Statement by Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi, UNFPA Representative at the 2016 International Youth Day

12 August 2016

Hon. Edwin Nii Lante Vanderpuye, Minister of Youth and Sports

Hon. Mavis Ama Frimpong, Minister for the Eastern Region

Daasebre (Prof Emeritus) Oti Boateng, Omanhene of  New Juaben Traditional Area

Mr. Kwabena Okyere-Kusi, MCE of New Juaben

Mr. Ras Mubarak, CEO of the National Youth Authority 

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen 

The Media 

Young People of Ghana:

I am honoured to be in the Eastern Region to commemorate the 2016 International Youth Day, under the theme “The Road to 2030:Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Production and Consumption.”

All over the world, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, joins governments and other partners to celebrate International Youth Day by reaffirming and recognizing the central role of young people in promoting the well-being of their families, communities and nations. 

This year’s theme, couldn’t be more relevant and timely. Particularly, since more than 500 million youth worldwide live in poverty, and often cannot afford their basic needs. They lack access to vital resources, and are disproportionately represented amongst the world’s poor. They have the most to gain if we succeed in eradicating poverty, and will have the most to lose if we fail to do that. The good news is that young people are not the problem, as is often thought, but, in fact, they are the solution. They are driving change towards a better future for all in every corner of the world. 

Last year, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which requires us to balance the needs of present and future generations, create economic growth without destroying natural resources and reduce consumption while ensuring well-being and dignity for all. Our young people have a key role to play in advancing this agenda. 

To achieve these goals, a fundamental shift is needed. Governments must make decisions on the allocation of resources while keeping the interests of future generations in mind. Investments must be made in social sectors that improve the resilience of young people and communities. And we must place the fulfilment of human rights at the centre of development.  

Globally, large youth populations represent a historic opportunity for governments to take advantage of the demographic dividend, to catalyse progress and adopt innovative solutions to ignite this change. 

Essential to this is the realization of young people’s rights to participate in the political, economic and social lives of their communities and countries, and to freely make informed choices regarding their bodies, sexuality and reproduction without discrimination, violence or coercion. 

To empower young people means giving them the tools to become even more influential and productive actors in their societies. In order to achieve this, countries such as Ghana need to continue to sustain ongoing efforts  to end all forms of discrimination faced by young people, particularly adolescent girls, such as forced and child marriage and sexual violence, which can result in unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, HIV infections, and risk derailing their future. 

When an adolescent girl becomes pregnant, her present and future radically changes—rarely for the better. They are often taken out of school,  subjected to early/or forced marriage, experience difficult deliveries, develop obstetric fistula, suffer from unsafe abortion, become infected with HIV or die at the time of trying to give birth. 

All too often, a girl’s education will end, and her job prospects evaporate, while her vulnerabilities to poverty, health problems, social exclusion and dependency increase. Reproductive choices are the key to ensuring that this young generation will have a future.

In order to ensure that young peoples’ potentials are fulfilled, relevant stakeholders need to understand the importance of harnessing the demographic dividend for sustainable development.

Central to these efforts must be the promotion of access to education including culturally and age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education, health services, including sexual and reproductive health and family planning services, as well as access to decent employment. These combined interventions are critical in order to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, strengthen the resilience of populations in the face of all challenges and seize the opportunities of the new economy.

All over the world and in Ghana, young people are already driving innovations in science and technology, making conscious choices that are drastically influencing patterns of consumption and production, and mobilizing to make companies, organizations and governments more socially and environmentally responsible. 

Where they can get information, technology, financing, mentorship, and platforms for collaboration, young innovators are able to turn their ideas into transformative solutions. 

UNFPA is proud to partner with governments, CSOs and young people themselves in more than 150 countries and territories around the world to promote their participation and leadership, enabling them to overcome barriers, spearhead innovations and unleash their full potential.

Collective action is especially critical. Governments need to work in collaboration with community structures and development partners to tackle the very important issues that affect adolescents and young people. 

Robust policies and strategies must be put in place that: strengthen entrepreneurial skills and capacity; increase youth’s access to financial services; promote decent and commensurate jobs; increase access to business advisory services and credit facilities; and promote youth participation in decision-making processes.

UNFPA, therefore, calls on the Government of Ghana, in-country development partners and other influencers to institute policies and programmes that promote Ghanaian young people’s development and human rights, and to measure progress across the Sustainable Development Goals that relate to adolescents and youth. Young people must be engaged as partners in achieving these goals, as they are the generation that will inherit our planet.

It is important to note, an adolescent girl who is 10 years old today will be an adult at 24 in 2030, the target year for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. We must ensure that her path through adolescence and youth leads to a brighter future for herself, her community and the world – that is, a path paved with rights upheld, opportunities realized and promises fulfilled.


Thank you.