by H.E. Mr. Jan Kavan
President of the Fifty-seventh Session of the United Nations General
World Population Day
One Billion Adolescents: the Right to Health, Information and
11 July 2003
year’s World Population Day is dedicated to the world’s
one billion adolescents and their right to reproductive health
and the information and services that enable them to realize that
is a uniquely vulnerable period of life. It is a time when many
young people confront sexual and reproductive health issues for
the first time. They must deal with new pressures and new risks.
And, unless they are given the necessary support, they may not
be able to make the informed decisions that lead to healthy lives.
10 percent of all births are to adolescents, with 15 million girls
aged 15 to 19 giving birth each year. These pregnancies are considered
high-risk because adolescent girls are twice as likely to die
from pregnancy and childbirth than women in their twenties, and
their children face a higher chance of child and infant mortality.
Young people should be informed of the dangers. They should provided
the support they need to make active decisions about the timing
and spacing of their children. And they should be provided the
support they need to prevent them or their children from becoming
a mortality statistic. Mongolia provides an excellent model. All
secondary schools are now required to teach a course on sexuality
education, designed by education professionals with United Nations
Family Population Fund support.
and information are also critical in stalling the spread of sexually
transmitted diseases. Every day nearly 6,000 young people become
infected with HIV. Half of all new infections occur among young
people aged 15 to 24. We have seen, however, that comprehensive
government programs can significantly slow transmission rates.
In Thailand, for instance, a massive public information campaign
produced dramatic results. An estimated 200,000 – 400,000
fewer people were infected with HIV/AID than would have been in
the absence of decisive government action.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified
human rights treaty in history, spells out the right of the child
to “seek, receive and impart information” and to “enjoyment
of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities
for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health.”
I call on Member States today to ensure that adolescents are not
deprived of their right to health care services and information.