Ban Ki-moon today stressed the need to provide reproductive health care for young people, as well as give them access to the necessary information and the means to protect themselves from sexual abuse and violence.
We cannot ignore the facts. Many young people are sexually active, and because of this, they may face risks to their health, including sexual violence, " Mr. Ban said in his remarks to the Commission on Population and Development, which opened a week-long session at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Mr. Ban emphasized that the international community must empower youth in this regard, as they are not only a growing demographic sector, but also a force for change and progress as evidenced by the various popular movements in the Middle East and other parts of the world over the past year.
This generation of youth is the largest in history. Even more important, this generation of youth is shaping history, " Mr. Ban said.
In his remarks to the members of the Commission and representatives of more than 500 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Mr. Ban underlined the importance of combating HIV/AIDS among youth, lowering the rates of teenage pregnancies, and protecting children from early marriage.
Sixteen million adolescent girls become mothers every year, and every day, more than 2,000 young people contract HIV, " Mr. Ban said. We have a collective responsibility to drive these numbers down. "
Mr. Ban also noted that the Cairo Programme of Action, adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), is still a relevant guide to ensure a better future for the world`s youth.
We must be guided by its wisdom and carry out its recommendations, " he said, referring to the Programme of Action, which articulated a new vision about the relationship between population, development and individual well-being.
An adolescent girl struggling in poverty requires different protection than a male college graduate. Our goal is to provide a safe, secure and healthy environment for all, regardless of their circumstances, " he noted.
In addition, Mr. Ban urged international actors to help young people have access to education, adequate nutrition and employment, and referred to the upcoming UN Sustainable Development Conference ((Rio+20)) in Brazil in June as an opportunity for countries to renew their commitment to address issues relevant to young people.
Two months from now we face a test. The world will gather for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio. This is our one-in-a-generation chance to advance progress on the Millennium Development Goals for the sake of our planet and its people. Let us make sure that young people have their place across the international agenda. "
The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015.
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