Adolescents and Youth

Towards Realizing the Full Potential of Adolescents and Youth

Today's adolescents and youth are 1.8 billion strong and make up one quarter of the world's population. They are shaping social and economic development, challenging social norms and values, and building the foundation of the world's future. Maturing earlier than previous generations, both physically and socially, adolescents and youth have high expectations for themselves and their societies, and are imagining how the world can be better. Connected to each other like never before through new media and because of globalization, they are driving social progress and directly influencing the sustainability and resilience of their communities and their nations.

While notable progress has been made, many adolescents — especially girls — are denied the investments and opportunities that they need to realize their full potential. For example, 26 per cent of girls (39 million) and 17 per cent of boys of secondary school age (11-15) were not enrolled in school in 2008. About 215 million underage children work full or part-time, while 75 million older youth (15-24) cannot find work.

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 arenas of sexuality, marriage and childbearing. Millions of girls are coerced into unwanted sex or marriage to then also face the high risk of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV, and dangerous childbirth.

With offices in 140 countries, specialized expertise in demography and in sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and with a strong capacity for policy advocacy, communications, and programming, UNFPA's contribution to the advancement of adolescents and youth is anchored in five strategic pillars:

  • Enable evidence-based advocacy for comprehensive policy and programme development, investment and implementation
  • Promote comprehensive sexuality education
  • Build capacity for sexual and reproductive health service delivery (including HIV prevention, treatment and care)
  • Take bold initiatives to reach marginalized and disadvantaged adolescents and youth, especially Girls
  • Promote youth leadership and participation

Publications

Fact Sheets

Multimedia

 

International Year of Youth

 

 

 

 

 

 

Initiatives and Partnerships

23 September 2014

Seven years of resistance: One girl’s fight against FGM

UNITED NATIONS, New York – Nancy Tomee resisted female genital mutilation (FGM) for seven long years, enduring bullying and abuse by her family and community before a local organization intervened on her behalf. Yesterday, Ms. Tomee spoke to dignitaries at the United Nations Headquarters in New York about her efforts to empower other girls to stand up against FGM and other forms of abuse and oppression. more
22 September 2014

Empowering girls key to Africa's success, leaders affirm

UNITED NATIONS, New York – “With significant investments in the education of young girls, sexual and reproductive health for youth and adolescents, as well as women’s empowerment in our counties, we will change the face of the Sahel,” President of Chad Idriss Déby said at the United Nations today, during a high-level panel on the potential of young people to drive economic growth in the Sahel region of Africa. Only by investing in the skills and rights of young people – particularly adolescent girls – can the region take advantage of a demographic dividend, a key opportunity to improve livelihoods and living standards, the leaders present said. more
18 September 2014

Multi-million Dollar Partnership for Sahel’s Development to be Reinforced by African Governments, UN, World Bank

UNITED NATIONS, New York – A major initiative by the World Bank Group and UNFPA will enable countries in the troubled Sahel region to better invest in the well-being of their women and young people, particularly girls, so that they would become powerful engines for development.   more