|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Commission on Population and Development
4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)
‘Fool’s Paradise’ to Think Denying Adolescents Health-Promoting, Life-Saving
Services Shielded Them, Prevented Promiscuity, Population Commission Told
Educate Young People — Including on Sexual, Reproductive Health — Increase
Their Chances to Be Powerful Force for Development, Positive Change, Says Speaker
“It’s a fool’s paradise to believe that by controlling the lives of adolescents and young people, and denying them health-promoting — and perhaps life-saving — information and services, we are preserving our old way of life, or protecting the young from the dangers of the modern world,” one of among 40 speakers told the Commission Population and Development today.
In an extensive slide presentation on adolescent and young peoples’ health and welfare, primarily in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the Senior Associate at the Population Council in India, and today’s keynote speaker, Shireen J. Jejeebhoy, said that, with 5 million young people between the ages 15 to 24 living with HIV and 9 million young women between the ages of 15 and 24 having unsafe abortions yearly, there was still a global debate about whether to provide sex education to young people and what the content of that education should be.
She said that a rigorous review of the outcomes of comprehensive sex education found that risky sexual behaviour was reduced by roughly one fourth to one third. Moreover, “not one single study found evidence that providing young people this education resulted in increased risk taking”.
Too many parents, she said in the ensuing discussion, did not speak to their children on those important issues because they themselves lacked adequate awareness, but also because norms and practices borne of a generations-old schism existed between the age groups. That was also due to the misconception that educating children about sexuality would condone sexual behaviour.
As the Population Commission entered the second day of its week-long session, discussion was framed by the transition from childhood to adulthood and the implications of education on sex and reproductive rights. Many felt the benefits went beyond reducing the risks of sexual activity — such as unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases — to addressing young people’s overall health and well-being and contributing to national development.
Croatian young people, said that country’s representative, were beginning adult life, such as marriage, independent living and parenthood, at a later age. The birth rate now, although stable, was below the replacement rate, but parenthood still seemed to be “a matter of chance rather than of choice”.
Not so in Finland, where, its delegate asserted, sex education in school had been the norm since 1970. There was now evidence that giving Finnish young people the chance to take responsibility and make their own informed decisions on their sexual and reproductive health led to positive results. Such an approach did not increase promiscuity or teenage pregnancies, but, in fact, lowered rates in both pregnancies and abortions, while raising the age of the first sexual encounter.
Reminding the Commission that over 40 per cent of the world’s population was under the age of 25, the United States representative called on the international community to increase efforts to meet their needs. Quoting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she said: “When young people can claim their right to education and health — including sexual and reproductive health — they increase their opportunities to become a powerful force for economic development and positive change.”
However, young people — especially girls — who did not have access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services education, faced increasing problems, including early marriage, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, stressed Germany’s representative. He also pointed out that positive male role models, as well as responsible behaviour, needed to be integrated into comprehensive sex education curriculum. That would enable boys and men to support women’s sexual and reproductive health rights.
There were over 300 million adolescents between the ages of 10 and 24 in China, making it the largest of that age group in the world, its delegate noted. His Government was constantly developing and improving the laws and policies that assured that all unmarried youth had access to sexual and reproductive health information, services and education. Still, China confronted many challenges. Family planning needs were not fully met, for example, and awareness needed to be raised regarding the provision of the reproductive health education and services.
Other delegates drew attention to the challenges of limited resources in implementing responses to sexual and reproductive health concerns. Adolescents and young people in Uganda, its representative said, struggled with poor nutrition, general ill-health, as well as reproductive health issues, such as unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortion — estimated at 300,000 per year. He underlined the need for greater access to family planning and services.
In the Dominican Republic, legal frameworks were in place, including a 20-year National Development Strategy, which highlighted the needs of its youth population, that country’s delegate said. Nevertheless, moving beyond “merely a health sector policy” was critical, as was increasing the coverage of adolescent-friendly health services and comprehensive sex education. But, as a developing nation, his country faced economic limitations.
If reproductive rights challenges were not met, warned Peru’s delegate, then the impact of teenage motherhood brought generations of poverty and social vulnerability. Peru was offering free contraceptives, especially to the poorest regions of the country, where less than half of adolescents used contraception.
Participating in the general discussion on national experiences under the special theme “fertility, reproductive health and development” were the representatives of Colombia, Norway, Canada, Portugal, El Salvador, Benin, Japan, Chile, Switzerland, Netherlands, Zambia, Bangladesh, Botswana, Mexico, Senegal, Israel, Malta, Denmark, Tunisia, Belarus, Poland, Malaysia, Jordan, Malawi, Australia, Kenya and Ghana.
The Permanent Observer of the Holy See also spoke.
Also participating were representatives of UN-Women, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Economic Council for Africa, and Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 25 April, to continue its general debate.
The Commission on Population and Development met this morning to continue its general debate on national experiences under the special theme “fertility, reproductive health and development”.
[For additional background information and official documents for the session, please see the website at: www.un.org/esa/population/cpd/cpd2012/cpr45.htm.]
GABRIEL JAIME GOMEZ ARBELAEZ (Colombia) said that the current national development plan in Colombia was aimed at implementing the strategies laid down in the 1994 Cairo Programme of Action. It had set as a priority the reduction of teenage pregnancies, caring for mothers and promoting risk-free sexual activity for young people, and thus, helping to break the vicious cycle of poverty. It was important to strengthen national capacities to address the problems of domestic violence, sexual violence and other issues affecting young women and girls.
He stressed the importance of preventing sexually transmittable diseases in young people, and said there would be a differentiated approach by Colombia that addressed women sex workers, the transgender population, men having sex with men, and both older and younger women who were particularly vulnerable. In order to strengthen institutional responses to sexual and reproductive health, it was of great importance for young people and teenagers to participate in creating self-reliance and responsible human capital, pledging to help develop their communities and countries. Colombia was promoting such activities through its youth councils.
His country was currently witnessing two parallel phenomenons, he said. While it had increasing numbers of young people in the labour market, with women’s participation having increased two-fold compared to men, there was also a high rate of unemployment, wherein one in five young people was unemployed. The Government was, thus, working to create jobs and provide better labour conditions.
RANKO VILOVIĆ (Croatia) said that, with the core values and goals in the Cairo Programme of Action incorporated into national population policies and programmes, his country was addressing its “greatest development challenges” — that of adolescents and youth who represented a very vulnerable group. That was due, not only to the recent economic and financial crisis, but to a shift in values. Young people were more likely to experience poverty and social exclusion, becoming part of the “new poor”, which impacted his country’s efforts to fulfil its development agenda and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
He said that Croatian young people were beginning adult life, such as marriage, independent living and parenthood, at a later age. The birth rate now, although stable, was below the replacement rate, and parenthood seemed to be “a matter of chance rather than of choice”. Demographic renewal was connected to a number of factors, such as youth employment, affordable housing, and adequate child-care facilities for preschool children, among others, and all stakeholders needed to make a concerted effort for progress to be made.
His Government placed great importance on preventive health-care measures, counselling on reproductive health and family planning for adolescents and youth, he said. Further, both preventive and curative health care of school children, young people and full-time students was provided through the public health system. Concluding, he shared some best practices that enabled success in the area of youth employment, including his country’s recent adoption of a national plan for employment promotion. Under the new measure, “On The Job Training for Professionals without Employment”, 3,166 people under the age of 24 were able to gain relevant working experience in the first year of the programme.
ZANE DANGOR (South Africa) said that, although his country’s population growth and fertility rates had been declining, the growth of the youth population had remained significantly higher when compared to other age groups. Youth now comprised about 41 per cent of the population, yet their living conditions were below other population age groups. Despite real advances in the educational status of South African youth, the dropout rates in higher grades were worrying.
He said that teenager fertility was reported to be on the decline in the country, but HIV prevalence remained the highest among the youths. Young people in conflict situations also remained a significant challenge; their exposure to and participation in violence was troubling. To combat those and other challenges, South Africa’s 15-year review of the implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action provided recommendations, including retaining young people in school, strengthening internship programmes and addressing youth violence. It also recommended more research on teenage fertility, improved access to contraception and the promotion of responsible, healthy reproductive lifestyles.
JOSE ALBERTO BLANCO ( Dominican Republic) said that his country had made great strides towards meeting its commitments under both the Cairo plan and the Millennium Development Goals. Legal frameworks were in place to support those efforts, including a 20-year National Development Strategy, which highlighted the needs of the youth population. The policy focused on gender equity and equality, pregnancy prevention for adolescents and the prevention of domestic violence, violence against women, and HIV/AIDS.
He stressed that the Dominican Republic viewed sexual and reproductive rights as basic human rights, which should be guaranteed “and even promoted, protected and respected” for adolescents and young adults, without discrimination and with special attention to the most vulnerable groups. However, challenges remained, including, among others, strengthening the legal and public policy frameworks, and strategic alliances and collaboration, and moving beyond “merely a health sector policy”, increasing the coverage of adolescent-friendly health services and comprehensive sex education, and the promotion of adolescents and young people’s participation in the development of policy, programmes and projects. As his country was still a developing nation, it faced economic limitations, and he noted the need for financial support and involvement from the international community.
MARGARET POLLACK (United States) said that too many young people were vulnerable to multiple exclusions and discrimination, especially girls and young women, as well as homeless youth; those with only one or no parents or guardians; young people orphaned by or living with HIV/AIDS; adolescents and youths in marginalized groups, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered youth; young people with disabilities; those in rural areas and urban slums; youth who migrated alone; and youth from indigenous or disadvantaged communities.
She said it was clear that, since over 40 per cent of the world’s population was under the age of 25, the international community needed to increase efforts to meet the needs of adolescents and youth, and to secure their healthy transition to adulthood. The Obama Administration was taking strong and clear action to support its global health commitments. The focus of the President’s Global Health Initiative was to build and strengthen systems in-country, supporting long-term, systemic changes that removed the economic, cultural, social and legal barriers to quality health care for women and young people.
Quoting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said that “when young people can claim their right to education and health — including sexual and reproductive health — they increase their opportunities to become a powerful force for economic development and positive change.” She added that Governments and the United Nations system, working together with young people, could make possible a healthy transition to adulthood for all adolescents and youth. That was the foundation needed for young people to become empowered world citizens, and on which world peace, justice and prosperity depended.
ANETTE REMME ( Norway) stated that the right to sexual and reproductive health was an important component in national public health and gender equality. Further, the involvement of young people in those areas was “particularly valued”, with adolescents and youth organized and represented in political organs. As a representative of the Norwegian Children and Youth Council, she urged the Commission to listen to the experiences and opinions of the young delegates attending the session, and stressed the importance to ensure young people had the means to make healthy and informed choices about their sexuality, based on their own needs and limits.
In her country, she said, comprehensive sex education, access to cheap contraceptives, and free and confidential sexual health services were an integral part of the national health care and educational system. Civil society organizations, as well, were important sources of information and platforms for young people’s empowerment, including the “queer youth movement”, which was creating safe spaces for lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transgender youth. Although HIV rates were low in Norway, many young people still did not have sufficient knowledge about it or how it was transmitted.
There was room for improvement, she noted, including the improvement of the quality of comprehensive sex education in school and equal access to information, sexual health services and counselling across the country. As well, teachers’ education should ensure their competence to teach human sexuality. In Norway, women of all ages had access to high-quality physical and mental health services, ensuring that they were able to make decisions “freely over their own bodies”. Norway also had relatively low birth rates and low abortion rates among adolescents and youth. Since abortion was legalized in 1979, those rates declined and, currently, the abortion rates for adolescents were at their lowest. Young people had access to free abortion services, without parental consent, and birth control was free of charge for girls under the age of 20. Adolescents and youth were in a time of change and, most importantly, “the needs young people identify for themselves must be at the centre of our attention.”
GILLES RIVARD ( Canada) said that his country had a long-standing commitment to ensure that girls, boys, young women and young men had equal access to quality basic education, ensuring that adolescents could remain in school through primary and into secondary school, which was of key concern in Canada. He also recognized that investments in health, education and other sectors could not yield sustainable improvements in the lives of children and youth if protection and security issues were not also addressed. Canada was, thus, working to ensure that countries had the legal framework necessary to protect children and youth from violence and abuse, and make schools safer.
He said his country was also committed to eliminating gender inequalities and supporting the empowerment of girls and young women. His Government, in partnership with others, was championing 11 October as the United Nations International Day of the Girl, in order to foster awareness of the specific risks girls faced, and to encourage countries to promote girls’ fundamental human rights. Achieving the internationally-agreed development goals was a shared responsibility that required continuous attention, sustained partnerships at all levels, and the active and equal participation of women and men, boys and girls.
JORMA JULIN (Finland), pointing out that the largest generation of adolescents in history was now entering sexual and reproductive life, underscored the need for youth-friendly information, education, services and commodities. Further, the needs of young, unmarried people, including the unmet need for contraception and family planning, required attention. In his country, the rights of adolescents and youth to sexual and reproductive health services were promoted. Young people’s participation in their own well-being was essential, in particular, ensuring that men and boys be involved in discussions concerning sexual and reproductive health services and rights.
He said that the promotion of sexual and reproductive health was crucial to strengthening human development. In Finland, “Health in all Policies” ensured that decisions in all sectors considered health impacts. The provision of health-care services, including sexual and reproductive health services, also made economic sense through the promotion of productivity and long-term and inclusive economic growth. Further, there was now evidence that giving Finnish young people the chance to take responsibility and make their own informed decisions on their sexual and reproductive health led to positive results. Such an approach did not increase promiscuity or teenage pregnancies, but, in fact, lowered rates in both pregnancies and abortions, while raising the age for the first sexual encounter.
His country was considered a model in reproductive health and education, he noted, because of its enlightened political decision–making, the integration of reproductive health into general education and a focus on health service, especially for young people. “Investing in young people is one of the most effective and cost-effective ways to promote health,” he said, pointing out that sex education had been part of the school curriculum since 1970. Concluding, he stressed that improving young people’s access to comprehensive sex education and sexual and reproductive health services was not only important for their health and well-being, but also “an investment in development”.
KISAMBA MUGERWA (Uganda), aligning his statement with that of the African Group, said that Uganda had been part of the international community’s agreement on the Cairo plan and had managed to put in place mechanisms to promote youth participation in leadership, development and the governance process. Uganda was a young country in terms of its population and was not immune to the challenges facing other developing countries. Youth and adolescents in Uganda were often faced with poor nutrition, general ill health and reproductive health issues, such as unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortion — estimated at 300,000 per year. There was a need for increased family planning, as there was clearly limited access to information and services in that regard.
He highlighted various programmes in Uganda aimed at reducing poverty, which had seen some success, although levels remained very high. Uganda was devoting a national programme to equipping youth with vocational and technical skills, in partnership with development partners and other investors, to support projects by young entrepreneurs and other efforts. In the area of education, enrolment had increased by almost 100 per cent, but the high dropout rate, at 22 per cent in primary school, particularly among girls, was a major drawback of the national policy to maintain and increase school enrolment. Uganda would continue to place particular emphasis on adolescents and youth as a way to move the country forward.
VANESSA GOMES (Portugal) said that the World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted by the General Assembly in 1995, and the implementation of its 15 priority areas was of crucial importance to her country. Portugal had identified several areas for youth development, including, among others, increasing the quality of education, stimulating social and economic entrepreneurship to combat unemployment, and promoting access to health and leisure for young people. Her country’s youth programmes and policies highlighted health by ensuring better nutrition, promoting physical activities, preventing substance misuse and unplanned pregnancy. Further, Portugal supported the principle of voluntary choice in family planning.
She said that adolescents and young people constituted a vulnerable group, and the international fiscal crisis compounded their circumstances. That, in turn, impacted their access to education, health and social services, and decent work. She urged Governments to implement their obligations under the human rights instruments, as well as the Platform for Action of the Beijing Conference. To that end, her country’s national youth plan included promoting education, including, among others, functional literacy and life-long learning; job creation, which would help reduce crime and drug consumption; and training in media literacy and modern communication.
Portugal’s commitment to youth issues was not new, she said, recalling the 1998 World Conference for Ministers Responsible for Youth, which her country hosted, and which was connected with a World Youth Forum and the Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes. It was because of that Conference that the United Nations General Assembly had declared 12 August as International Youth Day. She stressed the importance for Governments and societies to respond more effectively to the economic, social, educational, emotional and cultural needs of adolescents and youth, whose further participation was of critical importance, as they brought unique perspectives that needed to be taken into account in the development of societies in which they lived.
CARLOS GARCIA GONZALEZ (El Salvador) stressed the importance to challenge the obstacles that impeded young people from employment and health. Their participation in the political sphere was crucial, as well. His country was addressing the issues of risk behaviours, including cigarettes, alcohol use, and violence, including, in the case of the latter, among youth gangs. He underscored the need to focus on migrants, stressing that the protection of their human rights was crucial, as was the international community’s support for solutions in that regard. His country had just ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and he called upon Member States to do so, as well.
He expressed concern that in areas where the international community could not reach consensus, progress was impeded in addressing the evolving needs of each age group, especially for children between the ages of 10 and 24. In his region, 22 countries had participated in the Ibero-American Summit in 2008 under the theme "Youth and Development”. The Summit recognized youth as important stakeholders and investigated a number of issues that directly addressed related issues, including, among others, the access, participation and skills development in modern technology.
On a national level, he underscored the role and leadership of the national youth council that was established in 2011 towards the promotion and implementation of policy that supported young people, he said, highlighting two flagship programmes. One worked on the integration into the workplace of young people, and the second, “Projovenes” addressed the issues of violence, focusing on social reintegration into the labour market of at-risk and former gang members. Currently, the programme served 40 people daily. With the support of the European Union, it was being developed in 79 localities of the country, which would benefit 50,000 children and youth aged 10 to 25. A support programme for integrating youth employment and vocational training centres was also being developed with the help of the United States. El Salvador had adopted in 2011 the General Law on Youth, establishing the rights of people ages 15 to 29 and promoting their social, political and economic participation.
Mr. DE SOUZA (Benin) said that 46 per cent of the population was below the age of 15, which meant tremendous need in terms of creating educational and job opportunities. Partnerships were necessary for youngsters to establish micro-financing and loans, to promote their economic activity and assist their families. Benin had established a protection programme to help alert young people to the risks of HIV/AIDS, and was working to provide better education and information on sexual and reproductive health. He said that young people were the lifeblood of the country and the hope of the future, and they needed to be supported.
JUN YAMAZAKI (Japan) said the high rate of unplanned pregnancies, high infant mortality, and the increase in cases of HIV/AIDS were some of the many remaining unsolved issues regarding population and development. With the gap between developing and developed countries on those issues widening, he called for urgent countermeasures. While adolescence was generally thought of as one of the healthiest and most vital periods in a person’s life, it was also an age characterized by major physiological changes, at which time people began to engage in sexual activity for the first time and health risks with life-threatening consequences became suddenly prominent.
Studies in his own country had shown that the number of HIV/AIDS cases as a proportion of the total reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases had been increasing over time, he said. Furthermore, it had also been shown that the proportion of adolescents and youth among all patients diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, was larger than any other age group. For those reasons, the Government considered it important to promote countermeasures among the younger generation. His Government had been promoting various steps to offset problems relating to children and young people, the aim of which included eradicating smoking and drinking among minors, decreasing unplanned pregnancies and abortions, reducing sexually transmitted diseases, and preventing and treating anorexia and other eating disorders.
Japan had been putting its experiences as a country, as well as its interactions with its international partners, to good use by actively participating in international cooperation in the field of health, based on the country’s notion of human security, he said. Through its global health initiative, Japan was also providing effective support packages based on scientific evidence that aimed at improving maternal health and decreasing the incidence of three of the world’s most infectious diseases: AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Through those and other policies, Japan intended to promote comprehensive measures to improve health conditions for all, including for adolescents and youth, in cooperation with other development partners. Because a safe learning environment was extremely important for the growth of adolescents and youth, under its Education Cooperation Policy 2011-2015, his Government intended to promote the “School for All” model. The Government would provide $3.5 billion to education over five years from 2011.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile) said that young people in Chile shared with other young people in other latitudes the same challenges that must be tackled by national societies and the international community. Various surveys had recorded the fact that teenagers and youngsters were becoming markedly disaffected by politics, but at the same time, wished to be key protagonists of change. The role of voluntary work performed by many youngsters and adolescents in response to the earthquake and tsunami that had afflicted the country in February 2010 was a tangible illustration of that commitment, and was further evidence of their generosity and enormous ability to display solidarity in the face of common challenges.
He noted a historic level of participation in higher education had been achieved, as well as an increase in student aid. There were also 110,000 new fellowships, which would be provided for the most vulnerable strata of the population and guaranteed for 60 per cent of the most deserving students from the poorest parts of the country.
The national health survey in 2009 and 2010 measured 42 key health problems in the age group of 15 and 24 years, including smoking, drinking, illness and symptoms of depression, he reported. Chile was working to prevent suicides and diseases, particularly among the youth population, through health monitoring programmes. In the area of sexual and reproductive health, there was a low rate of contraceptive use, leading to some 16.2 per cent of live births being to teenage mothers from the ages of 15 to 19. Chile was working with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to promote safe sex and contraception use. He stressed that life should be protected from the moment of conception to the grave, and no measure should interfere with that right.
URSULA FUNK (Switzerland) said that, although adolescents and youth were full of hope, aspirations and energy to contribute to societies’ advancement, they faced many challenges at that stage of life, and everything should be done to develop their potential. Priority should be given to quality education, skills development and universal access to health care, she said, noting that many girls and young women could no longer attend school because of early pregnancy, unsafe abortions or fistula; some died because they were too young to deliver children safely. Ensuring that all adolescents and youth had access to information about sexual and reproductive health, as well as to youth-friendly health services, including counselling and means of contraception, “is the way to go”.
She noted that, as testimonies of the young people themselves had showed yesterday, they needed free access to sexual and reproductive health information and services to be able to make informed decisions. Some of the services required by adolescents were different from those provided for adults and should have greater emphasis on information, psycho-social support and promotive and preventive health services, she observed, adding that the most effective youth-friendly health services were provided by technically-competent, non-judgemental staff, that respected their clients’ confidentiality and privacy.
HU HONGTAO, Director-General, Department of International Cooperation, National Population and Family Planning Commission of China, said with a population of adolescents and youth aged 10 to 24 years at approximately over 300 million — the largest of that age group in the world — China had taken at least six key actions to safeguard rights of adolescents and youth, provide them with sexual and reproductive health education and services and promote their integrated development.
Firstly, he said, the Government was constantly developing and improving relevant national laws and policies that assured all unmarried youth the right to access sexual and reproductive health information and services. Secondly, it was conducting sexual and reproductive health education and services at all levels of education. Thirdly, it was constantly improving the system for information collection and management about the health status of adolescents and youth. Fourthly, it put the role of non-governmental organizations dealing with adolescent and youth issues into active play. Fifthly, the Government proactively promoted adolescent participation in all efforts related to the provision of information and services for them. And, sixthly, it promoted international cooperation on adolescent reproductive health to boost exchanges.
He said despite that remarkable progress, China was still confronted by many challenges, as adolescent and youth needs for reproductive health and family planning were not yet fully met and public awareness regarding the provision of reproductive health education and services to that population group still needed upgrading. In the face of those challenges, the Chinese Government would enhance adolescent reproductive health from multiple perspectives, including law, policy, education and service provision to promote young people’s integrated development.
MIGUEL BERGER (Germany) said that the past several decades had seen a great improvement in the reproductive health of men and women. However, girls and young women who had been victims of sexual violence still were very often denied access to information, services and support that could enable them to protect their own sexual and reproductive health in an environment free from coercion, discrimination and violence. His delegation was deeply concerned that early childbearing and limited access to the highest attainable standards of health, including sexual and reproductive health, especially in the area of emergency obstetric care, caused high levels of obstetric fistula and maternal mortality and morbidity.
He said that, without access to comprehensive sexual education and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, young people — especially girls — were likely to face increasing problems, including early marriage, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. He added that concepts of masculinity, positive male role models, as well as responsible behaviour, should be promoted and integrated into curriculums for comprehensive sex education. That would enable boys and men to support women’s sexual and reproductive health rights. Realizing those rights was one of the priorities of German development cooperation in the area of health and population policy, and a prerequisite for achieving international development goals.
SHIREEN J. JEJEEBHOY, Senior Associate, Population Council, India, noted that, in the 18 years since the Cairo Conference, the world’s priorities about population had changed. The Cairo outcome, in particular, had focused on the importance of addressing the needs and developing the capacities of young people and especially young girls. “The ICPD made a number of promises to the world’s young people,” she said, and it was time to review the extent to which those promises were kept. Although that historically large population of young people were healthier and better educated than ever before, there was a question of whether the many commitments made in international instruments and declarations were being translated into reality.
Accompanying her presentation with informative and extensive slides, she outlined what she defined as the seven attributes to a successful transition to adulthood. Those were promises, which had implications on young people’s sexual and reproductive health, including a child’s right to an education; the elimination of child marriage; the right to health and access to health services that included reproductive health for adolescents; access to health information; social support and skills for girls in regard to sexual and reproductive health, as well as the fostering of gender equality; the protection of young people, especially girls, from violence; and the right of young people to grow up in safe and supportive environments.
“The world has made disturbingly slow progress,” she said, when discussing the issue of child marriage. Almost half of all young women in Southern Asia married before they were 18 years and almost a fifth were married before they were 15 years. In sub-Saharan Africa, the statistics were a bit better, with 39 per cent marrying before the age of 18, and 13 per cent before the age of 15. Efforts to ensure the elimination of child marriages were weak, and if progress continued in that vein, less than a 1 per cent decline in child marriages would be attained. Increasing marriage age not only enabled girls to avoid risky pregnancy, but increasing age at marriage by five years could reduce by 15 to 20 per cent future population growth.
When discussing the right to health information and services, she presented the many examples of how unsafe sex put youth at risk. Some of the statistics she presented included that an estimated 5 million young people between the ages 15 to 24 were living with HIV. Further, 22 million women worldwide had unsafe abortions, almost all which occurred in developing countries. Nine million of those procedures were undergone by young women between the ages of 15 and 24, and many suffered negative health and social consequences.
Yet, she observed that there remained a global debate about whether to provide sex education to young people and what the content of such education should be. In a rigorous review of the outcomes of comprehensive sex education, risky sexual behaviour was reduced by roughly one fourth to one third. “Not one single study found evidence that providing young people this education resulted in increased risk taking,” she stated.
Concluding, she admitted that the presentation illustrates a “dismal account” of “promises made and promises broken”. However, she had noted some encouraging signs, including policies and programmes in many countries that recognized the need to improve sexual and reproductive health among their young population. She also highlighted the progress made, albeit slow, in the health and education of that current young generation. And, she had heralded the small but successful pilot programmes that demonstrated that change was possible, offering, as an example, the Population Council’s work where intervention models succeeded in building “safe spaces” for girls, connecting them with mentors and role models, as well as programmes for boys and men that were making inroads into deeply held patriarchal norms.
She stressed that today’s priority was to provide the supportive environment that young people required to transition to adulthood successfully. “It’s a fool’s paradise,” she said in closing, “to believe that by controlling their life, and denying them health-promoting — and perhaps life-saving — information and services, we are preserving our old way of life, or protecting the young from the dangers of the modern world.”
Delegates posed questions to the keynote speaker, raising issues such as how parents could provide adequate sexual and reproductive health information to their children if they themselves were young and unprepared parents, the safety of children from sexual exploitation and abuse within the home, and the obstacles to improving children’s situations.
Responding to a query, Ms. Jejeebhoy said that too many parents did not speak to their children on those important issues because they themselves lacked adequate awareness, but also because norms and practices borne of a generations-old schism existed between the age groups. That was also due to the misconception that educating children about sexuality would condone sexual behaviour.
She also said that, while it was a sad fact that many girls and boys were not, in fact, safe in their own homes from sexual exploitation and abuse, although it was generally a safer bet than they children faced living on the streets.
As for obstacles to improving children’s lives, she said that among those already discussed, she would highlight the fact that populations lacked sufficient commitment to enacting change in that arena.
Speaking to other concerns raised, she said that rural areas represented a large portion of the populations studied. It was important to note that, although information and communications technology might be helping young people to educate themselves and each other in parts of the world, most rural youth had no such access and required continued use of traditional communication formats.
MARIJKE WIJNROKS (Netherlands) said her country’s decades-old national policy focused on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of adults and young people alike. Adolescents had access to factual information on sexuality and health and to commodities, such as contraception, including “emergency” contraception. Young people also had access to, among others, sexually transmitted disease screenings and treatments, safe abortion and counselling. Services were youth-friendly, confidential, affordable and available “24/7”. The national policies had proven beneficial, resulting in high contraceptive rates, a low number of abortions and of teenage pregnancies. It also resulted in a “cost-effective investment” in the future of her country.
She said the policies, however, did not come about without years of public debate, which was ongoing. Sex education was constantly evaluated in order to address changes in youth culture, with recent additions that addressed minority communities. The roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders were recognized. “Parents matter,” she emphasized, as research showed that Dutch young people sought advice from their parents when it came to relationships and sex. Teachers also mattered, and they routinely received training by the Municipal Health Services. Religious leaders mattered, too, she said, describing an initiative by Surinamese congregations in Amsterdam working with the Municipal Health Services to train their religious leaders to discuss sexual matters with their congregants.
Because the Netherlands was committed to the Cairo plan beyond 2014, a joint partnership, the Youth and ICPD Partnership, along with CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality and Dance4Life, was being launched between young people, youth organizations, civil society organizations, national Governments and United Nations agencies. Although it was not a financing mechanism, it was a broad coalition to strengthen cooperation and young people’s active engagement in promoting and implementing the Cairo agenda in years to come. The starting point was the sexual and reproductive rights of women and men, and of boys and girls.
MWABA PATRICIA KASESE-BOTA (Zambia) outlined her country’s achievements, including developing an adolescent health plan, providing education materials and bursaries to vulnerable children and orphans, launching a rehabilitation and reintegration programme for children who lived in the street, and establishing skills training centres. In addition, the Government had set up interventions for young people that included establishing youth-friendly credit facilities and introducing skills-building camps. It also had created a Ministry of Gender and Women Affairs and introduced a school re-entry policy for girls, allowing pregnant girls to continue their education.
However, more needed to be done, she said. Challenges included improving the lives of young people on issues pertaining to sexually transmitted infections, early marriages and pregnancies, as well as drug and alcohol abuse. Migration posed another challenge to achieving economic development, with many young people moving to urban areas to seek work. That had created complex problems in cities, such as housing shortages, poor sanitation, street children, prostitution, HIV/AIDS and unemployment. Thus, more resources were needed to strengthen programmes targeting young people to address those and other challenges.
ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh), noting that young people were important national resources, said that in his country, where adolescents and youth constituted one third of the total population, development of that segment was, thus, a priority agenda for the Government, which had undertaken various programmes for mainstreaming adolescents and youth in the overall development process. Comprehensive initiatives had been launched for skill development of young people, by providing extensive training in different sectors, and a national service programme had been introduced.
He said that health was another priority sector for Bangladesh, and today, health-care services were being delivered through some 18,000 community clinics in rural areas, with each serving 6,000 people, including vulnerable women. Additionally, the Government was upgrading 59 district hospitals for emergency obstetric care and preparing them as women-friendly health service centres, in addition to formulating a national action plan and adolescence reproductive health strategy to increase awareness on reproductive matters and prevent adolescent pregnancies. In spite of its resource constraints, the Government was committed to transform its youth force into an efficient human resource. However, despite significant strides, Bangladesh still had “miles” to go, he acknowledged, and he appealed to the international community, especially the country’s development partners, to support the country-led youth development programme.
TAPOLOGO BAAKILE, Director, Population and Development of Botswana, said the major challenge facing his country today was the high number of unemployed youth, largely due to limited capacity of the country’s economy to generate enough jobs and to absorb the growing number of youth with employable skills. Poverty was the direct resulting of that growing unemployment. By 2009, 20.6 per cent of Botswana’s population was living below the poverty datum line, with 6.5 per cent living below the minimum $1 a day. To alleviate the impact of that bias, the Government had embarked on deliberate policies and programmes for rural development, such as the Young Farmers’ Fund to assist aspiring youth to venture into commercial agriculture in both livestock and pastoral farming.
He said that the HIV/AIDS scourge remained a challenge in his country, with an estimated 17.1 per cent of the population living with the virus in 2010. It was estimated that 25 per cent of the youth were living with the virus in that same year. Botswana recognized that access to reproductive health services was essential for the health and development of adolescents and youth, and to that end, the Government had recently developed an Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Implementation Strategy, 2012-2016, which provided a framework to enhance young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health information and services. Of equal concern was the incidence of alcohol and substance abuse among its youth and adolescents. To address that challenge, the Government, with the active support of civil society, had embarked on a programme to educate young people on the dangers associated with substance abuse.
MARĺA JOSÉ GONZÁLEZ PAUL DE LA TORRE (Mexico), affirming her country’s commitment to the Cairo agenda and Millennium Development Goals, said that adolescents were the future workers, whose success depended on investing in human capital. In her country, health protection was a constitutional right. The state of health for Mexico’s young people was better than that of previous generations, with the major cause of death from accidents. Obesity was a major health concern for adolescents and young people, and the Government had implemented policies to address it, which addressed the supply and access to healthy food and drinks and encouraged physical activities.
She said that progress in improving education had been made, with a decline in illiteracy rates and an increase in school attendance, among others. Additionally, social policy was in place that encouraged young people to continue their education, through scholarships. The number of women in educational settings had increased, and the number of dropouts in secondary school had declined. Gaps resulting from ethnic, geographical locations and income levels, however, persisted in education. Other important issues were the inclusion of young people in the labour market and family planning. The Government established “Programa del Primer Empleo”, a fiscal stimulus programme that recruited young people entering the workforce for the first time. That programme, since its inception in 2007, had generated more than 83,000 permanent jobs.
With contraception knowledge “universal” among young people, Mexico had a good and long experience with family planning, she said, and there were currently campaigns targeting women and adolescent boys that addressed unplanned pregnancies. There was much to be done, she stated in conclusion, and it was necessary to ensure that approaches embraced diversity of young people, including gender differences, ethnicity, and socio-economic status.
BAKARY DJIBA ( Senegal) said that adolescents and young people, who represented the majority of the population, must play a key role in building human capital. They were an inexhaustible resource of energy in the nations of the world. The establishment of social networks that were heterogeneous in nature were making a useful contribution to strengthen the response to the issues facing the youthful population. There had been a decrease in his country’s fertility rate, and according to projections, that figure would reach 3.4 children per woman by 2035 — down from 5.7 children per woman in 1997.
He said there had been a significant improvement in children and infant health from 1997 to 2010, and a drastic decrease in child mortality rates, which had dropped from 68 to 47 per cent. Senegal had also taken positive measures to reduce the financial barriers that prevented access to reproductive health care and expanded a range of contraceptives. Senegal supported a “clamping down” on female genital mutilation, as well as other measures to benefit women, such as the “Neighbourhood Fairy Godmother Programme” to improve maternal health.
MIRIAM COHEN-NAVOT (Israel) said her country was guided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and, thus, ensured universal health coverage and free education for all citizens until age 18. Israel also provided schools with special funding for academic, social or emotional support for each immigrant student and had created a “cultural mediator” in each school to enhance communication with parents who might experience language difficulties. The Government offered at-risk youth a range of services, including specialized programmes, treatment and social services.
Israel also collaborated with other countries in youth-related research to deepen and share knowledge on policy development, she said. Youth were also at the centre of Israel’s international development work. That included collaborating with Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to provide workshops on the psycho-social care of affected children. “Youth are the backbone of our nations,” she said. “The future of our societies is in their hands. If we neglect to motivate them, if we avoid teaching them responsibility and goal-setting, we face the risk of a lost generation, a generation of youth scarred by alienation or despair.”
CHRISTOPHER GRIMA ( Malta) said his country prided itself on its high level of health care, which was offered free of charge to all citizens. He said that a healthy life incorporated the physical, mental and social well-being of the individual, which were also essential elements for young people’s success and prosperity. In that connection, the National Youth Policy stipulated the need for tailored health strategies that took into account the young people’s requirements.
Quoting the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates as having said that “sport is a preserver of health”, he said that Malta’s Government had implemented a policy through which local sport facilities were upgraded and maintained to a high standard, in order to benefit the community, especially adolescents and youth. Sport acted as a promoter of active citizenship, enhancing team building and promoting good values of fair play and leadership.
CARSTEN STAUR (Denmark), aligning with the European Union, said the need to address population and development simultaneously was of crucial importance, and the Rio+20 Conference should address the strong linkage between those two forces with a special focus on the needs of young people. “An agenda for sustainable development that does not include the population dimension is doomed to fail,” he said. Complications from pregnancy were the leading cause of mortality among girls aged 15 to 19 in developing countries. Youth and adolescents were among the most vulnerable groups in poor societies. They must be ensured universal access to health and education, including in conflict and emergency situations.
He said the Cairo Programme affirmed the rights of all young people to the highest attainable health standards, including sexual and reproductive health. Securing those rights would allow them to take charge of their lives. Denmark’s new strategy for development cooperation stated that partnerships should be founded on a human rights-based approach to development. One of its four focus areas, social development, included spearheading international efforts to further sexual and reproductive health and rights. It was unacceptable that, in 2012, young women were stripped of their right to freely decide over their own body. Special attention must be given to securing those rights in conflict and fragile settings.
HABIBA BEN ROMDHANE, President Director-General, National Board for Family and Population, Tunisia, reminded the Commission that it was her country’s youth that had fought for the establishment of democracy in the past year. “This pushed all of us to be more attentive to aspirations and needs of this group,” she said. Through the expansion of previous interventions into a preventive and integrated multidimensional plan, the National Board for Family and Population was committed to working for the rights of young people and adolescents who represented one third of the Tunisian population, in sexual and reproductive health. Among the goals of those efforts were facilitating access to information about sexual and reproductive health, so that it could be translated into responsible behaviour, integrating reproductive health services into existing health centres including schools and university health centres, and training health providers in communication, education and medical services at those youth centres.
She underscored the importance of counselling and psychological care in the wide range of services provided by the National Board for Family and Population, which addressed preventing addiction, enhancement of family dialogue and the improvement of relationships between young people and their parents. The National Board was also addressing the sexual and reproductive health issues of adolescents and young people between the ages 15 and 29 years, with the establishment of youth centres in 22 out of 24 governorates. Those services, which offered medical, educational and psychological information, were private, quick and free of charge, and did not discriminate on gender. The Board utilized an innovative educational approach “From Youth to Youth”, whereby young people disseminated information on sexual and reproductive health while listening to the concerns and problems of their peers. Tunisia was committed to establishing new cultures of freedom, democracy, equality and gender equity, and respect for human rights. That commitment was especially aimed at children, adolescents and young people.
IRINA VELICHKO (Belarus) said her country was carrying out early disease diagnosis programmes among children and young people, including harmful habits, such as smoking and drug use. Belarus supported the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s report on a comprehensive approach and strategy to treat HIV/AIDS among young people. Belarus had put forward an initiative to assist the prosperity of future generations based on combating social problems faced by young people and supporting talented youth as an important potential for society. The Government had also set up a network to identify and support those individuals.
She said her delegation trusted that an active role would be played by the United Nations Population Division in strengthening the national capacity of middle-income countries with their demographic policies. Given new threats and challenges, it was important to strengthen the world’s youth programmes. The international community must take due note of young people’s aspirations, and put the required effort into forging their attainment.
ALINA POTRYKOWSKA, Secretary-General of the Government Population Council of Poland, said young people aged between 15 and 29 comprised 22 per cent of her country’s 38.5 million inhabitants, making it one of Europe’s oldest societies. But, its fertility rate ranked among the lowest. Unemployed young people who had abandoned their education were at risk of being permanently excluded from the labour market. The Voluntary Labour Corps carried out projects, including those co-financed by the European Social Fund, which fostered self-sufficiency among young people. Data showed that 64 per cent of young people wished to start a business. The Act on Employment Promotion and Labour Market Institutions provided subsidies to do so, which were six times higher than the average wage.
Turning to migration, she said the “internationalization” of Polish universities had become visible. The Government planned to promote migration in the area of education by adjusting the legal administrative system in that field. A document entitled “Migration Policy of Poland” recommended supporting the adaptation of returning emigrants’ children in education and improving access to the Polish language. Young peoples’ reproductive health was a vital part of Poland’s health policy, and in the last two decades, a range of modern contraceptive methods had become increasingly available. The Constitution ensured special health care for children, young people, pregnant women, handicapped and older persons. The strategy for combating HIV/AIDS was based on the principle of the inviolability of human dignity.
HARJEET SINGH, Deputy Secretary-General (Strategic), Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development of Malaysia, said his Government had put in place various policies and programmes to handle the sexual and reproductive health needs of the adolescents and youth. A key initiative was the “Healthy Programme without AIDS for Youth”, or PROSTAR. Introduced in 1996, the programme used peer education to disseminate messages, as well as to directly involve youth in HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns. The Malaysian Government had also established six youth-friendly adolescent centres, known as kafe@TEEN, to increase access to reproductive health information and services for young people aged 13 to 24 years. The Government later established a mobile version of kafe@TEEN to expand its outreach, targeting young people in schools, colleges and institutions of higher learning, he stated.
On HIV/AIDS, Malaysia’s response to the epidemic was still guided by its National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS, which had been developed in response to the Government’s commitment to achieve Millennium Development Goal 6, he said. To reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer — another of the country’s major concerns in the area of reproductive health cancers — the Government was targeting young girls to ensure their protection. However, cultural and religious sensitivities remained a major challenge to implementing reproductive health education. Parents were still uncomfortable talking about reproductive health matters with their children, leaving the children dependent on information from their peers or other sources, such as the Internet. To address the issue, Malaysia’s sexual and reproductive health programmes included training health-care providers, parents and parties who engaged with the youth to provide youth-friendly services and to be non-judgemental and supportive on issues related to their sexual and reproductive health.
DIANA AL-HADID (Jordan) said youth in her country represented both the largest percentage of the overall population, as well as the greatest asset and hope for the future. More opportunities were still needed for youth to play their full role in society. To meet the challenges of poverty, unemployment, linking education to the labour market and increasing political participation, the Government had organized a series of meetings throughout the country with the aim of exchanging views with young people.
She said her Government, among its actions, had formulated a national youth strategy and action plan for young people between the age of 12 and 30, and developed specialized activities targeting education, unemployment and access to the labour market. Jordanian legislation also provided for the social, political and economic participation of young people in society. The Jordanian National Charter and Jordan’s Executive Development Programme recognized the pivotal role of youth in society and their importance to development.
JANET ZEENAT KARIM (Malawi), aligning her statement of the African Group, said the importance of this year’s theme could not be overemphasized. It was true that most developing countries in a state of demographic transition were characterized by high but declining fertility and mortality rates. Malawi’s own population was youthful, with 46 per cent aged below 18 years. In addition, about 7 per cent of the projected 14.4 million people were infants less than one-year-old. Further, 22 per cent of the population was under five years of age.
More than just numbers, she said, those statistics represented human beings with needs, hopes and aspirations. The group aged 15 and younger was the largest generation of youth to date, and the support received from the Government and other stakeholders in the form of education, health care and livelihood, would determine the nation’s future. Investing in youth would yield large returns for generations to come. To respond to their various challenges, Malawi had laid out strategies and programmes to, among others, enhance economic activities, promote healthy lifestyles, create awareness of sexually transmitted infections, and meet mental and physical health needs, as well as those in the social, vocational and recreational realms. Malawi remained committed to the ideals of the session, among which, was the goal of improving the well-being of youth and adolescents.
PHILIPPA KING (Australia) said, despite successes achieved at the 1994 Cairo Conference, some 215 million women in developing countries still had unmet family planning needs. With 1.2 billion people between ages 10 and 19 worldwide, the coming years would bring increased demands for family planning, and Governments would need to intensify efforts to meet the needs. Young people in developing countries faced a disproportionate burden of poor sexual and reproductive outcomes. It was critical that adolescents received reliable and age-appropriate information related to sex, sexuality and gender, because, without it, young people would be more vulnerable to reproductive and sexual health problems.
She said Australia had increased development assistance through 2015, including support for family planning and reproductive health services. Within her country, youth enjoyed good health, relative to other age groups. However, they were vulnerable to mental health and behavioural problems, suicide, traffic accidents, pregnancy and substance misuse. Australia was taking strong tobacco control measures, as young people were particularly vulnerable to addiction. The overall goal was better health outcomes for them. “We must not let ourselves be divided on this important goal,” she said. “We must unite if we are to ensure the health and human rights of youth and adolescents all around the world.”
STEPHEN WAINAINA, Economic Planning Secretary of Kenya, said that, in order to meet the needs and aspirations of youth, Kenya had established the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, developed a National Youth Policy for Sustainable Development, and allocated funds in the national budget to provide free sanitary pads to schoolgirls from poor areas. Kenya had also established the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, the Women Enterprise Fund to facilitate women’s access to credit, and launched the Kazi Kwa Vijana (Work for Youth) programme. Although the economy had been creating about 500,000 jobs annually, that had not been adequate to cater to the rising youth population, leaving about one quarter unemployed. In addition, of the 3.5 million youths in Kenya, slightly more than half of them lived in poverty. The Government continued its efforts to help that population and had established a Youth Parliament, developed a National Gender and Development Policy, and outlawed child marriage.
Fortunately, he said, patterns of early pregnancy had declined slightly, contraceptive prevalence has increased, and female genital cutting had fallen by almost half since 1998 among girls aged 15 to 19 and women aged 25 to 29. Kenya remained committed to the full implementation of the Cairo agenda, to ensure that adolescents and youth had full access to quality education, productive employment, universal reproductive-care services, and full protection of their rights.
ALFREDO CHUQUIHUARA ( Peru) said his delegation recognized the rights of people to decide freely the number and spacing of births, and in that regard, promoted the free access to reproductive health services. Peru was implementing training and employment programmes, giving priority to young people to improve their quality of life and to ensure their active participation in sustainable development. Peru believed that public health was a priority theme, and it had clear management guidelines that were based on the Cairo plan and its reviews, with a view to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
He said his country was strengthening primary care, and had enacted legislation on universal health services, including sexual and reproductive health to prevent early pregnancies. One out of seven young women and girls aged 15 to 19 had become pregnant. The social distribution of teenage motherhood brought generations of poverty and social vulnerability. Peru was, thus, offering free contraceptives, especially to the poorest regions of the country, where less than half of adolescents used contraception, despite knowing how useful it was.
STEPHEN KWANKYE, Executive Director of the National Population Council of Ghana, said that youth in Ghana were faced with diverse challenges. One third of women in the country married before age 18, and sexual activity commenced quite early, and was often unprotected. Still, there had been a steady decline in Ghana’s fertility in the last two decades from around six children per woman to the current average of four. Ghana recognized that education was an important vehicle for producing the nation’s skilled human capital, which was at the centre of the quest to achieve national development goals.
Ghana was rapidly becoming urbanized, with a large army of unemployed youth migrating from the rural hinterland in search of non-existent jobs. That trend was increasing urban poverty and other related challenges, including the inability to afford decent housing. Ghana had implemented several programmes to improve the holistic development of adolescents and youth, including establishing the National Population Council, creating a desk for adolescent health and development, and creating multi-purpose youth centres known as “Young and Wise Centres”.
MARIE SMITH, Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See, said it was disconcerting to note the trend to downplay the role of parents in their children’s upbringing, putting that role instead with the State. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights said that “parents had a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”, which was of particular importance with regard to their access to information about their health and well-being. With almost 90 per cent of youth living in developing countries, and literacy rates below 80 per cent in some parts of Africa and Asia, her delegation reaffirmed the essential role of education, which was a human right. An authentic, rights-based approach to development placed the human person, bearing within him or her infinite and divine inspirations, at the centre of all development concerns and, thus, respected the nature of the family and the role of parents, including their religious and ethical values.
KRISTIN HALE, Director of Strategic Partnerships of United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said that the Commission’s data helped reveal the new faces of adolescent girls and young women in the context of ongoing changes in the economies, environment, population movements and related challenges. UN-Women promoted the disaggregation of demographic data, not only by sex and age, but also by other determinates of well-being and empowerment, such as health, education, employment, residence, protection and safety. On one hand, the girl of the twenty-first century was emerging as increasingly educated, married at a later age, with later pregnancy and child-bearing. However, too many girls were still exposed to pressures and stereotypes through advertising and the Internet, and young men and boys were also made more vulnerable by traditional gender roles and stereotypes about masculinity. UN-Women was working to ensure the implementation of human rights, the adoption of rights-based approaches in polices affecting girls, enacting and enforcing legislation to protect youth against gender-based violence, and developing institutional capacities to create enabling and safe environments for disadvantaged girls.
FREDERICO NETO, Director, Social Development Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), highlighted ESCWA’s programme work, which focused on four priority areas, including, among others, youth and international migration. An analysis of youth exclusion, recently published in ESCWA’s Population and Development Report, addressed the issue holistically, taking into consideration education, economic, and political spheres. The expansion of education in past decades was noted, but the focus was on primary education, rather than secondary and higher. Dropout rates in many countries, especially among girls and young women, were high and 12 per cent of the youth population were illiterate, again with girls and young women overrepresented in that group. There were also challenges, especially with young women, in the transition from education to work, and 66 per cent of the youth population of the region were “economically inactive”.
He said ESCWA was working with its member countries to build capacities in line with the World Programme of Action for Youth, recently implementing a Development Account project that focused on policy-makers. His agency was also collaborating with others in the Organization’s system, through the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development and the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs Working Group on Coordinated Youth Research, which ESCWA co-chaired. Concluding, he expressed his gratitude for the cooperation of ESCWA’s member countries and assured them of its continued support.
THOKOZILE RUZVIDZO, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said that the rapidly increasing number of adolescents and youth was an outcome of the demographics of the population, especially in terms of fertility and mortality. A young age structure reflected high fertility currently and in the past, as was the case in Africa. As for mortality, a child who survived to age 15 in the 2005-2010 period was expected to live an average 49.8 years in Africa, compared to 48.2 years for that same demographic in 1995-2000. That low life expectancy was attributable to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other communicable diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis. The battle against disease required additional resources for the implementation of health strategies, particularly for adolescents and youth.
PAULO SAAD, Chief of the Population and Development Area of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), highlighted two themes being addressed by his group, namely fertility on the one hand, and the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant populations on the other. He stressed that the sexual and reproductive health of young people needed to be prioritized by all States. The region still had serious gaps in information available to remedy local problems, so his staff had been providing intensive technical assistance for the inclusion of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendents, in society as a whole, as well as in systems of health information.
* *** *For information media • not an official record