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

29 September 2014

In one girl's stand against child marriage, a path forward for development

UNITED NATIONS, New York – “When I was age 16, my father wanted me to marry a 25-year-old man named Alhamza,” Nana told a room full of dignitaries and leaders at a high-level panel discussion on child marriage at the United Nations last week. Child marriage is a human rights violation, yet it is all too common. more
25 September 2014

Youth Envoy shines spotlight on young people’s development priorities

UNITED NATIONS, New York – The future of global development is high on the agenda as world leaders convene at the United Nations in New York for the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly. Young people – their needs and their priorities – must be included in these plans, UNFPA’s Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, said at a high-level event this morning. more
24 September 2014

Universal quality education impossible without upholding girls’ and young people’s rights

UNITED NATIONS, New York – Gender equality and the rights of young people are essential requirements for delivering quality education to all, said heads of state, leading education advocates and United Nations principals at a high-level event held at the UN today, during the 69th session of the UN General Assembly. more