The Commission for Population Development (CPD) will be holding its 45th Session from the 23rd to 27th April 2012 under the theme "Adolescents and Youth". In the build-up to the proceedings of the commission, a number of side events are being conducted to bring further attention to issues adolescents and young people are facing. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) conducted one of these activities on Sunday 22nd April 2012 - a consultation involving young people and other actors attending CPD sessions.
The consultation focused on current efforts by UNFPA to develop a Global Youth Strategy for the organization, at a time when the global youth population is at its largest than ever before in history. Presentations and discussions conducted indicated the extent to which UNFPA is looking to enhance its support for local actions to address the challenges adolescents and young people are facing. From access to information and services, to participation and broader youth engagement in their own development.
We were able to follow some of the proceedings and a few of the key challenges we noted from that the strategy should seek to address included;
- Pushing for a broader definition of "Adolescents" and "Youth" at all levels. Discussions on this noted the different perspectives among the organizations such as UNICEF, WHO and UNFPA. The position of the African continent to define young people as those between 15 to 35 years old through the African Youth Charter was also highlighted,
- "Adolescents" and "Youth" are coming from different backgrounds, hence approaches to reach them must be diverse and seek to also reach those at the margins of development,
- Different actors must be engaged, including Civil Society Organizations. Partnership with governments must be enhanced to ensure improved receptiveness to engaging and working on issues of young people and coordination among key ministries.
But perhaps a challenge that we felt was also critical to highlight here was that this should not be a homogeneous strategy for global consumption. The strategy must provide opportunity for regional adaptation or secondary strategies must be developed at regional level.
We commend these efforts from UNFPA, together with spearheading the drafting of a report on "Monitoring of population programmes, focusing on adolescents and youth" - which will be presented during the CPD session. The strategy is coming at the backdrop of a just completed, soon to be released and somewhat similar strategy developed through Crowd-sourcing by young people, under the auspices of UNAIDS - CrowdOutAIDS. But is the renewed focus on young people born out a the sincere conviction to mitigate the challenges they face or is it all this a means to meet "planning obligations" and tick off results for the year? We hope it is the former but there are faint suggestions that it is the latter.
The global economy has consistently struggled since the financial meltdown less than 5 years ago. Many of the world's big economies, who meet the financial obligations of putting such plans into action are struggling with cutting costs. One of the areas that suffers is funding for international development programmes. At the consultation, a comment from Norway and the United States was heard, hinting the support for programmes such as what would be expected out of the UNFPA strategy. But with the clear financial difficulties the world is facing at the moment, can resources for this strategy be assured on equal terms as other programmes UNFPA is undertaking?
For the African continent, such a strategy would be a boost to ongoing continental efforts on youth development. We would hope whatever form they take go on to support the implementation of the African Youth Charter by encouraging countries that have yet to ratify the charter to do so and implement related plans and programmes. The focus on young people should move from a rhetorical to one of actual practice. Thus work behind the strategy should seek to provide support only where there is clear commitment to provide "adolescents" and "youth" with a supportive platform to realize their potential through education, employment, health, innovation, community development and cooperation.
We look forward to also hearing your reactions.