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

19 October 2014

UNFPA welcomes news of agreement on Chibok girls’ release

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, welcomes news of a ceasefire agreement that is expected to lead to the release of the more than 200 girls who were kidnapped from the north-eastern Nigerian town of Chibok—the Chibok Girls. These girls have languished in captivity long enough, and it is high time they are returned to their families, communities and schools. more
15 October 2014

Child marriage takes a brutal toll on Syrian girls

DAMASCUS, Syria – “No girls want this life,” said Nour,* a 12-year-old girl from Aleppo, in Syria, who was married to a 30-year-old man earlier this year. “Teenage Syrian girls are being forced into early marriages to save their families.” Child marriage has long been a concern in parts of Syria. But since the conflict started three years ago, the numbers of child marriages have sharply increased. Many people are now displaced and living in cramped shelters. The majority of them are unemployed, and families are spending their meagre savings just to survive. more
13 October 2014

Displaced Iraqi women, youth receive psychosocial support

DUHOK, Iraq – Sixteen-year-old Nada* was already struggling to care for her family when her community was attacked by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS). She is among the 1.8 million Iraqis displaced since the beginning of the year. Ensuring the dignity and protection of affected women and young people remains a priority for UNFPA, which is supporting a variety of services, including psychosocial support, for those affected. more