Round-table on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights New York, 14-17 April 1998

Ford Foundation Headquarters
320 E. 43rd St., New York
14-17 April 1998

Report of the Round Table on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: Key Future Actions

UNFPA and Adolescents. An overview of UNFPA's work to address diverse needs in the area of adolescent reproductive health. (1997)

RATIONALE

The ICPD gave particular attention to the reproductive health needs of adolescents. Chapter VII of the Programme of Action has a section devoted to adolescents, with the objectives (7.44) of addressing adolescent sexual and reproductive health issues, and substantially reducing all adolescent pregnancies. Countries, with the support of the international community, are urged to "protect and promote the rights of adolescents to reproductive health education, information and care…" (7.46), and Governments, in collaboration with NGOs, are urged to "meet the special needs of adolescents and to establish appropriate programmes to respond to those needs." (7.47)

This roundtable has been organized to review the status, achievements, programme experiences and policy changes that have been initiated at various levels, since the Cairo Conference, to respond to the reproductive and sexual health needs of adolescents. Specifically, the meeting aims to generate success stories, lessons learned and constraints faced by countries in implementing the ICPD recommendations. Each session in the meeting is expected to come up with actions at global, regional and country levels in order to accelerate progress in this area. The conclusions including future actions emanating from this meeting will be consolidated in a background report for review by the International Forum scheduled for 1999 and as inputs to the Secretary-General’s report for the Special Session of the General Assembly in June 1999.

Three Participants Offer Their Views:

In a statement on the last day of the Round Table on Adolescent Reproductive Health and Rights, Kwame Ampomah, a Director at Ghana’s National Population Council, emphasized the need for organizations working in the population field to share their successes and failures with local counterparts before presenting them at international meetings.

"What do you gain if you are getting all the top ratings at the international fora, if you are not in proper dialogue with your counterparts in your country," he asked.

Mr. Ampomah quoted Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President, to make his point: "‘The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of Africa.’ The lesson here is that your success as an individual, as an NGO is meaningless unless it is linked to a larger community momentum to set the agenda and change the trends in any given country."

"UNFPA and the entire global community does not gain maximally from the successes of any individual, NGO or government agency within a country if the brilliant ideas, the implementable strategies that you have developed are not shared, primarily within that country," he said. "Teamwork is extremely important. Effective coordination of in-country efforts must be what we should be struggling to attain. Ask yourself; to what extent is your programme integrated into a larger national or community programme."

Teamwork, commitment and concerted efforts will create the bridge between governments endorsing the ICPD Programme of Action and the implementation of successful country projects, he said.

Those who love their communities will share their ideas, efforts and resources with others in their countries, he continued, saying, "World peace will be achieved if the power of love replaces the love for power."


Speaking on behalf of the youth participants on the final day, Bjorg Thorsteinsdottir, from Iceland, President of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations, appealed to all those who work in the interest of adolescents to trust young people and consider their views at all times. Programmes should include staff positions for young professionals, she stressed.

"Trust is the highest form of human motivation," she said, citing her favourite quotation from the book, ‘Seven Ways of Effective People’, by Stephen R. Covey. "It brings out the very best in people. But it takes time and patience and it doesn’t preclude the necessity to train and develop people so that their competency can rise to the level of that trust."


Nadia Blaje, from Moldova, winner of the 1996 UNFPA International Youth Essay Contest, spoke on 16 April, on "The Need to Demystify Sex", the title of her award-winning essay. She emphasized that lack of information about sexuality led to many negative consequences among adolescents, such as unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, single parenthood, abortions and sexual abuse. She proposed ways out.

"Parents should prepare their children for their sexual life and they should do this by telling them the information about sex during a particular period of time," she said.

Misconceptions about sex education should be overcome to allow the flow of sound advice to the young before they become sexually active. Since many parents are not prepared for such exercises, they should be trained in how to give sex education to their children. Youth not living with their parents should be informed by well-trained experts.

"It is time to stop talking and to start acting, to stop the global crisis in youth sexual and reproductive health." she said.

PRESS RELEASES

Press releases on the Round-table Meeting on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, 14-17 April 1998:

Closing session sums up successes, obstacles in meeting adolescents' needs
Jane Fonda says teen pregnancy is a problem adults must solve
Attitudes pose biggest barrier to protecting reproductive health of youth
Background release