This is an excerpt from a post written by Suzanne Ehlers, president of Population Action International; the post originally posted on the Huffington Post Impact blog. The original post can be accessed here.

Next week, I head to the United Nations to attend the 45th session of the © 1991 Michelle Bashin, Courtesy of PhotoshareCommission on Population and Development (CPD). The Commission’s work is to “monitor, review and assess the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action at the national, regional and international levels.”

The 2012 CPD outcome document will serve as a foundation for major upcoming international negotiations on sustainable development and population, so we’ve deemed it a strategic investment of time and energy. We’ll travel the 95-North corridor later this week and monitor the proceedings on behalf of the world’s young people in particular, because this year’s theme is “Adolescents and Youth.”

Sounds simple, but it’s a tinderbox.

The number of adolescents and young people in the world today is at an all-time high. Along with food, water and safe shelter, this huge share of the world’s population needs access to contraception and a range of sexual and reproductive health services.

There will be many at the CPD who to choose to deny that young people are sexually active. These same deniers are so out of touch with the reality of young people that they don’t consider their human rights. It’s as if they don’t have rights, or that those rights aren’t under threat. They equate access to comprehensive sexuality education with a rise in sexual activity, when sex ed actually delays sexual initiation.

These deniers also conflate the basic tenets of good health care — such as privacy, confidentiality, and informed consent — with undermining cultural, religious and familial values. The opposite is true. Young people are sophisticated enough to explore and define their values, and make informed decisions that help safeguard their well-being.

As we head into a week of tense negotiations, let’s huddle to make sure our offensive game is primed and ready:

  1. We will be prepared to respond to emotionally-charged untruths about young people and their vulnerabilities with emotionally-charged facts and strong evidence.
  2. We will maximize a unique and isolated circumstance (UN conference rooms) for the benefit of young people around the world, whose lives literally depend on the success of our efforts.
  3. We will hold the line and reaffirm past commitments, but we will also seek to advance a visionary agenda for the full realization of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

To read more of this post, please click here.

More posts on the CPD coming soon!  Look for “Why Are Youth Voices Important at CPD?” this week, as well as an overview of the key points from the United Nations Landmark Resolution on Adolescents and Youth next week.