Youth Weigh in on Health and Rights at the NGO Forum in Berlin

berlin youth symposium

IWHC provides more breaking news from this week’s NGO Forum in Berlin.

Yesterday, we blogged about a heated debate brewing at the three-day conference that brought together NGOs to evaluate how far we’ve come in realizing the Cairo Programme of Action.

Today, we bring you more breaking news from the conference.  On Wednesday, young people from over 60 countries convened for the Youth Symposium at the Global Partners in Action: NGO forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development, and issued a call to action of their own. In it, they called on governments, donors, the private sector, as well as civil society to strengthen their commitment to sexual health and reproductive rights. Specifically, they called on them to:

  • Strengthen their commitment to implement the ICPD PoA on adolescents and youth at the country level, regardless of the political environment, donors and country donors’ agendas, and to contextualize it so that it addresses country needs and local realities, by educating people and generating demand, and allocating local resources for self-sustaining programmes.
  • Think beyond Cairo and acknowledge the limitations of the ICPD Plan of Action, by pushing for a more inclusive and progressive agenda; specifically the recognition of sexual rights; sexual diversity and the different forms of family composition; eliminating of gender bias that leads to inequality and discrimination; liberalizing laws which will make abortion services more accessible and safer for women; promoting drug-related harm reduction strategies; eliminating the legal barriers that prevent adolescents from accessing sexual and reproductive health services and fully enjoying their sexuality; and facilitating access to the benefits of scientific progress.  We recognize the value of cultural differences and do not perceive it as a barrier for fully realizing young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and cultural practices should not compromise young people’s rights.
  • Recognize that young people are entitled to all human rights and that we are a very diverse group with different backgrounds. We are young people; women, men, lesbians, gays, heterosexuals, transgender;  in school, out of school, sex workers, married, divorced, single or in a relationship; we live with HIV and AIDS; we are disabled; we are migrants, refugees, displaced, trafficked;  we are working, jobless or seeking employment; we speak different languages; we have different spiritual beliefs and practices; we have different perceptions of the world around us; we use different media and social networks to communicate globally. Therefore, programs targeting us should acknowledge and respect our diversity by conducting research, collecting disaggregated data by age, sex/ gender and eliminate the existing policies that discriminate against us.
  • Involve young people at all programmatic, policy and decision-making and budget planning and distribution at the national, regional and international level. In order to achieve this, States, decisions makers, international agencies, donors, and NGO’s must invest in young people through mentoring programmes and capacity-building initiatives and equal youth-adult partnerships.
  • Support youth-led organizations and groups through providing institutional capacity building and long-term funding both at program and operational level.
  • Promote accurate, timely and evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education for young people, both in school and out of school which recognizes the rights of young people to enjoy their sexuality in a safe and pleasurable way, free from coercion, discrimination, and violence in intimate partner relationships.   States should ensure that the different sectors of society involved in sexuality education are fully informed, sensitized on youth issues and empowered to act in the best interests of young people.  

  • Provide sustainable sexual and reproductive health services, including counseling, by trained providers which offer non-judgmental care and respect diversity.   This includes eliminating legal barriers which restrict young people’s access to essential services, such as parental and spousal consent, age of consent and issues of confidentiality.  Young people should have access to a wide range of reproductive health supplies and treatment which allows them to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress.

Be sure to check out our video featuring Vincent, a representative from the Youth Coalition who is based in the Phillipines. Vincent speaks about what needs to happen for youth to be included in achieving the Programme of Action set forth in the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994.