CPD: Ambassador Berger at a side-event on "Education Matters: Empowering Young People to Make Healthier Choices“

Apr 24, 2012

(Speech by Ambassador Berger at a CPD side-event in the German House on "Education Matters: Empowering Young People to Make Healthier Choices“)

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentleman,

I am honoured to be here with you and to welcome you to the German House for this side event during the 45th session of the U.N. Commission on Population and Development. The large audience today – although you had the choice betweeen several side events - shows that there is a high interest in the topic.

This year, the Commission has directed our attention to adolescents and youth. This theme is of central importance for German development and human rights policy. Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) is a focal priority of German development cooperation in the area of health and population policy. It is seen as a necessary prerequisite for achieving international development goals. German development cooperation in health strives to promote SRHR through a human-rights-based and gender-sensitive approach, while also considering the complexity and causality of SRHR in terms of other sectors, such as education.

The last decades have seen great improvement in the sexual and reproductive health of men and women. However, even though young people around the world are engaging in sexual activity earlier and girls and young women are often the victims of sexual violence, many are denied access to adequate information, services and support that could enable them to protect their own health free from coercion, discrimination and violence.

This increases the risk and vulnerability of a huge group of adolescent girls and young women. The consequences are well known: without access to comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, young people and especially girls are likely to face increasing problems such as early marriage, unwanted pregnancies, and sexually transmitted infections, like HIV. Furthermore, few sexuality education programmes address human rights issues and gender equality in relationships. This would be essential to empowering young people, preventing child abuse and gender-based violence, and to improving health and self-respect.

In 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) recognized the importance of respecting young people’s self-determination and responsibilities in decisions around their sexual and reproductive health. Comprehensive Sexuality Education is one of the strategies that proved to be crucial for the realization of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of the young generation.

In the past few years new initiatives have recognized the critical importance of a multi-sectoral response in this area, including both education and the provision of health services for young people. This has created a momentum for sexuality education which needs to be addressed internationally.

In 2008, in the Mexico City Declaration “Educating to Prevent” countries of Latin Americaand the Caribbeancommitted to establishing national human-rights-based HIV and sexuality education programmes. One example of how the harmonization of public policies on sexual education and HIV/AIDS prevention in schools works on the ground in the region will be presented to you today by Dr. Claudia Herlt, Programme Director of the Regional HIV/AIDS Programme Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa of GIZ Brazil.

Together with UNAIDS and UNESCO the German government launched an initiative aimed at achieving a high-level commitment in East and Southern Africaon HIV Prevention and Sexual Health for Young People. And I am honoured to have Mrs. Sheila Tlou, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team of Eastern and Southern Africa and former Minister of Health of Botswana, here with us today to present this new initiative which aims at generating political momentum to expand access to comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly health services.

I thank you all for joining us today and for your commitment to finding ways of tackling these pressing issues together. I truly appreciate your dedicated work on this key global health topic, and look forward to what will surely be a lively discussion.

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Respect for and expansion of human rights is a central focus of the policies of the German Government. German human rights policy in international relations follows a clear obligation: protecting people from violations of their rights and basic freedoms.