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

22 April 2014

Midwives, emergency care key to reducing Cambodia’s maternal deaths

STUNG TRENG, Cambodia – Sixteen-year-old Hang Dèng travelled for an hour by boat to reach the health centre closest to her remote Cambodian village; she was in labour and suffering complications. Access to emergency care and skilled birth attendants saved both her life and that of her child. more
21 April 2014

Amid Crisis in South Sudan, Youth Continue to Hope for a Brighter Future

JUBA, South Sudan – In 2011, Jamal Deng, 23, joined his war-weary countrymen in celebrating South Sudan’s independence after a devastating and protracted conflict with the North. Like for many young people in South Sudan, independence had ushered in the promise of a new era. Today, Deng is among an estimated 800,000 people displaced inside South Sudan by a new wave of violence that broke out in December. more
17 April 2014

UNFPA, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Boost Family Planning in Developing Countries

UNITED NATIONS, New York — UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding to help increase access to family planning information, contraceptives and services in developing countries, particularly for young people. more