Skip to main content

National statements

Challenges to Youth Development, Statement by Stephen Smith, Minister for Defence

Thematic issues

  • Conflict Prevention
  • Middle East
  • Peacebuilding
  • Sierra Leone
  • Women

Challenges to Youth Development

Statement by the Hon Stephen Smith Minister for
Defence

Thank you Mr Chair,

As Australia's Minister for Defence and former Foreign Minister, I am
pleased to be involved in today's discussion. My experiences in both roles
have reinforced for me how critical this set of issues are to economic and social
growth and to national and regional stability and security.

Young people are crucial to any nation's economic and social prosperity.
Seriously addressing issues of the utmost importance to youth –access
to education and healthcare, employment, and participation in decision making
– will not only help them to shape their own futures, but also shape a
nation's future. For these reasons I am pleased our 2011 Youth Ambassador,
Benson Saulo, is here to participate in the high level meeting.

As Australia's Defence Minister, I am acutely aware that the lack of
economic opportunities for youth plays a significant role in creating conditions
for instability and conflict. Australia has learned this through our close engagement
in preventing and responding to conflicts in our own region. Genuinely integrating
youth in all aspects of economic and social development is a key element in
global stability. We have seen the adverse consequences of the lack of opportunities
for youth in every region of the world, including in the Middle East and Africa.

Conflict, but conflict and instability itself present significant challenges
to youth development. Abduction and forced recruitment into armed groups, attacks
on schools, the perpetration and threat of rape and other forms of sexual violence,
and a general culture of fear in a community, can make youth development all
but impossible.

Young men and women have unique experiences in conflict, in part due to their
particular vulnerabilities. This also means that they have unique needs in the
aftermath to a conflict. They offer valuable perspectives as the peacebuilding
and reconstruction effort begins, including on issues like social reintegration,
reconciliation, education and economic employment opportunities.

Australia is working with the Peacebuilding Commission Fund in post-conflict
situations in Africa, where we have contributed to national agricultural development
plans to develop agricultural capabilities and help address youth unemployment
in countries such as Sierra Leone.

Australia would appreciate the panel's views on other ways in which we
can better involve youth in conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding
and reconstruction efforts.

A decisive key to the future, of course, is education.

Australia knows the difference education and employment opportunities make
to the lives of youth and their communities. That is why Australia has committed
to making education its flagship sector in our efforts to help eradicate global
poverty. With a doubling of our development assistance program over the next
5 years, we could to be the world's largest bilateral donor to education
by 2015.

Australia would also welcome the panel's views on how the international
community can improve education opportunities for the world's poorest
people, thereby achieving one of the most decisive of the Millennium Development
Goals.

Last Updated: 4 June 2015
Back to top