Dean Forbes



Flinders University Victoria Square


11 July 2011

Professor Dean Forbes

Deputy Vice-chancellor (International & Communities)

Flinders University

UNYA President Nicky Vreugdenhill

UNYC Convenor Melissa Wong

Anthony Mysak, MC for today’s meeting

Invited guests, and participants

Good morning. Welcome to Adelaide, and welcome to Flinders University Victoria Square. We are delighted to sponsor and host this annual meeting of the United Nations Youth Association.  There are participants in this room from every state in Australia, and from New Zealand and Japan.  We are pleased that you could be here and trust you will enjoy your time in Adelaide.

As participants in this Conference, you will be fully aware that the world for which you will assume responsibility has many great challenges.  The issues you will need to address in your lifetime will be as large and complex as any that have been addressed in times past.

In fact they will probably be larger.  The human population of the planet continues to increase, and the speed with which decisions are made has added more complexity.

We are already only too aware of many of the issues that are still to be adequately tackled on a global scale. My generation – the 1960s generation – has had a big, and generally positive, impact on the world, but there are so many major challenges that still loom large.

Global environmental issues, for example, of which climate change is one significant part.  In Australia, and globally, we are making hard going on these problems.  It is a concern that the climate change debate emboldened some to deny the warnings the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists were expressing.  The focus has now moved on to climate policy, where the debate, on the edges, has been vigorous, but sometimes perplexingly irrational.

Another concern is the consequence of the globalisation of economies.  It has resulted in massive accumulations and concentrations of wealth, while at the same time hundreds of millions of people can’t consistently provide enough food or clean water for themselves and their families. This is a disgraceful situation.  I know things are improving, but at no-where near at the speed we might hope.

The 21st Century is also the urban century.  More than half the world’s population now live in towns and cities, and this trend of urban growth is certain to continue.  But we still don’t know how best to build and maintain sustainable cities that provide socially enriching and community-based environments for urban residents.

These are some of the problems we know we have.  There are also the unknown unknowns. All those future global challenges we will face but which we cannot even imagine.

This Youth Conference is a celebration of youth empowerment.  In the International Year of Youth it will help create a dialogue and mutual understanding.  In so doing it will help combat unjustified negative stereotypes of young people. 

For you young people you can make a significant difference when you focus your minds on both youth issues and the other big challenges that we face.

I wish you well with your discussions over the next few days.