UN, KOICA call for empowerment of Filipino youth to spur sustainable growth
MANILA, 12 August 2023 – In commemoration of International Youth Day, United Nations agencies in the Philippines and the Korea International Cooperation Agency highlight the important role that young people play in society, especially in ushering change.
The United Nations has chosen "Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World" as the global theme for International Youth Day 2023. This theme highlights the importance of shifting towards an environmentally sustainable and climate-friendly world, which is not only essential for addressing the global climate crisis, but also crucial for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
"Young people are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and other challenges of our society, but they are also the most innovative, resourceful and determined," said Gustavo Gonzalez, United Nations (UN) Philippines Resident Coordinator. "We need to invest in and involve young people. We must give them the tools they need to be leaders in the fight against climate change and other social issues such as adolescent pregnancy that may hinder them from reaching their full potential. They need to be given the opportunity to actively shape their future!"
Gonzalez said it is important to “put the Filipino youth at the front and center of all our efforts. With all of their talent and potential, they are the key to reaching sustainable growth and development.” This is especially true for the Philippines, which is hoping to reap the benefits of the demographic transition towards having a larger productive population. Based on the latest National Demographic and Health Survey, Filipino children and youth (0-24 years of age) comprise 49.5% of the country’s population.
Southern Leyte and Samar are in the Eastern Visayas region, which is among the areas in the Philippines most affected by climate-related disasters and relatively higher rates of poverty. The UN, with the support of KOICA, wants to focus on empowering young girls towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals.
The Republic of Korea, through KOICA, is currently funding a joint programme implemented by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO) that aims to reduce cases of adolescent pregnancy in the Philippines and ensure that girls are able to stay in school and are able to achieve their full potential.
The partners are working closely with the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Education (DepEd), and the governors of Samar and Southern Leyte, as well as other government agencies in rolling out adolescent-friendly mobile health facilities, building the capacity of community adolescent health service providers, accelerating the integration of comprehensive sexuality education in schools, implementing Youth Leadership and Governance Initiatives, and conducting research on Adolescent Pregnancy and Child, Early, and Forced Marriage.
“With nearly 50% of the population being under the age of 24, the Philippines recognizes that supporting and empowering its youth is the key to achieving national development goals. KOICA is strategically focusing its support in the field of maternal and child health, and notably, in collaboration with 4 UN agencies and the Philippine Government, has been providing $6.4 million in funding for Accelerating the Reduction of Adolescent Pregnancy since 2022. This year’s theme is a great reminder to encourage multi-sectoral convergence to strengthen climate resilience and equip the youth with green skills. Through this 4-year joint project, I am hopeful that it can create a huge impact on achieving a better future for Filipino youth who are able to make better choices on their own sexual and reproductive health,” said KOICA Country Director KIM Eunsub.
“Girls must be among the new generation of leaders building our sustainable future, as they are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” said UNFPA Philippines Country Representative Dr. Leila Joudane.
“As leaders call for a future of green skills among youth, girls must not be excluded. Through our project with KOICA, we can ensure that more girls are able to access opportunities and have better futures,” she added.
UNFPA explained that it's important to prepare young people with knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially in the times of heightened risk of climate change related disasters.
KOICA and the UN agencies said the joint programme is a valuable investment for the future of the young people in Samar and Southern Leyte that will empower them to make decisions for their own health, dignity, and well-being. Its multisectoral approach will also serve as a model for the rest of the country.
“One pregnant teenager is too many. If we help address teenage pregnancies, we contribute to ending the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Let’s invest in improving the health and help-seeking behaviors of young people, especially girls. While our government works on improving the quality and accessibility of services, equipping young people with appropriate life skills to make informed decisions should also be our priority,” said UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov.
Before the pandemic, World Bank data showed that the Philippines has the 2nd highest adolescent fertility rate in the ASEAN region. Latest data suggest there are around 14 million single mothers in the Philippines and they face economic and social challenges as adolescent pregnancy can result in dropping out from school.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in the Philippines, visit www.unicef.ph.