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Investing in adolescents can break cycles of poverty and inequity

Port Moresby, 26 February 2011 – Investing in the world’s 1.2 billion adolescents aged 10-19 now can break entrenched cycles of poverty and inequity, said UNICEF today in its 2011 State of the World’s Children report entitled ‘Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity’.

UNICEF Representative, Bertrand Desmoulins on the occasion of the launch of the State of the World’s Children 2011 report said, “Thanks to committed investments in early and middle childhood (0-9), the lives of many young children have been saved and in many cases improved significantly through access to primary healthcare, universal basic education, safe water and improved sanitation measures. We cannot risk losing these children as they become adolescents (10-19 years). In order to fulfill the promise of PNG’s Vision 2050 which looks at a Smart, Wise, Fair, Healthy and Happy Society by 2050, the investment on adolescents needs to be made now.”

Three million of Papua New Guineas’ population is below the age of 18 years and represent 46 per cent of total population. The National Youth Policy, 2007-2017, recognizes that young people are in a state of transition from one of dependence of childhood to the relative interdependence of responsible adulthood and citizenship. The Policy gives consideration to the prevailing political, social and economic conditions in relation to the young people. Despite having a policy framework, the young people in the country remain vulnerable and their needs and aspirations are not being met.

In PNG, the HIV/AIDS prevalence is 0.6 per cent among the young population between 15-24 age group. Twenty one per cent girls are married before reaching their 18th birthday and give birth to her first child within two years. They face very high risk of dying while giving birth. It is time to take stock how the young people are benefitting from policies meant to safe guard their future.

Globally, the adolescents also face numerous challenges both today and in the future, among them the current bout of economic turmoil, climate change and environmental degradation, explosive urbanization and migration, aging societies, the rising costs of healthcare, and escalating humanitarian crises.

The State of the World’s Children (SOWC) 2011 report is a reminder that while adolescents are referred to as the “future generation” they are also firmly part of the present and contributing to nation building. To enable adolescents to effectively deal with these challenges, targeted investments in the following key areas are necessary:

• Improving data collection to increase the understanding of adolescents’
• Investing in education and training to ensure that adolescents are empowered and have the opportunity to contribute to the national development;
• Expanding opportunities for them to participate and voice their opinion;
• Promoting laws, policies and programs that fulfill and protect their rights
• Address poverty and inequity to provide safety nets for the adolescents who represent the  poorest and most marginalized segments of the communities

From the regional perspective, the Pacific comes under the spotlight in this Report through an essay written by the President of the Republic of Kiribati, Mr. Anote Tong. President Tong underscored the long term harmful consequences of climate related disruptions on the lives and prospects of young people in his country.

In addition, young people from Kiribati and Fiji have been using the Unite for Climate website and UNICEF Pacific’s Facebook page to dialogue about climate change. Young people from the region are encouraged to comment and share ideas and experiences on this webpage:

“Adolescence is a pivot point – an opportunity to consolidate the gains we have made in early childhood or risk seeing those gains wiped out,” said the UNICEF Representative in PNG, Bertrand Desmoulins.  "This is the group that has become very critical to the welfare and development of children around the world. It's a group that's often neglected in policy, in programmes and a group very particular...has special needs, even more so for the girls. And therefore I feel adolescents as a focus of this year's SOWC report is a very important and timely one.




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