Press Release – Geneva/New York – 2011 High-level UN Meeting on Youth

Date: 25 July 2011

YMCA speaker, Romulo Dantas, invites the UN General Assembly to join efforts with Youth organizations and invest more in young people

The High-Level meeting to highlight the Year of Youth opened today. Heads of States, Ministers, and official delegates from the UN members states heard statements from Joseph Deiss, President of the General Assembly, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, Alek Wek from UK/South Sudan, and Romulo Dantas, YMCA.

Romulo Dantas took the audience to the streets of his youth and spoke of the precarious state of young people in today’s world. A striking example of this is the massacre of young people in Norway on Friday.

As YMCA we bow our heads in solidarity with and respect for the AUF, the Young Social Democrats of Norway, and together with them we mourn every single one of the young people they and we have lost.

At the UN, Romulo spoke of the hostile world young people face.

“I come from Sao Paulo, Brazil, from one of the most violent and poor areas of Sao Paulo city in the 90’s. Even with a wonderful family, it would have been very easy for me to go along with some friends and, as some of them, become a gang member, a drug addict, or end up in jail or even dead; but, it did not happen. He described his own personal journey from a vulnerable youth in Sao Paulo, Brazil to an empowered young person able to lead, share, give, and inspire.

“It was because of a youth organization – the YMCA. The YMCA helped me to find something that I did not have as a teenager: self-esteem, self-confidence and real friends to prove that I was capable of doing incredible things. With the YMCA I learned how to be a leader, I decided the profession I wanted to have, I learned that I could dream of everything because I am allowed to. I learned to serve, and to serve makes us happy! I had the opportunity to be healthy by practicing sports and to feel good by helping other people as a volunteer, to sing, to dance, to understand…that I am not a subject, I am a citizen! – I can participate, I can make a change!

In the YMCA – one personal story multiplied by hundreds of stories in thousands of communities impacts millions of young peoples’ lives. Romulo challenged the delegates to seize the opportunity as they celebrate the Year of Youth to commit critical resources to young people and to work in partnership with youth organizations.

“It is time for us to build a strong commitment to improve the situation of young people around the world and especially for marginalized young men and women that are suffering in many corners of this world and oppressed in their thoughts and feelings and opportunity to act.”

He urged the audience to work together towards the full implementation of the World Programme of Action on Youth. He invited the General Assembly to partner with youth organizations and recommended promoting and expanding the ambitious programme to be reflected in the laws and youth programmes of all member countries.

He took the delegates by surprise by singing …please, don’t take away my joy, please don’t take away my hope. I am a youth with a dream, so I will rise up, stand up and fight for my rights, Take me as a part of you, Don’t see me a subject but a citizen, and together we will rise….