(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be here once again in Washington to celebrate the work of Mentor.
This afternoon, I met with young students from this city who participate in our mentoring programmes. They are all young residents of neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Washington. I met them along with their mentors. The testimonies of these teenagers, students at two of the schools founded by tonight’s honoree, Irasema Salcido, were moving. They told me how much value they find in having a mentor. This is Mentor’s work in microcosm: empowering young people, motivating them to choose a path to a healthy life and a future free from drug use and substance abuse.
So much has been achieved since our last event here in Washington in 2012. I am delighted to see the projects and programmes being delivered in this country under the leadership of Mentor USA. Our thanks go not only to the dynamic and committed board and staff, but to you, our partners and supporters. You share our successes. Our successes are the result of your involvement in our joint cause.
Drug use and substance abuse are major challenges throughout the world, and Mentor therefore works in many countries. Mentor has become the leading international non-governmental organisation working to prevent drug use and substance abuse in children and youth. Over two decades, we have built up experience from prevention programs in many countries, and we have benefitted from sharing experiences and best practices with experts internationally as well as in this country. International collaboration is fundamental to combatting this challenging situation.
Mentor is also part of a broader global effort on behalf of children and youth. Children in many countries are undergoing great suffering due to wars and migration. Later this week, I will be taking part in a special meeting at the United Nations focusing on “Giving Every Child a Chance.” This meeting at United Nations headquarters will concentrate on the new opportunities that the Sustainable Development Goals framework brings to improving millions of children’s lives. Sustainable Development Goal 16.2 reads: End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children. We all have important roles to play as we work to achieve these goals.
There is so much more we can do together to help our young people become healthy and fully contributing members of the global community. Your engagement with Mentor remains essential. Indeed, we need to attract the support of more individuals, groups and organisations as we continue to fulfil our mission and expand our endeavours.
I would like to again thank you all and, in closing, urge you to continue your commitment to our cause. Be assured that we are making a positive difference in the future of our young people, here in Washington, across the United States and in many countries around the world. It has been 21 years since my initial meetings with the World Health Organization that led to the founding of Mentor. Imagine what we can do together in the years to come.