UN agencies call for recognition of youth leadership in Caribbean

Sunday, August 14, 2016

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PANAMA CITY, Panama (CMC) — United Nations agencies, funds and programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), have called for the recognition of youth leadership’s role in the implementation of the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development, and changing the production and consumption patterns of Caribbean society.


In celebrating International Youth Day here on Saturday, PAHO noted that Latin America and the Caribbean has 156 million young people ages 15 to 29 years old, representing 26 per cent of the population.


In a statement, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said poverty "disproportionately affects young men and women" in the region, stating that 39 per cent live in poverty, with the highest numbers in rural areas (46 per cent) and in urban areas (25 per cent).


The International Labour Organization (ILO) also said the unemployment rate of young men and women in Latin America and the Caribbean reached 13.3 per cent in 2015, a figure three times higher than adults’.


According to PAHO, while education appears as a key investment to ensure decent jobs, "unfortunately, 23 million young people in rural areas have low or no educational opportunities, and only 37 per cent are paying contributions to health insurance and 30 per cent to the pension system. Young indigenous people, young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) populations and young Afro descendants also experience special situations of exclusion and human rights violations".


Additionally, PAHO said one out of five young people in the region is excluded from both the educational system and the labour market, stating that most are adolescent and young women working in housework and unpaid care work.


PAHO also noted that the region has the second highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world.


"This implies serious consequences in terms of development opportunities, and in the right of enjoying the highest attainable standard of health for these adolescents in the present and in the future."


According to the Global Study on Homicide, Latin America and the Caribbean is the most violent region globally.


Within the region, Central America and the Caribbean have been the only sub-regions where homicides increased between 2000 and 2007.


"As noted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the direct violence faced by young people, in particular homicides, is one of the leading causes of death for youth," PAHO said.


Other major causes of death among young men and women between 15 and 24 are related to road safety and traffic accidents, but also to health problems and AIDS, said PAHO, adding that a third of all new HIV infections occurring in the region corresponds to young people in this age range.


"There are still many legal barriers and other social and cultural obstacles for adolescents to have access to sexual and reproductive health, in accordance with international instruments that protect their right to sexual and reproductive health," PAHO said.


It said unsustainable models of consumption and production are also causing poverty experienced by young people and the deterioration of the planet.


PAHO said climate change and natural disasters represent an "important challenge for the survival of young people," while, at the same time, the region counts with an extraordinary biodiversity and recognized leadership in climate change adaptation.


The organisation noted that the political representation of young people in Latin America and the Caribbean is very low, adding that, according to the first Ibero-American survey on youth, youth of the region has high expectations to increase their participation in the course of the next five years.


But PAHO said these multiple challenges faced by young people are also opportunities for change and transformation for the region.

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