I am grateful to the Secretary General and our other friends in the United Nations and to Sir Emyr Jones Parry's team for organizing this meeting today. I should add that I am particularly pleased to be here at the UN again in this very special 60th Anniversary year.
The challenges confronting the UN today are of course very different to those faced in the aftermath of World War Two and during the Cold War. Problems such as the proliferation of extremism and civil conflicts, the rapid spread of disease, climate change and the unsustainable use of the planet's finite resources all have to be addressed if our children and grand-children are to live and enjoy this world in the way that we have been able to do. I believe the UN has a crucial role to play in this.
When I last met the Secretary General in 1997 we discussed the need for business to become more involved in the work of the UN. At the time, it was fair to say that neither business nor the UN appreciated what each had to offer the other.
As a result, the Secretary General and I organised an initiative with my International Business Leaders Forum to encourage UN officials and business to engage with one another. This, in turn, contributed to the foundation of the UN Global Compact as a set of universal business standards.
I hope that today's meeting shows just how far we have come in these eight years. Indeed, I am glad that the whole approach towards partnerships is now far higher up the UN agenda, and seen as vital to making progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. The IBLF continues to work closely with the UNDP on this.
Recent natural disasters, from the Asian tsunami to the hurricanes in the Caribbean and the Southern American states, and the Kashmir earthquake have, I think, all demonstrated the need for closer coordination between governments, business, the UN and NGOs to ensure that disaster relief is more effective. Too often, well-meaning relief efforts aren't sufficiently effective in laying the foundations for long-term recovery. Work which The IBLF has been doing in Sri Lanka and Thailand shows that helping young entrepreneurs can make a real difference in rebuilding shattered communities.
In my view, one of the greatest long-term challenges today apart from the most urgent need to tackle climate change is creating meaningful employment for young people. Most developing countries have young populations (very often 60 per cent of the total); and there is no greater tragedy than the unfulfilled potential of youth. The scale of the task here is daunting. In the Middle East alone 100 million jobs will have to be created in the next 20 years just to find work for all the new entrants to the job market!
I have been trying to draw attention to this problem for last 10 years – this is why this seminar is so important. All of you here can make a dramatic difference. YBI has done all the work in setting up the structures – so you could help us to scale up our means to make a difference very quickly.
This is where I believe that programmes such as my Youth Business International and its various partners can play a significant role. As you have heard from Andrew Devenport, and so expressively from these two inspirational entrepreneurs – Thabo Mathibedi and Charmaine Downes - when young people are given the opportunity to fulfil their potential they not only help themselves but they create jobs and opportunity for others too.
Youth Business International has built on the experience of my Prince's Trust in the UK in combining mentoring and loan finance. Over 20 years the Trust has helped set up over 60,000 new businesses in the UK, and YBI's partner organizations have launched another 13,000. YBI is now working to adapt this experience to the varying circumstances in 25 other countries.
But I also believe many young need constructive help with personal development self-confidence and in particular, skills development is vital and is needed before business start-ups. Businesses and agencies could make an immense impact through mentoring.
What is needed now is far more business and foundation engagement to help foster and spread the local programmes to achieve greater scale and impact. I am sure that this meeting and the contacts made here today will help, and I very much look forward to hearing from you the about the practical results of our discussion. Tens of millions of young people and their communities depend on you!