Speech

Statement of the Executive Director on The State of World Population 2014 report

18 November 2014
Author: UNFPA

Statement of UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin on The State of World Population 2014 report

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Welcome to the launch of The State of World Population 2014, “The Power of 1.8 Billion: Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future.”

Never before have there been so many young people. Never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress.

How we meet the needs and aspirations of young people and enable them to enjoy their rights will define our common future.

Let me give you an example of just how powerful and transformative young people could be if countries invested in them in ways that yielded a demographic dividend.

East Asia invested in its young people’s human capital starting in the 1960s, enabling the region to realize its demographic dividend, contributing to a six percentage point surge in GDP and a quadrupling of per capita incomes in some countries.

If sub-Saharan Africa drew on East Asia’s experience, adapted it to the local context and made comparable investments in young people, the region could experience an economic miracle of its own, adding as much as $500 billion its economies every year for as many as 30 years.

Today, nine in 10 of the world’s 1.8 billion young people live in less developed countries, where the young encounter obstacles to their rights—to education, to health, to live free from violence. Many of these young people may never realize their full potential, as leaders, as change-agents, as entrepreneurs, as people with the power to transform the future.

A staggering 57 million young people are out of school.

One in seven new HIV infections occurs among adolescents aged 10 to 19 years.

More than one in three women, including those who are young, suffer violence from an intimate partner.

Every minute, 27 girls are forced into marriage and expected to have a child while they themselves are still children.

And let me emphasize this: A world in which a quarter of humanity is without full enjoyment of their rights is a world without the basic building blocks for change and progress.

And even when a young person makes a safe and healthy transition from childhood to adulthood, the transition to the workforce may be blocked—by scarce opportunities, by stagnant economies or other policies that keep decent jobs in short supply.

An estimated 120 million young people enter the labour force every year. The UNFPA report shows that young people today already account for two in five of the world’s unemployed.

On the road to realizing their potential, more and more young people today are running up against a wall of inequality, discrimination and exclusion.

And we know that young women and adolescent girls face more obstacles than young men and boys in building their capabilities, seizing opportunities and enjoying their rights. And those who are poor, rural or members of an ethnic minority are especially vulnerable to the denial of rights and exclusion from social and economic opportunities.

The State of World Population makes the case for urgent investment in young people so they may be engaged in their communities and the development of their nations.

It also means tearing down barriers to their accessing key services, especially sexual and reproductive health care and information. Without these essential services, young people cannot protect themselves from HIV, cannot prevent a pregnancy, cannot have control over their own bodies.

With the right investments, young people can unleash their power to build a better future.

In fact, the UNFPA report shows that the returns on investments in young people—particularly young women and adolescent girls—can be enormous, with the potential to catapult developing economies forward and eliminate extreme poverty, which is a central objective of the next generation of development goals to succeed the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.

UNFPA’s State of World Population report shows that with the right support to reach their full potential, young people can become a formidable force for productivity, innovation and creative dynamism to accelerate development.