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A Youth Advocate Reports on Day One at CPD
As part of our series on the Commission on Population and Development (CPD), we've teamed up with dance4life to bring you accounts from youth advocates taking part in the convening. This one comes from Daryo Stamato, who came to New York from the Netherlands.
As you might know by now, yesterday was the first official negotiation session of the CPD, which started with a few government representatives presenting their messages to the other delegations. What I want to highlight from today is the progressive language that some of these speakers used.
Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, opened the session with a speech containing some promising words:
"Youth have great hopes for the future - but they cannot survive on hopes. They need food, jobs and health care. They especially need reproductive health care. We cannot ignore the facts. Many young people are sexually active. And because of this, they may face risks to their health, including sexual violence. They need the information and means to protect themselves."
So why is that quote so significant? Because this is one of the most important international figures recognizing that young people are sexually active - yes, we have sex! - and that they need all the knowledge and support they can get to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health and lives.
Other interesting words were shared by the Norwegian delegation, who were very vocal about respecting human rights, which (according to them) includes young people's sexual and reproductive rights. Just as important was a statement by Uruguay saying that in relation to comprehensive health care, appropriate information is never a crime - it can not be denied to anyone. And these are only three wonderful messages among many others!
As you can see, these positive examples include a focus on rights as well as the need for comprehensive sexuality education, enabling young people to make informed choices about their (sexual) lives. These speeches reflect messages we, as activists and advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights, want our governments to implement in their policies. So yes, this is obviously the kind of language I think we should be happy with, making my hopes grow for a good CPD-outcome after the first day.
Sadly however, not every country is as progressive as the ones mentioned above. Many have (very) conservative ideas and respond differently to issues related to adolescents and youth - especially their sexual and reproductive health - than I wish were true. This goes as far as governments ignoring that young people are sexually active and denying that sexual rights are human rights, so we definitely must not get too happy, too early!
There are four more negotiation days ahead of us, so let's hope these will be used by the all the delegations at the UN to get to an agreed and progressive outcome document for this year's CPD. Because that's what is at stake here: the well-being of young people's sexual and reproductive health and rights. Crossing my fingers and hoping all these countries will decide for the best!