HRC51: Interactive Dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development

October 6, 2022 Website Cover (38)

This statement was submitted to the 51st Session of the Human Rights Council Interactive Dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development. 

Statement Title: Call for prioritisation of young people and their needs in the realisation of rights to development

Through this statement, we draw your attention to our concerns faced by young people in the Asia Pacific region with regards to their rights, particularly their sexual and reproductive rights (SRHR) which ought to be realised as part of the right to development of young people. We urge the countries in the region to fulfil their obligations under the core human rights treaties including CEDAW, ICCPR, ICESCR, CRC and CRPD to ensure young people’s SRHR which is inextricably linked with their the right to health, the right to privacy, the right to education, and the right to be free from all kinds of discrimination.

It has been 35 years since the Universal Declaration on the right to development but young people are yet to find themselves at the heart of the development journey. This is particularly true for young people residing in the Asia-Pacific region where various challenges arising from accessibility issues, infrastructural shortcomings and lack of opportunities in receiving quality health, education and employment deters them from being an active participant and beneficiary of economic, social, cultural and political development. These young people are being left behind and their lives significantly affected by external factors such as climate change, environmental degradation, conflict, humanitarian crisis and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic among others.

In a region where the average gender equality score is at 33%, there is an increased need to involve young people in decision making and all stages of the development process to make opportunities, services and information accessible to young people in all their diversities, including girls, young women and those with disabilities. We demand for countries in the region to invest more resources into tackling gender inequality, discrimination, lack of access SRHR information and services, sexual and gender-based violence and harmful traditional practices to build a progressive society and ensure a conducive environment for young people to grow and develop and realise to the fullest their right to live with dignity, freedom and equal opportunity.

We are concerned about the shrinking civic space and how this is further affecting the voices of young human rights defenders in the region, particularly for advocates and activists who are working towards the creation of a just, equitable and fair world for all by emphasising on the right to freedom of speech and expression, the rights to choose, the right to have unrestricted access to information and services, particularly with regards to their health, and the right to have bodily autonomy and choice – all important for their well-being which is a crucial component of their right to development. We therefore demand for States to ensure the safe and meaningful space for young
people to protect the voices of young human rights defenders so that they are able to communicate their demands and participate in the development process of their respective countries without threats, abuse and barriers to their activism.

Additionally, we also urge States to take the following measures:

  • Reinforce the availability of research and data, related to young people and SDGs focusing on youth’s mental health, SRHR, education and labour rights. Increase investments in generating disaggregated data in regards to the education system, drop out as well as other social norms and traditions focusing on SGD 5.
  • Improve digital learning opportunities for young people who have less access and to reduce the digital gap and recover from learning losses whilst addressing the learning crises arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. Rights-based laws or regulations need to be promoted to regulate data privacy and ensure digital security for young people of all ages and ensure safety of young human rights defenders.
  • Strengthen social protection measures to enable children of vulnerable and poor families (including young single parents and families with young persons with disabilities) through financial assistance, social programmes, training programmes and labour flexibility so that young people have more access to education and employment during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • School curriculum changes need to be made so that they include courses relating to sustainable development, human rights, comprehensive sexuality education, and climate education so as to foster an innovative young generation.
  • Provide health care services, including mental health and sexual and reproductive health services for young people in all their diversities to especially support girls, women and young people with disabilities in all stages of their lives.
  • Invest in youth and locally led initiatives including those aimed at addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation plans so that young people and marginalised communities are at the frontlines of progressive change, climate action and sustainable solutions.
  • Adopt inclusive gender-responsive schemes and programs and integrate them into the national plan of action and in policies related to social security, water, sanitation, health access, education, employment opportunities and humanitarian and pandemic related actions – to address the requirement of girls, women and young people with disabilities and to ensure that their participation in both private and public life is protected.
  • Repeal discriminatory laws and strengthen the implementation of preventive laws that are in place to combat sexual and gender-based violence and ensure equal protection of the law for all young people regardless of their identity, age, gender etc.

Endorsed by:
1. BRAC, Bangladesh
2. Naripokkho, Bangladesh
3. Women with Disabilities Development Foundation, Bangladesh
4. Oboyob, Bangladesh
5. YUWA, Nepal
6. Beyond Beijing Committee (BBC), Nepal
7. Blue Diamond Society (BDS), Nepal