Welcome to the United Nations

Opening Remarks by the SRSG and Head of UNMIK Caroline Ziadeh at the 6th United Nations Youth Assembly in Kosovo: Youth, Peace, and Security in the AI era

Dear Excellences,

Friends and Colleagues,

Young Leaders of Today and Tomorrow,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

A warm and heartfelt welcome to the 6th United Nations Youth Assembly in Kosovo, titled: "Youth, Peace, and Security in the AI-era."

Just four days ago, a commencement speech at D’Youville University in Buffalo USA, was delivered to a diverse audience of over 2,000 individuals: an AI robot named Sophia was the unexpected speaker. The address, while unconventional, echoed familiar themes often heard in university commencement speeches—embracing lifelong learning, fostering adaptability, pursuing passions, taking calculated risks, nurturing meaningful connections, and believing in oneself. Sophia even offered a unique insight: the importance of embracing failure as a catalyst for growth—a sentiment all too human, despite its robotic delivery.

Amidst this technological marvel, we are prompted to ponder a significant question: can AI truly replace the richness of human experience? And if so, how do we safeguard our essence in an era of such rapid change which we might not be able to control?

Some 2000 miles from the USA, a sobering statistic: two-thirds of children and young people aged 25 or younger lack internet access at home. This digital divide persists, highlighting the privilege that digitalization and the use of AI technology is still not available to many.

In the Western Balkans, progress is evident in the past 10 years with some 75% of youth on average regularly accessing internet and being able to effectively use it for their studies or work. We observe a mixed landscape of progress and potential in the region, but disparities also persist, particularly in enhancing digital literacy and marketable skills among youth. As we aspire to bridge these regional gaps and to align with EU and international standards, innovative approaches are imperative.

Ongoing initiatives such as establishing Youth Digital Ambassadors, individuals equipped with expertise in digital technologies, could serve as catalysts for change, fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the region. Additionally, fostering WB Digital Innovation Hubs can provide essential support and resources to budding entrepreneurs and innovators, nurturing a culture of creativity and ingenuity. Furthermore, launching regional Cybersecurity Skills Academies is essential in equipping the youth with the necessary skills to navigate the digital landscape securely. By investing in cybersecurity education and training, we can empower the next generation to safeguard their digital identities and contribute to a safer online environment.

UNMIK has already taken efforts in addressing some of these challenges. Our team has launched multiple initiatives aimed at empowering the youth and fostering digital inclusion. Programs such as "Women In Tech" provide ICT training for women entrepreneurs, empowering them to thrive in the digital economy. Moreover, UNMIK has actively supported initiatives countering online misinformation and hate speech, promoting digital literacy and responsible online behavior. Through collaborative efforts with civil society, such as the "False News and Hate Speech Platform," UNMIK is paving the way for a safer and more inclusive digital space for all. And we are just at the very beginning.

The AI era has dawned upon us, and we need to be ready to embrace the changes ahead. It's essential to view artificial intelligence not as a replacement for human ingenuity, but as a tool to amplify our capabilities.

As we convene in this Youth Assembly, let us remember that true change emanates from within. While AI offers unparalleled opportunities for advancement in communication, education, and economic growth, it's our collective responsibility to ensure its ethical and inclusive deployment.

And as we navigate through various complexities, we need to remember that you may use AI to stay online, but don't let it offline your creativity and spirit. Innate human qualities drive progress, and this Youth Assembly platform is an excellent catalyst for action. Use this time and this forum for innovation and for creative exchange of ideas. Your voices, and initiatives are the force behind the transformative change we collectively seek.

As we embark on this journey together, let us heed the call to shape a future, where young leaders of today become successful leaders of tomorrow, and where AI serves not as a master, but as a servant to humanity.

Thank you.