A broad range of issues facing youth everywhere will be addressed when more than 100 ministers responsible for youth gather in Lisbon, Portugal, for a global conference from 8 to 12 August. The conference is being convened by the Government of Portugal in cooperation with the United Nations. Issues for consideration include unprecedented rural-to-urban migration, unemployment, hunger and poverty, armed conflicts, juvenile violence, substance abuse and sexual exploitation. Opportunities for education, training, health and social services are also severely limited for many young people.
The Secretary of State for Youth of Portugal, Miguel Fontes, who is Secretary-General of the World Conference, spoke with correspondents at United Nations Headquarters in New York on Friday (26 June), the last day of the third session of international consultations on the conference. He emphasized the importance of the conference and said that the time was right for real political will to take concrete action. He said the conference was expected to adopt a historic declaration on youth.
John Langmore, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said "This will be the first global meeting on youth at the ministerial level held since the founding of the United Nations in 1945. During the cold war period, competing youth institutions and ideologies hampered international progress in this area. At that time, attention was diverted from the central issues of concern to young people and the development of policies and programmes for youth was inhibited. The ministerial meeting will be a fresh start."
Mr. Langmore also said that, in the week before the conference, there would be a World Youth Forum of the United Nations system, organized by the United Nations in partnership with the Portuguese National Youth Council. Its third session would be held in Braga, Portugal, from 2 to 7 August. It was expected that more than 500 young people would participate. The agenda of both the Forum and the ministerial conference were similar, he said, and the Forum's conclusions would be presented to the conference.
The conference will be opened on 8 August by President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The world youth population -- defined by the United Nations as the age group between 15 and 24 years old -- was estimated in 1995 at slightly over 1 billion, or 18 per cent of the total world population. Most live in developing countries, and their numbers are expected to increase well into the twenty-first century.
The conference in Lisbon will decide on further ways of implementing the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond, adopted by the General Assembly in 1995. That Programme focuses, in particular, on measures to strengthen national capacities regarding youth, and to increase the quality and quantity of opportunities available to young people.
The conference will focus on three major areas of concern:
(1) National policies for the implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond;
(2) The relevance of the three themes of International Youth Year -- Participation, Development and Peace -- which represent the overall themes of the World Programme of Action; and
(3) Social development and major priority issues for action. Among these are education; employment, unemployment and underemployment; young people's health problems; the worldwide increase in drug abuse; and the increased risk of communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS.