(New York, May 1st) –The World Youth Alliance approached the 45th Session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) with one primary aim—to see the creation of a more balanced document. The theme of this year’s Commission was “adolescents and youth”. The initial draft of the document placed an overwhelming emphasis on the areas of health, and sexual and reproductive health, and failed to give sufficient emphasis to the real concerns of youth. These concerns include access to employment, education, vocational training, and the importance of basic health care, sanitation, and nutrition. The voice of WYA at the CPD was clear—we care about a wide array of issues, and reducing the scope of the outcome document to one such issue would constitute a real disservice to the world’s youth.
Throughout the negotiations, many Member States, especially from the Arab and African groups and some Latin American countries, highlighted the importance of creating a balanced document. Tensions arose over controversial reproductive rights language, as well as references to privacy and confidentiality for adolescents and youth. There is no internationally recognized definition for the term adolescents, and a variety of definitions exist that include children from the age of ten as adolescents. The term adolescents may thus apply to children, and as a result not all of the commitments within the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development may be applied to the context of adolescents. Given that the purpose of the CPD is to revisit the Programme of Action, this was the cause of much controversy. For example, the document cannot call for the provision of employment opportunities for adolescents, which by definition would mean calling for child labor.
Although these sorts of controversies dominated much of the Commission, we saw the emergence of a more balanced document as language was added on employment, education, and other critical areas that are of importance to youth. WYA proposed language to emphasize the tremendous potential of young people as drivers of economic development. The insertion of this language was essential in order to combat more negative portrayals of population dynamics. We celebrate the inclusion of the following sentence in the final outcome document: “Recognizing further that adolescents and youth in all countries are a major resource for development and key agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation…” [Paragraph 8, CPD Resolution 2012]
Despite progress toward the creation of a positive document, the World Youth Alliance objects to the three references to reproductive rights within the document, given that this term is not defined by international law. Also, we take a firm stance against the inclusion of language on the right to privacy and confidentiality of adolescents, which implies the deletion of parents’ rights. Lastly, the references to reproductive health services, which may include abortion, are objectionable and cannot be accepted by those Member States that have constitutions that prohibit abortion.
A major victory for developing countries in the negotiations was maintaining the inclusion of the “sovereignty paragraph” from last year’s document. This paragraph makes note of the following: “the sovereign right of each country to implement recommendations of the Programme of Action [of the ICPD]…consistent with national laws and development priorities, with full respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of its people…” The effect of this paragraph is to render all of the controversial references within the document subject to the national laws of UN Member States, which may have critical implication for upholding the dignity of the human person.