September 27, 2014 / 9:54 PM / 4 years ago

Austria's foreign minister brings Facebook age to U.N. stage

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Austria’s youthful foreign minister began his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday by acknowledging his place in the world and offering something rarely seen during the annual meeting of world leaders.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz addresses the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 27, 2014. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

“I look a bit younger than most of the other speakers before,” said Sebastian Kurz. “Indeed, I believe I am the only person under the age of 30 who has the privilege of speaking here this week.”

“What I can offer is the perspective of a young generation,” said Kurz, 28, who in December was appointed foreign minister of the Central European country of 8 million people.

Kurz described himself as part of the post-Cold War generation of European young adults who “communicate without borders on Facebook and Twitter, we have our entire lives on our smartphones and we consume the news online.”

He has more than 60,000 Facebook “likes,” which compares favorably with his 68-year-old French counterpart Laurent Fabius, who has less than 20,000, though his 115,000 Twitter followers overshadow Kurz’s 28,100 followers.

“My generation in Austria was privileged to be able to grow up in freedom from fear and freedom from want. There are of course other stories to be told of young people, growing up for example in Afghanistan or the Central African Republic,” he said.

“Today half of the world’s population is under 25 years of age. Many of them lack nutrition, healthcare, education, and jobs - all in all not much perspective in life,” he said.

He addressed the rise of extremism and the ability of groups to recruit online. “How is it possible that we allow terrorist organizations to abuse the right to freedom of expression by showing their barbaric acts on social media?” he asked.

Reporting by Rodrigo Campos, editing by G Crosse

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