The following is a statement by youth health and rights groups in response to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s report: “A Life of Dignity for All: Accelerating progress towards the MDGs and advancing the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015.”

September 6, 2013

On behalf of the undersigned youth advocates, we are writing to share our reflections on Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s report, “A life of dignity for all: accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and advancing the United Nations agenda beyond 2015,” and to reiterate our priorities for this September’s Special Event and beyond.

We welcome the report’s calls for ensuring the equal rights of women and girls, full access to basic health services and sexual and reproductive education, the realization of reproductive health and rights, and intensified efforts to reach the most vulnerable women and children. However, we feel the report does not go far enough to account for the unique needs and rights of young people and adolescents in relation to meaningful participation, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender equality. In particular, we worry that the report does not recommend a clear role for young people in setting the agenda for sustainable development post-2015.

We support the report’s call for ensuring the equal rights of women and girls to participate in political, economic, and public spheres, but are disappointed that youth participation is not referenced more consistently throughout the report. For example, young people must play an active role in the comprehensive monitoring framework and robust accountability mechanisms called for in the report. Even more, they must be active participants at all levels of decision-making about their rights, their health, and their futures. We call on governments to establish mechanisms for youth leadership at all levels and in all types of decision-making, and for the meaningful participation of youth organizations in the design of development programs and policies. Youth participation is not only essential to the integrity of these processes, but also to ensuring that the next development agenda yields strong commitments to young people’s health and rights. It is imperative that youth participation within the post-2015 process goes beyond surface-level representation. We therefore call for:

  • A transparent and participatory political process that enables the broad and meaningful participation of young people, especially young women and girls, in continuing to shape the post-2015 development agenda, including by establishing a Youth High Level Panel as per the calls of Tawakkol Karman and John Podesta;
  • Clearly-defined mechanisms for civil society and youth participation within the regional post-2015 consultations in Europe, Africa and Latin America; and
  • Ongoing opportunities for civil society and youth engagement in the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.

At September’s Special Event on efforts to achieve the MDGs, we will be taking stock of progress made and gaps in achieving the MDGs to date, but we will also be looking forward. Given that the MDGs furthest from being met are the two goals focusing on women and girls, it is clear that a business-as-usual approach to gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights will no longer suffice. The largest generation of young people the world has ever known is poised to inherit and champion our next development agenda. If the post-2015 development agenda is to be truly grounded in human rights and the principles of equality and non-discrimination, and if young people are truly the custodians of this agenda, member states must redouble efforts between now and 2015 to achieve gender equality and universal access to sexual and reproductive health, and to capitalize on this momentum as we continue to shape a transformative post-2015 agenda.

As the report states, “A new era demands a new vision and a responsive framework.” We look to member states for leadership in championing young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights within the post-2015 development agenda, recognizing their diverse needs and experiences and upholding their rights to health, bodily autonomy, and participation at every level. This will require making strong commitments to ensure:

  • Universal access to comprehensive, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health information, education, and services for young people and adolescents with respect for their human rights, and with an emphasis on equity and respect for diversity; and
  • Universal access to comprehensive sexuality education to enable adolescent girls and boys to understand and make informed decisions about their sexuality and plan their lives, and to promote values of respect for human rights, tolerance, gender equality and nonviolence.

Lastly, we welcome the report’s recognition that young people face unique barriers to employment, education, and essential services, but we are concerned by the absence of clear gender analysis in relation to these issues. Issues such as food security and nutrition, water and sanitation, jobs and sustainable livelihoods, natural resource management, good governance, stable and peaceful societies, and creating a global enabling environment must include gender-sensitive targets which address the unique impact of these issues on young women and girls. It is also worth noting that while access to employment and decent livelihoods are key priorities for young people, we caution against a development framework which views young people as commodities or economic investments, and instead call for one that commits to upholding their rights to health, education, decent work, and meaningful participation without qualification.

We are eager to work in partnership with you to ensure that young people’s rights are given the highest priority in efforts to achieve the MDGs and within the post-2015 agenda.

Sincerely, Pacific Network, Fiji
Abibiman Foundation, Ghana
AbleChildAfrica, United Kingdom
Action Canada for Population and Development
Advocates for Youth, Global
African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET)
AIDOS – Italian Association for Women in Development, Italy
Aliansi Remaja Independen, Indonesia
Alianza Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Juventudes rumbo a Cairo+20
Amnesty International
Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
Balance AC
CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, the Netherlands
Ci3 (Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in SRH), University of Chicago
Coalición de Jóvenes por la Educación y la Salud Sexual (COJESS)
COC Netherlands
Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network, Fiji
Commonwealth Youth Council Working Group, United Kingdom
Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council, United Kingdom
Concern Health Education Project, Ghana
dance4life Foundation, the Netherlands
Danish Family Planning Association
Espolea, Mexico
Espace Femmes International, Geneva
Family Care International
Federation of Environmental and Ecological Diversity for Agricultural Revampment and Human Rights (FEEDAR & HR), Cameroon
Fresh & Young Brains Development, Nigeria
Girls-Awake Foundation, Uganda
Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS
HACEY’s Health Initiative, Nigeria
IERN WILL Educational Consulting and Resource Advisory Services, Global
Information Technology Association of the Gambia (Tech Needs Girls Campaign), the Gambia
International Federation of Medical Students Alliance
International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)
International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC)
Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environment Nepal (JVE-NEPAL)
Medsin-UK, United Kingdom
MeLTyd Inc., Ghana
Migori Youth Agenda, Kenya
National Council of Child Rights Advocates, Nigeria
Pacific Youth Council
Plan International, USA
Project Survival Pacific: Fiji’s Youth Climate Movement, Fiji
Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice (RESURJ)
Reproductive Health Matters
Restless Development
Rutgers WPF
Sex og Politikk – The Norwegian Association for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
The Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR)
Uganda National Volunteers Link
United Network of Young Peacebuilders
Women Deliver
Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – NEW WAYS, Turkey
Worldwide Nepalese Students’ Organization- (WNSO), Nepal
Young People We Care (YPWC), Ghana
Young Professionals in Local Development (YPLD)
Youth Advocacy Network (YAN), Pakistan
Youth Partnership for Peace and Development, Sierra Leone
Youth Vision Alliance Network (YVAN)