We Are Not Just a Number
"My government allows me to participate in this discussion. Not despite my age, but because of my age.” Lotte Dijkstra, Youth Ambassador SRHR
Delegates, civil society organisations, ministers, UN representatives and many young people gathered at the side event “Young people in Post-2015 – making 1.8 billion voices heard in the new development agenda” which took place during the 48th Commission on Population and Development. This side event was organized in the framework of the Youth & ICPD partnership, an initiative by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality and dance4life.
With music, personal stories, an audience of over more than 100 participants and the refreshing moderation of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi, the side-event addressed the urgency for young people to be involved in decisions that affect their lives, now! The great variety of youth and adult speakers discussed the ICPD Program of Action, next steps in Post-2015 and mechanisms for accountability. They moved beyond general terms and provided practical suggestions for implementation.
Edith Asamani (dance4life Ghana) shared how the ICPD Program of Action has brought many opportunities and how it serves as a blueprint for sustainable development. “Unwanted pregnancy, comprehensive sexuality education and access to services are important elements. ICPD is about saving lives”. It was recognised that although progress has been made not everyone has been able to benefit equally from the ICPD agenda. The Post-2015 development framework offers the opportunity to address these gaps. With the lessons learned from the MDGs and more than 20 years of experience with ICPD, we should look forward. Member states stand behind the new agenda and it covers crosscutting priorities.
But meaningful youth participation and youth-adult partnerships are essential to make this happen! Dr. Josephine Kibaru (head of the Kenyan delegation) commented on how Robert Aseda (NAYA Kenya) became a youth delegate in her delegation; “I cannot ignore a young person who asks to see our position paper; they know their rights and should be on our delegation.” Peter van der Vliet (Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN) and Lotte Dijkstra confirmed this by highlighting initiatives as the Youth Ambassador SRHR and the Dutch Youth Delegates programme.
In what other ways can we, young people, be involved in the next steps of Post-2015? How are we going to finance this agenda? How are we going to measure progress? Practical suggestions for involvement were given by Josefin Wiklund (UNAIDS), and noted down immediately by young people present at the event.
The last part of the session imagined the year 2016 with new policies and frameworks in place. Young people need to hold their duty bearers to account for what they agreed upon at the UN. This was echoed by Leonardo Castilho (OHCHR) who also encouraged us to take advantage of the human rights mechanisms and monitoring treaties that are in place. Implementation at national level is key and we can stand up for our rights through advocacy and budget tracking but also through discussion and cooperation with adult stakeholders.
The side event concluded with the inspiring words of Brenda Mbaja (NAYA Kenya): “We are more than statistics in a report. We are rights holders and part and parcel of sustainable development. We are not just a number. We can just grow up and be normal people who can look forward to a better future!"