelty and enthusiasm they bring to any task they do. “The youth are our future and it is but right that we give them all the opportunity and the know-how to do something they love. Millennials want to make an impact and we are providing them the support to make that happen,” he stated.

Jinsoo Kim, Regional Representative of GPF Asia Pacific, pointed out that the Global Youth Summit aims to bring about moral and innovative leadership through engagement, building of leadership skills and exposure to real world experiences that inspire them to bring about positive impact.

Aside from Mitra, Christopher Morris, NGO and Civil Society Head of the Asian Development Bank; Glo Ann Guevarra, Knowledge Management Specialist of the ADB; Gundo Weiler, World Health Organization (WHO) Specialist, Professor Richard Heydarian and Joey Concepcion, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Founder of ‘Go Negosyo’ also gave their inspirational talks at the event.

Other resource persons on the topic of gender equality include Pacita Juan of Coffee Crusader and an advocate for Women Empowerment, and Farah Ghodsinia, Founder of Children of Mindanao.

Weiler, for his part, said today’s youth should make lifestyle changes in order to reverse the rise of non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, and chronic respiratory diseases. He said 1 out of 3 adults are being killed by NCDs before the age 70.

He further stated that aside from NCDs, today’s era of interconnectivity and dependence on gadgets has given rise to loneliness and depression and in extreme cases, suicide. “We don’t move around as much anymore. With technology, we communicate through phones, emails and social media, which have given rise to loneliness and depression. Suicide rates because of depression are also on the rise so our youth has to make lifestyle changes to reverse that,” Weller pointed out.

UN Undersecretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, on Gender Equality, Poverty, and Peace & Conflict, extended her message to the delegates through recorded video: “These are weighty issues, but you know what, each one of you (the youth) has a possibility to contribute in such a way that we make great steps on all of these issues, and it has to happen all at the same time,” she stated.

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