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This post was written by Ivens Reyner, a member of the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Brazil and originally appeared on the Youth Coalition blog.

Rio+20, is the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The conference will take place in Brazil June 20-22, 2012 and will focus on two themes: (a) a green economy in the context eradicating poverty through sustainable development; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development.

On the road to Rio+20, the negotiations for an outcome document are almost at an end, but still, we need to ensure that the outcome of the negotiations really reflect the needs of people around the world, particularly young people. In the Rio+20 process, we cannot forget that this whole process is about people, about our rights, our wellbeing, and our needs. To speak about sustainable development is also to speak about human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights, especially for young people and adolescents.  

What are the implications?

Young people today account for 1.8 billion people between 15 and 25 years old.  Sexual and reproductive rights and health are fundamental for young people and are fundamental to sustainable development. If young people do not have access to sexual and reproductive health services and information they need, they will be less likely to have a healthy life, which will affect their ability to stay in school and find a job. This will contribute to the growing amount of unemployed youth. Also, If governments do not take measures to end gender inequality, women, particularly young women and girls, will continue to lack the power and independence they need to make informed decisions, continue their studies and to have a healthy life.

Why now?  

Twenty years ago the Earth Summit in Rio triggered a series of global conferences that promoted a rights-based agenda to development, health, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Almost 20 years later, young people have high expectations for the reviews of the Rio+20, International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), and Millennium Development Goal (MDG) processes. During the review of these processes, young people expect major commitments to be made, which will have considerable impact on young people at the national level. As a launching off point for the review of the ICPD and MDG processes, the Rio+20 outcome must address young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services as fundamental in the context of sustainable development, in addition to the empowerment of young women and girls in all spheres of society.

With a strengthened and comprehensive Rio+20 outcome document, which recognizes the rights of young people, especially those of young women and girls, the agendas of the ICPD program of action and Beijing platform for action can only be strengthened. It is therefore unacceptable that the Rio+20 Summit mark a step back in young people’s rights, our access to information and services. Young people cannot afford to have our rights ignored, nor our access to information and services.

The sexual and reproductive rights community needs to strengthen its engagement in the Rio+20 process. We need to work together. We urge you to see this as a call for support to sexual and reproductive rights organizations to consider the impact that Rio+20 will have.

Looking towards the RIO+20 Summit

Today, almost 80% of young people live in the developing countries. Our strength is in our numbers and our joint commitment to ensuring a sustainable future for all. It is therefore essential that young people are supported to participate meaningfully in international decision-making spaces. It is particularly essential that young people from the Global South are supported to attend the Rio+20 summit, specifically as members of their official country delegations. To effectively give young people a space that reflects their diverse needs, is fundamental, especially when discussing a framework that will determine our futures.

Let us work together to make sure that the Rio+20 Summit guarantees our rights, the rights of young women, girls, and all people. Sustainable development is about us, it is about our rights.

To find out more about the intersections between youth sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and sustainable development, watch this short video. 

Get GREEN! The RIO+20 Summit & Youth Sexual and Reproductive Rights from Youth Coalition on Vimeo.

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This blog is brought to you by the Interagency Youth Working Group (IYWG) with financial assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The content is managed by FHI, which functions as the secretariat for the IYWG.
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