Ronan Farrow
Special Adviser to the Secretary, Office of Global Youth Issues
Kathmandu, Nepal
December 8, 2011

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So what we want to say to all of you, as the U.S. Government, is that we stand by you as you confront those challenges, that we see those challenges being faced by young people around the world, and that young Americans, both young American lawyers who are trying to increase access to services and build those institutions we’re discussing today and young Americans of every walk of life, are facing the same dilemmas, where they’re emerging from school and the traditional opportunities are not there, and where the world is full of young people who want to make their voices heard and don’t always have access to tools by which to do so in a peaceful manner.

So this is not a set of issues that is unique to your country, and we see it as one of the core goals of our foreign policy now, more than ever, to respond to those issues as they emerge around the world.

So the United States, over the last year, pulled together a task force from every corner of our government, every ministry, and looked at how we could make focusing on youth issues and the role of young people, particularly in countries that are at democratic turning points, as Nepal is, and foster those young people as positive change agents and really respond to their needs. That policy process resulted in a pledge, a pledge that the United States would focus on programs and initiatives and diplomatic conversations that put on the table the role of young people as economic actors, work to increase access to markets for young people, and foster young entrepreneurs, business owners, and workers.

It also resulted in a commitment to focus on young people as political change agents; and young people, both around the world and particularly in these settings where it is so crucial to make your voices heard in emerging instruments like your own constitution, ensuring that those young people have the tools to make their voices heard; and increasing our effort to bring to them mentorship programs, programs that educate them about their rights and their ability to participate in peaceful democratic processes, and programs that foster young people as civic leaders and advocates for their rights.

And it’s been my pleasure, in my time in this country, to talk to a great deal of young leaders, both politicians and civil society leaders, who are pursuing those very goals. Right here in Nepal, we are, I think, doing a tremendous job of living out those commitments. We have a wide range of programs out of the United States Embassy and the State Department and our USAID mission here that directly target the needs of young people. Some of you may have heard that we have launched an unprecedented Youth Advisory Council here in Kathmandu and drawing together young people from around the country to discuss some of these rule of law issues, among other issues that they confront. And I’m pleased to be able to announce that with that council, we are actually giving young people the opportunity to shape the programs that will target the problems they confront in their communities. And we will be allocating close to $30,000 (USD) to those programs that council members, young people themselves, will have input into.

We have a variety of programs, as I mentioned, on the USAID side, including our Education for Income Generation Program that provides young people with skills-based training to increase their participation in markets and their access to jobs. And we have a Young Parliamentarians Program that brings together young parliamentarians and political leaders from multiple parties to the same table and links them with experts in various subjects, with Unites States politicians, and engages them on subjects that are critical to their constituents. I had the pleasure of participating in one such session today with a group of young parliamentarians and was inspired to see the level of energy, and really left hopeful for this country’s political process.

But all of that said, we realize that we can and should be doing more, and that all of our initiatives have to be guided by the needs that you yourselves feel. And that’s why I think I’m happy to say you have strong allies in this United States Embassy who want to keep their heads together with yours and hear on a regular basis what young Nepalese say are challenges and how they feel we can be best standing by them as we confront those challenges.

And there are a number of institutions, as I said, like the Youth Advisory Council, that allow us to do that. But I hope today’s discussion can also be one setting in which we start a conversation, and I can hear what exactly you’re confronting and how you think that I can carry that message to the world and to our leaders in Washington.

So I really – I want to thank you for your time. I hope that we talk about here can lead to a deeper still and more extensive connection and partnership. And I hope that as we devise our new initiatives, following on some of those that have discussions today, they can as directly as possible address the needs that you feel in your communities.

I think that partnership between young people in every country and a shared commitment to addressing these issues for those like yourselves that uniquely have the skill set and the education and the understanding of what the challenges are will be one of the keys to unlocking global prosperity and stability. And I think that particularly if young lawyers in emerging democracies are able to link together, we stand a better chance of creating lasting, stable democratic institutions.

The challenge that we’ve seen in the Middle East, as I mentioned, and in North Africa, in this past year, is not a lack of energy or inability to transform. We know that young people can tear down and start anew. And indeed, young people have been instrumental in securing a clean slate and a new start here in Nepal. But as our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has often remarked, it is not always the young revolutionaries that end up leading a country to a peaceful future.

So the challenge that we face around the world and in Nepal is: Can youthful revolutionary energy be translated into peaceful participation? And those who have the education and understand what rule of law is are the ones who are equipped, I think, to lead in that effort and to forward the message to the rest of their committees that that is indeed the next step, that regardless of frustrations or feelings of disenfranchisement, people need to commit to building institutions that we have.

So with that, I’ll turn over the floor to questions. But I would say that my conversations with students and particularly, I think, young lawyers like yourselves, have left me much more inspired for the future and ever more committed to standing by people like you and supporting you as you fulfill your aspirations.

Thank you. (Applause.)