Benefits of action
Adolescence – An Age of Opportunity
According to the State of the World's Children 2011, the imperatives for investing in adolescence are five-fold:
1. It is right in principle under existing human rights treaties including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which applies to around 80 per cent of adolescents, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which applies to all adolescent females.
2. It is the most effective way to consolidate the historic global gains achieved in early and middle childhood since 1990. The 33 per cent reduction in the global under-five mortality rate, the near-elimination of gender gaps in primary school enrolment and the considerable gains achieved in improving access to primary schooling, safe water and critical medicines such as routine immunisations and antiretroviral drugs – all are testament to the tremendous recent progress achieved for children in early and middle childhood.
3. It can accelerate the fight against poverty, inequity and gender discrimination. Adolescence is the pivotal decade when poverty and inequity often pass to the next generation as poor adolescent girls give birth to impoverished children. This is particularly true among adolescents with low levels of education. Almost half the world’s adolescents do not attend secondary school. And when they do attend, many of them – particularly those from the poorest and most marginalised households and communities – fail to complete their studies or else finish with insufficient skills, especially in those high-level competencies increasingly required by the modern globalised economy.
4. It can empower adolescents, both female and male, rich and poor, with the knowledge, skills and confidence to protect against teen pregnancies, child marriages, HIV infection, drug abuse as well as meet the global challenges of our times such as climate change and environmental degradation, explosive urbanisation and migration, ageing societies and the rising cost of health care, the HIV and AIDS pandemic, and humanitarian crises of increasing number, frequency and severity.
5. It relates to the way adolescents are portrayed. This quintile of the global populace is commonly referred to as the ‘next generation’, the ‘future generation’ or simply ‘the future’. But adolescents are also firmly part of the present – living, working, contributing to households, communities, societies and economies.