Youth Strategize for the Post 2015 Development Agenda
FRIDAY FILE – From 27-29 June, 21 young people from across Central, Eastern and Southeast Asia, the Pacific, Africa, North America, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, with diverse experiences came together in Hong Kong to strategize for the post-2015 development agenda process currently underway at the United Nations.
By Susan Tolmay
The three-day meeting, which was organized by the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights(YCSRR) aimed to address some of the challenges young people, especially from the global south, face in participating in such processes. AWID spoke to Ivens Reis Reyner, Brazilian Member of Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR) and Katie Lau, ICPD Project Coordinator at the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), to learn more about the meeting and some of the key issues discussed
AWID: What are the issues young people, particularly young women, see as the main priorities to be included in the post 2015 development agenda?
Ivens Reis Reyner (IRR): Prior to the meeting we conducted a survey with young people to identify what the main issues are that they want to see addressed in the new development agenda. The issues that came out, which we discussed at the meeting were education (including comprehensive sexual education), employment, health (including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)), gender equality and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) rights and peace and security.
Katie Lau (KL): Young people are demanding access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. We need to remove policies and legal barriers to young people’s access to SRH services, particularly parental and spousal consent. It is a young person’s right to realise their sexual and reproductive health and rights to ensure healthy lives. In many countries around the world SRH services are aimed at people who are married or over 18 years of age. But, young people are having sex; young women are marrying later than the previous generations but the age of sexual debut hasn’t changed very much. This means that more sex is premarital and young people need to have the access to the services and information that will enable them to practice safe sex. These barriers prevent young people from protecting themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and/ or unintended pregnancies which can have a devastating impact on their lives, for example, young girls who fall pregnant face expulsion from school and therefore limiting their future educational, employment and economic prospects.
AWID: There has been a lot of advocacy around ensure that there is a standalone gender goal and that gender is mainstreamed throughout the goals, do you feel that young women and men’s key concerns are addressed in the current SDG’s, was there any discussion around a youth specific goal?
KL: In comparison to gender, youth has not featured or been mainstreamed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the exception of a few mentions under ‘Education’. Young people’s health for example is not addressed at all. The United National Population Fund (UNFPA) initially called for a stand- alone goal on youth, however, this has since fallen silent. The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) focused its effort on a stand- alone goal on gender and disaggregated data including by age because this should show the need and impact of policies and programmes for young people. We also need to start collecting data on 10- 14 year olds because we currently do not know their status in policy and programmes. We also need to continue advocating for youth priorities that have been articulated over and over again in the Bali Global youth Forum, by the Major Group for Children and Youth and World Conference on Youth, including meaningful youth participation at all levels of policy, programming and monitoring.
IRR: I don’t see that gender has been mainstreamed throughout the draft SDGs as it should have been. Even the gender equality goal is not clear about what is being guaranteed for women’s empowerment and there is a lack of specific goals to be reached by 2030. Regarding young people, a youth specific goal was dis-encouraged by many governments, but at the very least youth issues should be mainstreamed throughout the document. But, if you look at how youth issues have been addressed I could only see that employment is touched upon from an economic perspective, ie. how are we going to give young people jobs so that they can contribute to the economy, but you don’t see youth issues addressed from a human rights perspective and the overall document is weak on the human rights based approach being called for by civil society.
AWID: Are young people and young women in particular, mentioned in the current SDG document?
KL: Empowerment of girls is mentioned under the ‘gender equality’ goal and there are calls to end early, forced, child marriages. However, beyond that young people’s priorities are not really addressed in the current SDG document, except under ‘Education’. The proposals from the Major Group for Children and Youth have largely been left out such as mainstreaming youth.
IRR: Young people are mostly mentioned in relation to education and employment because they are the most obvious ones, but issues of empowerment and autonomy of young women are lost. While the gender goal mentions empowerment, the indicators are lacking, and this is the case across the document.
AWID: How have/ are you engaging in the SDG negotiation processes?
IRR: The youth’s participation in the SDG process has largely been led by organisations in the global north, because they have better resources and access. Youth from the global south, especially young women, on the other hand, have challenges attending and participating in these spaces. The absence of substantive participation from youth movements in the global south is very apparent, so the meeting was a way of involving youth that have not had opportunities for such engagement, to get involved and contribute. The idea was to have a diversity of perspectives to gain a stronger perspective.
At the meeting we agreed on three immediate actions towards the 2014 UN General Assembly (GA) in September so that we continue to work together and collaborate: 1) we are preparing specific language for our priorities and changes to the document when it is negotiated at the GA; 2) we are developing a youth friendly mapping strategy on how youth can be involved the negotiations and 3) we are planning a side event during the UNGA to talk about the issues discussed at our meeting, and we can raise these at the UNGA. Thereafter we will develop a strategy leading up to the 2015 UNGA.
KL: IPPF has been engaged in the SDGs negotiation process through the Open Working Group (OWG) Major Group and national advocacy with governments through its Member Associations to ensure government support for SRHR. The OWG has been successful in being a participatory process by engaging CSOs and other stakeholders, primarily through the Major Group. However, the process has been a difficult one to follow, much like many UN processes. Just keeping abreast of the developments and inputting is a full-time job which means many civil society organizations find it harder to meaningfully engage with the OWG- this is a particular problem for marginalized groups such as youth- led organizations and those mostly advocating in a volunteer capacity.
AWID: What do see as some of the challenges on the road to 2015?
IRR: There are a couple, the changing UN processes and being able to adapt and respond quickly is one. Also, the opposition to our issues has been very strategic and strong, and the environment of promoting economic growth versus protecting and promoting human rights is very problematic and challenging. From a youth perspective, the lack of resources for youth involvement is a big challenge and more young women from the global south could be involved.
I would love to see more interconnection between the youth, women’s and other movements. We are doing a lot of work across movements, we have a good momentum and it provides a good opportunity for us to be more involved. Working together is a very strategic way to go to overcome some of these challenges.
KL: The post- 2015 process is quite intimidating and overwhelming. There are so many parallel processes and spaces to engage with that it can be a challenge to meaningfully participate. Often, the process is not transparent and it is not clear from the onset how civil society can input, and when this information is made clear civil society is left with no time to arrange, travel, especially visas, to attend meetings. This is further compounded for national civil society organisations that often have fewer resources for such engagement. More capacity building needs to be done to support national advocates’ role in the post- 2015 process. As the post- 2015 process takes place at national, regional and international levels we are seeing a disconnect between international and national policy, priorities and realities, this can be a challenge in ensuring the post- 2015 deliver transformative change in ending poverty and delivering justice and equality. We need to make sure the post- 2015 process ensures robust accountability mechanisms to ensure governments deliver on their commitments.