Rio+20 is About Youth Sexual Rights

Ivens Reis Reyner, Guest Contributor

On the road to Rio+20, the negotiations for an outcome document are almost at an end, but still, we need to ensure that the outcome of the negotiations really reflect the needs of people around the world, particularly young people. In the Rio+20 process, we cannot forget that this whole process is about people, our rights, our wellbeing, and our needs. To speak about sustainable development is also to speak about human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights, especially for young people and adolescents.

What are the implications?
Young people today account for 1.8 billion people between 15-25 years old. Sexual and reproductive rights and health are fundamental for young people and is fundamental to sustainable development. If young people do not have access to sexual and reproductive health services and information they need, they will be less likely to have a healthy life, which will impact their ability to stay in school and find a job. This will contribute to the growing amount of unemployed youth. Also, if governments do not take measures to end gender inequality, women (particularly young women and girls) will continue to lack the power and independence they need to make informed decisions, continue their studies, and to have healthy lives.

Why now?
Twenty years ago the Earth Summit in Rio triggered a series of global conferences that promoted a rights-based agenda to development, health, gender equality, and women’s empowerment. Almost 20 years later, young people have high expectations for the results. Young people expect major commitments to be made that will have considerable impact on young people at the national level. The Rio+20 outcome must address young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services as fundamental in the context of sustainable development and the empowerment of young women and girls in all spheres of society.

It is unacceptable for the Rio+20 Conference to mark a step back in young people’s rights or our access to information and services. Young people cannot afford to have our rights ignored within the context of sustainable development and our common futures. The sexual and reproductive rights community needs to strengthen its engagement in the Rio+20 process. We need to work together, and I urge you to see this as a call for support and consideration of the impact Rio+20 will have on young people's futures.

Looking Towards the RIO+20 Summit
Today, almost 80% of young people live in the developing countries. Our strength is in our numbers and our joint commitment to ensuring a sustainable future for all. It is essential that young people are supported to meaningful participate in international decision-making spaces. It is particularly critical that young people from the Global South are supported to attend the Rio+20 summit as members of their official country delegations. To effectively give young people a space that reflect their diverse needs is fundamental, especially when discussing a framework that will determine our futures.

Let us work together to make sure that the Rio+20 Summit guarantees the rights of all people around the world. Sustainable development is about all of us; it is about our rights.

Ivens Reis Reyner is a board member of the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Brazil. This post originally appeared on their WatchBlog.


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