In 1989, in its decision 89/46, the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme recommended that, in order to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues in the context of overall development plans and programmes and the need to find solutions for these issues, 11 July should be observed by the international community as World Population Day.
Today’s 1.8 billion young people are shaping social and economic realities, challenging norms and values, and building the foundation of the world’s future. Yet too many young people continue to grapple with poverty, inequality and human rights violations that prevent them from reaching their personal and collective potential.
On 2014 World Population Day, we call for investments in support of the largest-ever generation of youth.
The world today has its largest generation of youth in history – 1.8 billion young people, mostly in developing countries – with enormous potential to help tackle the major challenges facing humanity. But too many are denied their rightful opportunities to get a quality education, find decent work, and participate in the political life of their societies. World Population Day is an opportunity to renew our commitment to help young people unleash progress across society.
Action is urgently needed. Too many young people lack resources they need to lift themselves out of poverty. I am particularly concerned about adolescent girls who may face discrimination, sexual violence, early marriage and unwanted pregnancies. And even among those young people fortunate enough to receive university degrees, many find themselves without employment or stuck in low-wage, dead-end jobs.
The solution lies in investments in health, education, training and employment for young people as they undergo the critical transition to adulthood. This will improve prospects for their lives and our common future.
Young people themselves are speaking out. Earlier this year, more than 1,000 youth organizations endorsed a Global Youth Call, welcomed by 40 countries, which recommends youth-focused goals and targets in the post-2015 development vision.
Next year marks the deadline for reaching the Millennium Development Goals, shaping the successor agenda, and adopting a meaningful legal agreement on climate change. Youth have a major role in all these processes. The year 2015 also marks the 20th anniversary of the World Programme of Action on Youth. Its practical guidelines for national action and international support remain relevant today. In particular, to fully carry out this Programme of Action, governments must respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all youth and respond effectively to any violations.
On this World Population Day, I call on all with influence to prioritize youth in development plans, strengthen partnerships with youth-led organizations, and involve young people in all decisions that affect them. By empowering today’s youth, we will lay the groundwork for a more sustainable future for generations to come.
United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, on World Population Day 2014.
Today’s 1.8 billion young people are a powerful force, individually and collectively. They are shaping social and economic realities, challenging norms and values and building the foundation of the world’s future.
Governments and the international community are increasingly conscious of the importance of providing resources and opportunities for all young people to reach their full potential as individuals and citizens. They recognize that investing in young people and enabling them to exercise their human rights not only benefits young people themselves, but can also help their countries reap a demographic dividend.
We know that healthy, educated, productive and fully engaged young people can help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty and are more resilient in the face of individual and societal challenges. As skilled and informed citizens, they can contribute more fully to their communities and nations.
For millions of young people around the world, puberty – the biological onset of adolescence – brings not only changes to their bodies, but also new vulnerabilities to human rights abuses, particularly in the areas of sexuality, marriage and childbearing. Millions of girls are coerced into unwanted sex or marriage, increasing the risks of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, as well as death or disability due to childbirth.
This is why young people, especially adolescent girls, are at the heart of our work at UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. Working with a multitude of partners, in particular young people themselves, UNFPA is advocating policies and programmes that invest in adolescents and youth and foster a positive environment for them; promoting their access to comprehensive sexuality education as well as quality sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning; and facilitating their leadership and participation. We are doing this with an emphasis on reaching the poorest, most marginalized and underserved adolescent girls.
Through this multipronged effort, we and our partners are seeing how critical early investments in sexual and reproductive health can enhance the lives of young people and the welfare of their societies.
A sustainable future depends on having resilient populations, which cannot be achieved without investments in young people. They not only form a large proportion of the world’s population and deserve their fair share as a matter of equity, but are also in a critical stage of their lifecycle that will determine their future – and thus those of their families, communities, and societies. On this World Population Day, I commit UNFPA’s full support to all efforts to promote young people’s aspirations and to place young people at the very heart of national and global development efforts.
Investing in youth pays dividends, evidence from Sri Lanka shows
World Population Day 2014
2013 World Population Data sheet. Population Reference Bureau.
Press conference on the latest figures from the World Urbanization Prospects: the 2014 Revision
World Health Organization (WHO) Non-Communicable Disease Country Profiles 2014.