By: Mariko Rasmussen, Communications Specialist, and Janna Oberdorf, Director of Communications and Outreach at Women Deliver
We are back in the office after an exciting few days at the United Nations. Government representatives, heads of UN agencies, advocates, and youth from across the world gathered in New York July 25-26, 2011 for the United Nations High Level Meeting on Youth. The theme of the High Level Meeting was “Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding” and began on July 25 with two thematic panel discussions focusing on strengthening international cooperation and addressing challenges regarding youth and social integration, employment, poverty eradication and sustainable development.
On the first thematic panel, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, emphasized that the world population will reach 7 billion people later this year, 1.8 billion of which are youth. He called this both a challenge, and an opportunity. He stated that adolescent girls and young women are the most vulnerable of the population and should be the focus of development going forward, and asked that we work together to ensure youth sexual and reproductive health and rights, including access to family planning and comprehensive sex education. He believes that this generation of youth will be instrumental in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and protecting our environment in the Rio+20 process, underscoring that youth participation is not about tokenism. However, a quick glance around the room reflected a complaint we heard from youth advocates that many governments didn’t include any young people in their country delegations to the meeting. Geeta Rao Gupta, the newly appointed Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, also commented on the special needs of adolescents, saying that we often neglect the younger 15-19 year-olds when we develop and implement policies focused at youth.
Throughout the meetings, advocates called for the creation of mechanisms to ensure that youth have the power to meaningfully contribute in the process of shaping programs and policies that affect them. As the young mayor of Geneva, Switzerland pointed out, many governments are scared to give young people the floor because it is a risk to hear criticism and dissent, but it is also an opportunity to hear enthusiasm, new ideas, and solutions to the needs of their populations. Brazil’s representative was one of the only delegates to make mention of the diversity of youth, including LGBT, when saying that youth today are all striving for peace.
We hoped for new country commitments and concrete actions at this meeting, and so were very excited to hear US delegate Ronan Farrow announce the launch of a new State Department Office of Global Youth Issues. There was some buzz about the creation of a new UN entity for youth, while others pushed for greater integration and “mainstreaming” of youth issues within all existing UN entities. What do you think about these ideas?
The draft outcome document to be submitted by the President of the General Assembly at the High Level Meeting is available here and will be adopted on Thursday, July 28 2011. We are disappointed that the draft makes only one mention of sexual and reproductive health and doesn’t recognize the unique needs of adolescents or their rights. The single mention in the document states:
…We pledge to commit to the following actions… Ensure that young people enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health by providing youth with access to sustainable health systems and social services without discrimination and by paying special attention to, and raising awareness regarding, nutrition, including eating disorders and obesity, the effects of non-communicable and communicable diseases and sexual and reproductive health, as well as measures to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS;…
- Couldn’t be in NY for the HLM? WATCH videos and READ statements here.
- READ Women Deliver’s inputs to the draft document.
- READ The Youth Coalition’s newsletter from the HLM: The Watchdog
- CELEBRATE International Youth Day by participating in the Change Your World 2011 contest: find out more on Facebook
- READ a joint statement on the HLM from a number of organisations and young people here.