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Youths as a driving force for sustainable development

Speech by Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth & Transport at the Business China Youth Forum 2019, at Sands Expo and Convention Centre

Ms Tin Pei Ling, CEO of Business China

Distinguished speakers and guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

  1. Good afternoon everyone. It is my pleasure to join you today at the inaugural Business China Youth Forum. I am glad that we have so many young people in this room, gathered here today, who are passionate about taking action to address sustainability issues and challenges.

    Youths are a driving force for sustainable development

  2. In the last few decades, we have witnessed the rise of Asia, spurred by China’s growth. Today, Asia is the world’s fastest growing economic region in the world, with youths at the forefront of technological advancements and the emerging digital economy.
  3. This means that youths are growing up in an era of rapid change. Compared with your parents and elders, we now have different ways to access services, transact business and buy products. Mobile technology has changed the way we receive news, share information, and stay connected with our family, friends and the community around us. These global forces have also created new challenges for our people and societies:

    • Firstly, globalisation is perpetuating inequalities, resulting in a more polarised world that is fuelling anti-globalisation sentiments;
    • Secondly, the digital revolution is disrupting economies and livelihoods; and
    • Last but not least, rapid urbanisation is adding pressure to our resources, which has significantly accelerated environmental degradation.
  4. The theme for today’s forum, “Sustainable Growth starts with YOUth”, challenges youths to be the driving force behind sustainable growth. That is why youths are not merely beneficiaries of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Instead, you are to play a central role in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and averting threats, including the impacts of climate change, unemployment, and poverty, to name a few.1 

    Building sustainable and resilient communities

  5. Building sustainable and resilient communities is a collective effort, and Singapore is committed to doing our part. Through our surveys and engagements, we know that many young Singaporeans are deeply concerned about issues of national importance, such as environmental sustainability and caring for vulnerable communities. This has translated into concrete actions. For instance, we designated 2018 as the “Year of Climate Action” to galvanise ground-up action to address climate issues. We received more than 340,000 pledges for climate action, and saw over 800 climate action-related events. These include the development of an EcoLifeSG app by the Singapore Environment Council, which enables individuals and organisations to track their carbon footprint estimates.
  6. At MCCY, we are engaging youths to co-create the SG Youth Action Plan, starting with their vision of Singapore in 2025. The Action Plan will identify areas of change to turn their vision into reality. It can be in policy areas, or projects to benefit vulnerable communities. Through this initiative, we want our youths to spark the next wave of change in Singapore and strengthen their sense of belonging and commitment to the nation.

    Growing People-to-People ties

  7. There is a lot to learn from the experiences of Singapore and China – between government and the people, or among people themselves. As leaders of tomorrow, youths from Singapore and China can play an important role in taking our countries and the region forward. It is important for youths to build an appreciation of diverse cultures, so that they can explore collaborations with other youths around the region, and be a force for good.
  8. In Singapore, we encourage our youths to attend educational exchanges, service learning expeditions, internships and leadership development programmes in Asia. Last December, Singapore’s National Youth Council partnered China’s Zhejiang Youth Federation to organise the inaugural “Youth Leaders Exchange Programme” for Singaporean and Chinese youth leaders. We also regularly participate in the “ASEAN Young Leaders Training Programme”, organised by the All-China Youth Federation. Youths who have attended these programmes return to Singapore with a broadened worldview and deeper understanding of China. They have also forged close friendships with other participants across China and Southeast Asia.
  9. Like those programmes, this forum provides you with an invaluable opportunity to interact with your peers, as well as industry experts from Singapore and China. In the two plenary sessions, you will get to exchange viewpoints with the panellists and with one another, explore opportunities, exchange perspectives, and learn more about your role in contributing to sustainable growth and development.


  10.  Sustainability and growth are in fact two sides of the same coin, and we must not neglect one over the other. I hope that this forum will spur you to think about key questions such as,

    • “What kind of world do I want to live in?”;
    • “How can I shape that world with my skills and knowledge about technology?”; and
    • “What can Singapore and China learn from each other regarding sustainable development and growth?”.
  11. I’m sure you also have other questions in mind. I urge you to think about what’s on your mind, talk to your peers, and gain from this forum.
  12. We might not have all the answers, but I am hopeful that new ideas will emerge, and new friendships will be forged. As the saying goes, “千里之行,始于足下”, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step. Together, let us take the first step today to create a better place for everyone.
  13. Finally, I would like to thank Business China and its youth chapter for making this forum possible. To all the participants – I’d like to wish you a very rewarding and enriching day ahead!
  14. 那么今天也是端午节, 所以祝福大家今天的收获呢,像粽子一样,非常的饱满。
  15. Thank you very much.

1The United Nations has actively engaged youths in the development and implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, through platforms that enable them to contribute to policy discussion through their collective ideas, solutions, and innovations. Examples of platforms include the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum and The Youth Assembly at the United Nations. More details on the role of youths in the 2030 Agenda can be found here.

Last updated on 10 June 2019