Young People Leading the Way in Accountability for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health

This blog post was written by youth SRHR advocate Daniel Tobón García, medical doctor from Colombia and member of the Board of Directors of the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights. Daniel serves as the YCSRR representative to The PACT and is actively involved with ACT!2015.

After the strong results of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, launched in 2010 by the UN Secretary General, and the push from different organizations and agencies to increase attention on adolescent health, it is great to welcome a new Global Strategy that includes adolescents and incorporates the priorities of young people.

At the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR), we took a leading role during the consultations for the new Global Strategy to ensure that the priorities of young people and their human rights (including their sexual and reproductive rights) were appropriately addressed in the new high-level commitment. We were very happy that the new Global Strategy shows advances in 1) addressing women’s health beyond their reproductive capacity; 2) addressing adolescents (and beyond their sexuality); and 3) its references to and calls for a human rights based approach to better health.

Now that the Global Strategy has been launched and the 2030 Agenda has been set, it is important that youth sustain their leadership and focus on ensuring both the best possible implementation for these frameworks, and effective accountability where young people are meaningfully engaged. The youth sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) movement, and the YCSRR, have taken steps forward in this regard, as demonstrated with the recent approval of funding for Phase 4 of ACT!2015 through The PACT (focused on youth-led and data driven accountability for SRHR and HIV in the Post-2015) and the prioritization of youth-led accountability in the newly approved Youth and Adolescent Constituency in the Board of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH).

The global health community is also focused on the operational plan of the Global Strategy and its Accountability Framework. The World Health Organization (WHO) and PMNCH (together with the UN Secretary General’s Office, and the Governments of Canada, Japan and Tanzania) convened a stakeholder consultation meeting in Geneva on Accountability for the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. At this meeting, key players in the Sexual and Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health fields were invited to speak on the challenges and opportunities for accountability. As a member of YCSRR, I was invited to attend this meeting, along with other young people from organizations such AFRIYAN and the IFMSA.

I was invited to speak during the first day of the meeting about youth-led initiatives on accountability. The panel was composed of representatives from Governments (including the new Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva) and private sector and civil-society organizations. I presented Phase 4 of ACT!2015 and discussed the difficulties that young people face when trying to take care of their health and exercise their rights. Additionally, I did not miss the opportunity to call upon the institutions that were present to adequately support youth organizations and initiatives (including providing the necessary funding, recognition and partnership opportunities) for an inclusive and sustainable future. You can view my talking points here.

Although the meeting was a great space to promote the work of the youth SRHR movement, I came away from the meeting with mixed-feelings. While it is great that conversations around accountability are happening, it was unfortunate to see very few country representatives present. Country representatives are the ones who will ultimately be implementing the Global Strategy and will be the key actors who will be held accountable. Without their participation in these important conversations, the outcomes of the meeting were ambiguous.

Moving forward, youth organizations must maintain our role in leading the way for the effective and transparent implementation of the Global Strategy. There is too much at stake.