Statement of the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms Nathalie Ndongo-Seh, at the Virtual UN75 Dialogue with Tertiary Students

On Tuesday, 15th December 2020, the UN hosted a UN75 dialogue with tertiary students.

Leaders in education,

UN Colleagues,

(Most importantly) Students,

Ladies and gentlemen,


On behalf of the United Nations Development System in Eswatini, it gives me great pleasure to address you all today; the upcoming leaders of our beautiful Kingdom. Thank you very much for the opportunity.

Before I begin, I am truly humbled to see the number of students attending today’s UN75 Dialogue, which is a reflection of your passion and commitment to create a better future for the world.

The United Nations needs to hear from you more than ever before: your thoughts, concerns, brilliant ideas and recommendations. Your voices are critical in shaping a better future for the world and we look forward to hearing from you today.

This year, the UN is marking its 75th anniversary at a time when the world has been disrupted and deeply shaken by COVID-19, affecting over one billion learners, including yourselves. We are reminded of the need to show resilience, adaptability, creativity, and fight for a brighter future for our young people and vulnerable populations: it starts with you and me.

Will we emerge from this global crisis stronger and ready to build for a better future together? Will we stand closer together as a human family, armed with the knowledge and the courage to recover better for a better world?

The UN Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres, declared 2020 as the year of conversations and dialogues to create a better future for all; one in which all views are taken into consideration. Your views are critical and will be presented to world leaders and senior UN officials early next year.

As you may know, in 2015, world leaders signed the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development: a roadmap for peace and prosperity for all people and the planet. (Please raise your hand digitally if you have heard of the Sustainable Development Goals?)

At the heart of Agenda 2030 are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action. Particularly important to today’s conversation is SDG 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, by 2030.

With only ten years remaining to achieve the SDGs, we still have a long way to go. The world risks leaving behind the men and women of tomorrow: a threat which has since been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UN Secretary-General noted how the COVID-19 pandemic has hit hardest the world’s 1.8 billion young people, aged 10 to 24; the largest generation of young people in history. Lockdowns and preventive measures introduced by governments across the world to protect their citizens, have had adverse impacts on young people and  learners: marginalizing youth, preventing access to ‘regular’ education, impacting young people’s future and jobs, social and family lives and mental health.

The Kingdom of Eswatini, with a population of 1.1 million people, is home to a significant and approximate 240,000 young people aged 15 to 24 years, including yourselves. Global leaders therefore have a duty to protect and enable all young people to reach their full potential, by prioritising their needs in achieving Agenda 2030. We cannot afford to leave our youth behind in efforts to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United Nations remains dedicated to empowering young men and women. We want our leaders of tomorrow, including each and every one of you, to fearlessly follow your dreams, knowing that they are heard, supported and hold the same rights as Emaswati of all ages.

Thank you for being a part of this important conversation. I look forward to hearing from you today.

I thank you.

Speech by
Nathalie Ndongo-Seh
Resident Coordinator
Nathalie Ndongo-Seh
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Children’s Fund