Conference on Social Empowerment of Youth at Risk

We’ve all heard the term “youth at-risk”. But what does it really mean?


In its broadest sense, a young person at-risk is a child or adolescent who faces serious obstacles to a successful transition into adulthood. Characteristics of at-risk youth include non-participation, lack of interest in academics, and disconnection from the school environment.  When at-risk and troubled youth can’t transfer successfully into adulthood, local communities and businesses suffer, costing both millions of dollars.

Dear friends, we could hardly gather around more relevant issue of today than the prospects of young people of Montenegro. And this is not only important subject in Montenegro, but also in many other countries in the world. There are more young persons than ever in the world and the challenges many of them face are stark. Almost 2 billion people in this world are aged between 10 and 24. Many young people are unemployed or facing uncertain employment opportunities.  Many girls and young women, but also young men are survivors of violence. Millions of young people live in conflict affected areas. All such factors affect their ability to develop themselves. Rather than leading fulfilling lives, they often find themselves on the margins of society.

Response to challenges which young people face is important, but not and easy task.

In this regard, I’d like to pay tribute to all of you in Government, civil society, UN colleagues, young people themselves and others who are supporting youth at risk and empowering them to get back onto a path of life in dignity that everyone deserves.

Exclusion is not an option, it is too costly in human but also in financial terms. Inclusion is critical. The 2030 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by all UN Member States is a feasible plan for better future for all. It calls for inclusion and leaving no-one behind. It seeks the empowerment of youth and their full participation in society, socially, economically but also politically. There are specific targets for youth on education and employment and related to climate change, while States have committed to tracking how youth are faring by collecting age disaggregated data for many of the indicators. The SDGs have been localized and are integrated in Montenegro’s National Strategy for Sustainable Development. More specific commitments to improving the lives of Montenegrin youth are laid out in the country’s current Youth Policy that the UN has been pleased to support.

I’m sure you would agree with me – Implementation is the key.

Increased focus on youth by all of us –  UN Members States, international organizations, donors, others – is a must. The UN launched a Youth Strategy last year in recognition that and I quote “With this large and increasing number of young people across the globe, it is abundantly clear that it is only by engaging and working with them, supporting them in standing up for their rights and creating the conditions allowing them to progress and play an active role, that the international community will be able to achieve peace, security, justice, climate resilience and sustainable development for all”. It commits the UN globally and here in Montenegro to amplifying youth voices to promote a peaceful, just and sustainable world, to working towards greater access for young people to quality education and health services, to decent work and productive employment. To protecting and promoting the rights of young people and supporting their civic and political engagement, and to supporting young people as catalysts for peace and security & humanitarian action.

I challenge you all and in particular young persons to hold us all to account to make this policy a reality in Montenegro.

It has been fantastic to witness the power of young persons as they demand a better future for all. It may not surprise you that today on Human Rights Day, we are paying tribute to the many young people who promote human rights at home or have built global movements for change. Montenegro has many inspiring young persons as I have seen for instance in the Dialogue for the Future, a regional initiative aiming to uplift social cohesion in Western Balkans, with young people at the heart of it.

Let me close by expressing my true hope that through our joint work with youth at risk in Montenegro, we will succeed in supporting them to lead inspiring and fulfilling lives.

UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations