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

15 April 2014

Harnessing the potential of Africa’s youth

UNITED NATIONS, New York – The growing number of young people in Africa could offer enormous potential gains to the continent, but only if their needs are met and their rights are fulfilled. This was the central message of leaders and public health experts at an 11 April meeting on Africa’s ‘demographic dividend’ at the United Nations Headquarters. more
13 April 2014

Making Youth Participation a Reality

UNITED NATIONS, New York – Youth participants took centre stage at a side event of the UN Commission on Population and Development where they joined international leaders and experts to discuss how young people can be actively engaged to fulfil the Cairo agenda, the visionary and groundbreaking Programme of Action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) twenty years ago. more
11 April 2014

UNFPA hosts Google Hangout on adolescents, young people at Commission on Population and Development

UNITED NATIONS, New York – On Friday 11 April, from 12pm until 1pm, UNFPA, the UN Population Fund, is hosting a “Google Hangout” on a vital – and yet too often neglected – area of action: adolescents and young people. more