In the lead up to the 47th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD), the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR) would like to join many of our colleagues in welcoming the evidence based ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Review Report. We especially support the emphasis on adolescents and youth; and appreciate that a specific chapter has been dedicated to this thematic priority.
As young people, we applaud the report’s recognition of the Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration as an important contribution to the ICPD review. It is vital that we are heard and that young people’s human rights – including our sexual and reproductive rights – remain non-negotiable. The landmark United Nations review of progress, gaps, challenges and emerging issues related to the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA) and its cross-cutting approach to development is a promising step forward in guaranteeing the human rights of all people.
While we as rights holders support the Global Report, we call on governments to go even further in promoting and protecting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people, including young people.
THE DEMOGRAPHIC IMPORTANCE OF YOUNG PEOPLE In welcoming the report’s inclusion of young people’s rights, we want to address our concern that adolescent and youth are in general seen through a demographic and economic rather than human rights lens. The urgency to focus on youth and adolescents as a constituency and thematic priority should be strengthened in acknowledging young people as rights-holders. Further, the importance of youth involvement as a way to empower and protect their rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights (CPD Resolution 2012/1), should be acknowledged as agreed ICPD PoA language and reviewed on the basis of how it is translated into the current reality and needs of young people.
CHILD, EARLY AND FORCED MARRIAGE We applaud the report’s strong language in describing child, early and forced marriage across several countries and the recognition of women’s rights and the rights of the girl-child through the elimination of harmful practices. We further welcome the push for a minimum legal marriage age and the specific recommendations made with regard to national policies.
ADOLESCENT PREGNANCY While we welcome the report’s recognition of health risks and possible implications associated with adolescent pregnancies, we encourage the inclusion of a rights-based choice approach to pregnancy. Reproductive rights and bodily integrity – not population dynamics and control – must be central to the discussion. From this perspective, the report should go further in mentioning not only the significant proportion of adolescent pregnancies resulting from non-consensual sex but also the number of unintended pregnancies, mortalities and morbidities due to the absence of on-demand legal and safe abortion services for young women and girls.
UNEVEN PROGRESS IN EDUCATION We strongly support the report’s inclusion of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) as part of quality education and recommend that CSE (included in the Bali, Montevideo and APPC outcome documents) be elaborated into a benchmark for member states in delivering quality education that includes sexual and reproductive health and rights information to youth and adolescent.
GOVERNMENT PRIORITIES Significantly, the report acknowledges sexual and reproductive health information and services for youth, including HIV as a global priority for governments, especially for low-income countries. We encourage governments to build upon this priority and that of maximizing social inclusion, equal access and rights in addressing barriers to access and guaranteeing the human rights of young people globally, including sexual and reproductive rights.
GENDER We support gender parity as a priority and encourage governments to go beyond the discourse as a binary understanding of gender that is limited to male vs female without recognition of non-heteronormative gender identities. As part of the ICPD Global Review, governments must acknowledge the agreed language in both the Bali and Montevideo Outcome documents on LGBT people and sexual orientation and gender identities.
We urge governments to take note of the important findings coming out of the Global Review and to go further in recognizing the sexual and reproductive rights of young people, which includes access to safe and legal abortion and addressing the realities of young LGBT people. We further remind governments to act on the commitments made in the regional and thematic conferences held as part of the ICPD Global Review. The language agreed upon in these outcome documents and the voice of young people must resonate in the outcome document of UN General Assembly on ICPD+20 in September 2014.