45th UN Commission on Population and Development

New Report stresses reproductive health care for youth

a group of young women; extracted from the cover of Knowledge summary#9

23-27 APRIL 2012 | UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the need to provide reproductive health care for young people, as well as give them access to the necessary information and the means to protect themselves from sexual abuse and violence. Mr Ban was opening the 45th session of the UN Commission on Population and Development, which this year focuses on adolescents and youth with the launch of the Report: Monitoring of Population Programmes, Focusing on Adolescents and Youth .

Speaking at the opening the session, Mr Ban said: “We cannot ignore the facts. Many young people are sexually active, and because of this, they may face risks to their health, including sexual violence,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks to the Commission on Population and Development, which opened a week-long session at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Commission, composed of 47 elected Member States, meets annually to discuss population issues and trends in relation to development strategies and policies. The theme of this year’s meeting is ‘adolescents and youth.’ Mr. Ban emphasized that the international community must empower youth in this regard, as they are not only a growing demographic sector, but also a force for change and progress as evidenced by the various popular movements in the Middle East and other parts of the world over the past year.

New Report stresses reproductive health care for youth

In a world of 7 billion people, 1.8 billion are between 10 and 24 years old. Almost all of them live in the developing world. While considerable progress has been made in sound national youth policies in recent years, these policies often lack the necessary investments or are not mainstreamed into national policy agendas, according to Monitoring of Population Programmes, Focusing on Adolescents and Youth, submitted by the United Nations Secretary-General to the 45th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD).

“Many assume that all young people have access to information, that most are likely to stay in school, that they postpone entry into the labour force until they finish a degree of education and that they delay marriage and childbearing for when they are ready,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. “However, this is not true for all adolescents and youth across the world. In fact, many of these issues are still a major challenge for the majority of young people in developing countries.”

Young people continue to face poverty, high unemployment, inadequate education, poor health and violence, says the report. Millions of girls lack access to sexual and reproductive health services to avoid unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections. As a result, an estimated 3 million unsafe abortions took place in developing countries among girls aged 15 to 19 in 2008.

“The need to invest in young people is more urgent than ever,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “Now it is time to take action.” Unmet need for modern contraception remains at historically high levels, says the report. A study shows that more than 60 per cent of adolescent men and women in four sub-Saharan countries did not know how to prevent pregnancy, and more than one third did not know how to obtain contraceptives. As a result, 41 per cent of all new HIV infections are among those aged 15-24, and 3,000 young people are newly infected every year. Child marriage is still widespread, with 30 per cent of women aged 15 to 19 in least developed countries are married or in union. Up to 60 per cent of sexual assaults are against girls under age 16, and more than 3 million girls worldwide are at risk of female genital mutilation or cutting every year.

The report concludes that the Programme of Action of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the key actions for its implementation “are still an unfinished agenda for young people in most regions of the world.” “The ICPD Programme of Action provides direction about the policies, programmes and resources that are needed to support adolescents and youth, and countries have reaffirmed and strengthened this direction in many intergovernmental agreements since the ICPD,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “However countries still have much to do to fulfill the rights and aspirations of young people.”

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