UNFPA Strategy on Adolescents and Youth: Towards Realizing the Full Potential of Young People

A safe and successful passage from adolescence into adulthood is the right of every child. This right can only be fulfilled if families and societies make focused investments and provide opportunities to ensure that adolescents and youth progressively develop the knowledge, skills and resilience needed for a healthy, productive and fulfilling life. Further, national and global development, security and social justice can only be achieved if adolescents and youth are included as full and active participants.


Everyone’s goal: Successful transition into productive and rewarding adulthood

Everyone’s responsibility: Upholding the human rights of young people

Everyone’s business: Investing in young people

Sexual and reproductive health and rights are a corner stone of young people’s transition to adulthood, influencing outcomes for both adolescents and youth across a range of fronts. Unless sexual and reproductive health and rights are supported and upheld, young people’s lives will be negatively impacted. Likewise, without access to opportunities to learn, contribute and explore; if deterred or excluded from active participation; if subjected to violence, or deprived of resources: the consequences for young people are almost always evident in the status of their sexual and reproductive health. To ensure that adolescents and youth flourish on the road to adulthood, what is needed is an integrated set of policies and programs that addresses the “whole person” and pays close attention both to the context in which young people live and to the relevant international standards. This means that only by working together across sectors and in collaboration with young leaders, can the constraints on young people’s progress be removed, obstacles tackled effectively and the pathway to adulthood be paved with opportunity and support


  • Accountability to key stakeholders, especially young people
  • Delivery through partnerships
  • Respecting diversity, focusing on the most disadvantaged
  • Tailoring actions to national and local contexts

With offices in 140 countries, specialized expertise in demography and in sexual and reproductive health and rights, and with strong capacity for policy advocacy and communications, UNFPA’s contribution to the advancement of adolescents and youth has five strategic prongs:

I. Evidence-Based Advocacy for Development, Investment and Implementation

Core Activity
Advocacy for: national, global policies, programs, human rights protection, reform of laws prohibiting or criminalizing behaviors, and national and global accountability; based on national and global data gathering and policy analyses; developing national capacity; country-specific situation analyses.

II. Promote Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Core Activity
Advocacy with governments and UN agencies; Capacity development for curriculum development and implementation; Provider training; Monitoring and evaluation; Planning for, delivery of scale-up, assistance in fund raising.

III. Build Capacity for Sexual and Reproductive Health Service Delivery, including HIV

Core Activity
Advocacy to create global, national and community support for AY access; Planning and delivery of improved services; Production of improved provider training materials and processes; Improved Management Information Systems to track youth utilization of services and quality; Advocacy by youth, and outreach to youth; raise funds and resources for service improvements and expansions; HIV prevention programmes focusing on relevant subgroups of young people.

IV. Reach the Most Vulnerable

Core Activity
Provide technical support to design and initiate programs; Help raise funds in support of implementation; Support monitoring and evaluation.

V. Youth Leadership and Participation

Core Activity
Consult youth; Advocate for youth participation in forum that will affect their lives and opportunities, and help youth gain access; Skills training and other support for youth advocates; Technical and financial support for youth organizing and advocacy

Socio-cultural, economic and environmental realities for young people today mean they are one of the largest groups of marginalized and excluded people that the world has ever seen. Investments in young people’s education, livelihoods, sexual and reproductive health, including HIV, participation, leadership and human rights means a more resilient present and future. The strategy positions UNFPA to convene partnerships with diverse stakeholders to achieve its vision of delivering a world where every young person’s potential is fulfilled

Leading the HIV prevention revolution

Young people are leading the HIV prevention revolution, but remain disproportionately affected by HIV. UNFPA works in toward an HIV-free generation by promoting human rights and gender equality through four core areas:

  • providing young people with information to acquire knowledge
  • providing young people with opportunities to develop life skills
  • providing young people with access to sexual and reproductive health services and commodities for pregnancy and HIV protection and treatment, care and support; and
  • creating a safe and supportive environment that does not discriminate or hinder young people’s access to services

UNFPA leads efforts to promote comprehensive, evidence-based prevention strategies for young people and also seeks to involve youth in the design, implementation and evaluation of HIV programmes that affect their lives.

Youth in times of crisis: Focusing on the needs of young people in extreme situations

Life in crisis zones can be deeply troubling to anyone. Some factors that may leave young people especially vulnerable in such situations include: the absence of role models, the breakdown of social and cultural systems, personal traumas such as the loss of family members, exposure to violence and chaos, and the disruption of school and friendships.
Such factors may lead to early sexual initiation and other high-risk behavior, including drug and alcohol abuse. Displaced young people are particularly vulnerable to HIV, and they urgently need information and services to protect themselves from disease and unintended pregnancies.
When disaster strike, UNFPA works to protect the sexual and reproductive health of those affected, with an emphasis on the special needs of young people.
UNFPA also pays particular attention to the needs of young people as the acute crisis moves into the reconstruction phase. Protection programmes and the provision of vocational training and other life skills education can be instrumental in helping them put their lives back together and contribute to the rebuilding of their communities.

For more information on the UNFPA Strategy on Adolescents and Youth, click here