Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


Opening of the UNGASS Youth Forum

  24 May 2021

Dear participants,

Welcome, good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

It is an honour for UNODC to hold this Youth Forum, ahead of the first-ever UN General Assembly special session against corruption.

I am delighted to see that over 800 young people registered from more than 120 countries around the world to join us for the next three days.

Young people have the most to lose from corruption and bribery, and from their negative impact on public services, health care, education, job creation, environmental protection, social stability and nearly every aspect of life.

Your future and your opportunities are at stake. Africa alone loses nearly 89 billion dollars a year to illicit financial flows - some lost directly to corruption, and much of the amount stolen with the help of corrupt practices.

You have the right to a future with integrity. And with this right comes an important responsibility - your responsibility to your generation and the generations to come after you, to contribute to shaping this better future.

You can contribute in many different ways. A fundamental contribution is your attention and awareness. You can learn about the problems of corruption, and about the laws, institutions and remedies to tackle corruption.

You can have the courage to say no, to refuse to be part of a broken system that steals from your future. You can stand up and support whistle-blowers, and you can hold your leaders and officials to account.

The 2020 UN World Youth Report, which focused on social entrepreneurship, highlighted the impact young social enterprises could have, particularly in countries with weak institutions, simply by practising good governance and saying no to corruption. 

You represent the world’s best hope for recovering better from the current crisis. As the largest generation of youth in history, and with your passion for fairness and equality, you are best placed to develop innovative solutions for integrity and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The political declaration to be adopted at UNGASS next week highlights the importance of youth engagement in anti-corruption, and this Forum aims to ensure that your voices are heard.

I encourage you to share your perspectives and experiences – and your expectations. What action do you want to see from the UN and UNODC and from Member States? How can we work together better to strengthen transparency and accountability to leave no one behind?

Across our mandate areas, UNODC supports young people around the world to learn new skills and make a difference, including through the Global Network of Youth on Drug Abuse Prevention, the Youth Initiative, Education for Justice and the Youth Crime Prevention through Sports initiative.

In partnership with the International Anti-Corruption Academy, we are offering two online anti-corruption summer schools for students from least developed countries, including a course for 30 young people that is taking place in parallel with this Forum.

UNODC has supported innovation labs and hackathons, and last October we launched the first East Africa Youth Online Blockchain Challenge, a six-week virtual programming marathon for over 140 developers. The winner, PlanetShakers from Uganda, built a safe platform for whistle-blowers to file complaints.

Now we have organized this Youth Forum to help ensure that UNGASS is an inclusive, representative process.

I urge you to use this opportunity to actively be part of solutions. It is important to identify the problems, and in doing so you have the responsibility to get your facts right, to verify information before you share it on social media, or take action.

True progress relies on you being proactive and positive, to be part of the change that needs to happen. Good examples of good governance need to be celebrated and shared so they can inspire and help others.

Your voices will not only be heard here but your perspectives will be communicated to policymakers at the special session.

With your help, we can ensure that UNGASS is not just an event but the beginning of transformative global action against corruption.

I thank the youth moderators, panelists and rapporteurs, and I look forward to your contributions.

I wish you a great Forum. Thank you.