As the world marked this year's International Youth Day on Friday, UN-HABITAT reaffirmed its commitment to empowering the young people of the world.
In a statement to mark the occasion, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos said that the economic downturn being felt in the world was "heavier still on the millions who languish in poverty in slums and inner city neighbourhoods around the world. This means that our cities must be places of opportunities for young people."
Basing his statement on this year's International Youth Day theme, Change our world, the Executive Director said it was appropriate to highlight UN-HABITAT's youth empowerment programme which he said encouraged young people to help build better communities by providing them with the means for self-improvement and job skills.
"Thanks to the generous backing of the Government of Norway, UN-HABITAT's Urban Youth Fund launched in 2009, has supported many excellent youth-led projects around the world. Out of 5,700 applications received this year, today we will announce the shortlist of winning projects selected by the judges as beneficiaries of the fund."
The Executive Director at the same time sent condolences to the people of Norway after the recent tragic event where a gunman killed youths attending a political party convention. He said this year's commemoration came "at a time of sadness for the tragic murders of youth leaders in Norway, but with the hope that more young people around the world will carry the torch for freedom, democracy and good governance."
He said UN-HABITAT recognized the importance of promoting the empowerment and participation of young people in efforts towards changing the urban environments through entrepreneurship training, leadership training, construction skills development, disaster and risk management and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Dr. Clos cited another initiative of the agency's youth work as the very successful outcome of the first ever African Youth Assembly in Abuja, Nigeria this year, held with the support of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Norway.
"Its proposals will now be incorporated into the agenda of the World Urban Youth Assembly at next year's sixth session of UN-HABITAT's World Urban Forum in Naples, Italy," he said.
Meanwhile, UN-HABITAT held a ceremony to mark the day in Zanzibar where the agency officials present said the east African island was ripe to get more youth organisations qualify for the Urban Youth Fund.
At the same time the KASHWESHA Housing Cooperative Society in Nairobi Kenya held tree planting, entertainment, sports tournament as well as a graduation ceremony for students from its community resource centre who had qualified for CISCO IT certificates.