July 9, 2014

What do young people want to see in the Post-2015 agenda?

Young people around the world have recognized the importance of the post-2015 agenda and have utilized a variety of platforms to express their wants and desires for a better future.  But is this actually being reflected in the formal process?

This is a question that members of IFMSA and other youth-led organizations like YWCA and Youth Coalition have sought to answer through a research project.  To keep it short and simple – we looked at formal post-2015 documents and statements, youth-created statements and documents on what they would like to see in post-2015 and then identified gaps.

We weren’t surprised to see that young people globally prioritized the same issues and that similar issues were often overlooked in formal post-2015 statements.  The main gaps included: universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for young people and adolescents, youth friendly services, meaningful youth engagement and the inclusion of marginalized and vulnerable populations, including people living with HIV, refugees, migrants and people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.

During the Youth-Pre Forum we had the opportunity to discuss these issues with young people from around the world.  Those present agreed that universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights were essential, and that this was not something new that they were demanding.  They also identified a variety of reasons why progress was slow in the area: stigma and discrimination, lack of information, non-youth friendly services and policies, culture, religion, and poor parent-youth communication on the issues.

Participants wanted to move beyond discussing the issues and problems; we all felt that a way forward needed to be decided.  Importantly, it was felt that commitments needed to come from governments, donors, development partners and the private sector to ensure optimal sexual and reproductive health and rights outcomes for adolescents and young people.

It was agreed that the engagement of young people with their governments would ensure better outcomes. Suggested modes of this engagement were national youth strategies, youth serving as key members of governmental delegations – and strong governmental commitment to the provision of youth friendly services. Governments can support the provision of youth friendly services by providing continuous and relevant training to service providers, including the support and development of youth service providers, and ensuring at the very least national health systems include the provision of such services as HIV testing, post-exposure prophylaxis, emergency contraception and safe and legal abortion.

Truly adopting the principle of “nothing about us without us,” it was also agreed that young people need to commit themselves to take action to ensure a stronger, better and healthier future for themselves.   These commitments included ensuring more cohesive networks to ensure that information is shared across regions and networks and that programmatic activity is strategic and effective, working with partners to build capacity and ensure the training of youth providers, and take the lead in developing a unanimous body addressing youth development issues.

Overall, the key message that came out of the research and the pre-forum was that if we want to make maternal, newborn and child mortality history – we need to address the group most at-risk, adolescents and young people – and this can only be achieved through the meaningful involvement of young people in intergenerational partnerships!