Address by His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma, at the 17th World Festival of Youth and Students, Atteridgeville, Pretoria
13 Dec 2010
Theme: “Let’s defeat imperialism, for a world of peace, solidarity and social transformation”.
Gauteng Premier, Nomvula Mokonyane,
Tshwane Mayor, Sputla Ramokgopa,
President of World Federation for Democratic Youth, Tiago Vieira,
Chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency, Andile Lungisa,
Leaders of various youth formations,
Ladies and gentlemen
We extend warm greetings to international guests who have come to our country to attend the World Festival of Youth and all of you this evening.
We are humbled to be Southern Africa’s first hosts of the World Festival of Youth and Students, in its 65 years of existence.
This is yet another fitting conclusion to the momentous year that South Africa had, of hosting the 2010 FIFA World Soccer Tournament, which incidentally, is also largely a youth event.
The youth festival emphasises the message that we conveyed to the world through the soccer tournament in June, that the world is most welcome in our country.
We are saying that this country which was isolated for so many decades due to the evils of apartheid, has opened its borders to the world for progressive events of this nature.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As we all know, coincidentally this year has been designated by the United Nations as the year of the youth.
It is therefore expected of countries and governments all over the world to demonstrate commitment to integrating youth development in their development plans.
Young people should be provided the space to contribute to the economic, social and cultural development in their countries.
They should also be actively involved in working towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The United Nations also emphasises the necessity of disseminating the ideals of peace, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, peace, solidarity and dedication to the objectives of progress and development among the young people.
Therefore this event is most welcome in our shores because of its enormous significance.
The conference, workshops and cultural activities which are part of the programme provide a good and rare opportunity, for the youth from various parts of the world to engage and reflect on the developments in their various countries and suggest practical solutions to their governments.
As a country, our view is that if the youth are our future, then they should play a significant role in shaping that future.
South Africa is a democracy today because of the radicalism of the youth of the 1940s, and because of the sacrifice of the youth of 1976.
Many leaders such as Nelson Mandela made their impact during their years of youth and their values have proved enduring and changed the world.
People who swelled the ranks in the liberation struggle from the 1940s were the youth, who grew up in the struggle to make this country what it is today.
Therefore we cannot undermine the vitality of youth; much as it presents its challenges, it can make lasting imprints in the society.
For many years the youth have played a very important part in striving for a just global order, particularly in the fight for liberty, equality, sovereignty and opportunities for everyone in the world.
In Europe the youth fought against feudalism and for the liberation of the oppressed people in the first half of the 19th century.
They were also at the battle front during the World Wars and therefore had first hand account of the dreadful effects of the war on humanity.
They appreciated, even in those years, the importance of peace and stability, which the world still lacks today, including particularly in Africa.
We recall that the World Festival of Youth and Students was first organised by the World Federation of Democratic Youth and the International Union of Students in the wake of the Second World War in the 1940s.
It was a reaction to the horror and gross human riots violations and environmental depletion caused by the war.
The youth took a collective decision to organise themselves globally against international aggression and its destruction, advocating a world of peace, security, stability and prosperity where they will also make a significant contribution as youth.
They denounced imperialism as one of the forces of control, domination, political and economic oppression in the world.
This means that as the world was coming together to seek lasting solutions after the war, through the formation of international bodies such as the United Nations (UN), the youth simultaneously seized the moment and decided to do something about the conditions of the people then.
The youth festival attracted thirty four thousand young people from one hundred and thirty one countries as early as 1957 in Moscow.
The appeal and impact became very clear from the onset and have endured even today, with the support of many countries as evidenced by the support of this festival.
This is not surprising as the youth globally has expressed solidarity with the anti-colonial struggles in all oppressed countries across the world, including in Africa and Latin America.
That youth internationalism and activism also benefited this country enormously and contributed to the freedom and democracy that we enjoy today.
Our youth has always participated in this festival. In the youth festival of 1951, South African youth were represented by Isithwalandwe Ahmed Kathrada, then from the Indian Youth Congress, as well as Victor Mbobo from the African National Congress.
There is no doubt that this and the subsequent involvement of our youth in the festival injected fresh momentum and ideas to the mass democratic movement and the Defiance Campaign of the 1950s in this country and in later struggle activities.
Because of this festival, the oppressed masses knew at that stage of the struggle that they enjoyed the support and solidarity of international community, including the youth in particular.
The youth came out very strongly in support of the Vietnamese people in the late 1960s, and condemned the marginalisation of Cuba by these western countries.
The voice of the youth was also felt among those that condemned the occupation of Iraq.
Progressive youth movements globally have always spoken out for the end to conflict in the Middle East and for the freedom of the Palestinian people, while assuring Israel of her security.
Indeed, large parts of the world are democracies today because of the contribution of the youth. Young people decided to secure their own future.
We applaud young people as well for the critical role they continue to play in the world, to ensure quicker socio-economic transformation as well as political stability and progress in many parts of the world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am strongly obliged to not steal your thunder but the issues confronting us, which brought us here today, are also very close to my heart.
In many countries we have fought colonialism and imperialism, and most are free as we speak.
However, most of the formerly oppressed nations are not yet economically independent, and the majority of the people still live in massive poverty.
Under the cloak of globalisation only a few countries in the world hold the monopoly in world trade and therefore economic development.
Together with other countries South Africa has been very vocal in the international forums such as G8 and G20 about equality in the terms of trade as well as reduction of foreign debt.
Economic marginalisation of the developing countries is a challenge and an imperialism of our time, which we have to face and I am convinced that this gathering will evince more enthusiasm to make contributions towards addressing these challenges.
The pervasive poverty ravaging the world has a very broad and adverse effect in the global community, as it diverts attention from other challenges.
Education is one of the casualties, particularly with regard to the children, youth and women.
The UN statistics of 2008 attest to this grim picture. According to the UN, one hundred and thirty one million youth worldwide lacked basic reading and writing skills by 2008, and 61% of these are females. The Sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of Asia have lowest literacy rates.
This poses a very grave challenge, and the fact that there are millions of children who do not go to school provides a useful link. This means therefore that we must intensify our education campaigns worldwide.
The youth should play a very prominent role in this regard, as this is not only about resources but also about attitudes.
Therefore we expect from this big forum, important ideas to take the world a step forward in addressing these issues.
As governments we have a challenge to ensure that not only school but tertiary education as well is accessible and we have to explore ways and means of improving this access.
It is through education that the youth can provide solutions to the many vexing challenges in this world.
The World Social Security Report also provides a sobering social dependency report, in which the youth dependency is more than 70% in the least developed countries and the sub Saharan Africa.
Among others this is a function, as the International Labour Organisation also shows, of eighty one million youth being unemployed worldwide.
The challenge now is to change the structural factors that cause unemployment and create decent work for our youth.
The key aspect in this challenge is to open opportunities for youth in entrepreneurship, so that they actually create employment themselves.
This forum should suggest ways and means that the governments can incorporate to improve the situation.
As we welcome all delegates to this congress, we urge you to continue with your work to assist governments towards achieving quality education, the right to employment and for access to health and other socio-economic rights facilities.
You must continue to advocate for the attainment of these rights, to speak for the voiceless masses in many parts of the world which are still not free and to promote freedom, justice and equality.
You must continue to campaign for the sustainable use of the environment, and for more green jobs which will address both the challenges of unemployment and environmental depletion.
Climate change is about securing your future. As we prepare to host the 17th United Nations climate change conference next year, we want to hear the voices of the youth, especially from the developing world and small island states, who are most vulnerable to these challenges.
We returned from the climate change conference in Cancun last week where we were reminded especially by the island states, of what the risk of rising temperatures could mean for them. We were reminded of the threats to food security and agriculture in Africa.
The drought in Africa, flooding in the Phillipines, Pakistan and China, wild fires in Russia and other parts of the world are warnings of what lies ahead if we do not act sooner.
Most importantly, as youth you must give great attention to your health, and fight particularly against HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases that are prevalent today and which threaten to rob us of scores of young people if we do not act faster and more effectively, all of us, including the youth.
You can see that we expect a lot to come out of this gathering!
I wish you a very informative and lively engagement.
Enjoy the interaction and leave this congress wiser and more energised to take forward the fight for a better and more just world.
I thank you.
Source: The Presidency
Issued by: The Presidency
13 Dec 2010
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