Hello, world-changers! I’m Kaushal Ranasinghe, a young advocate who’s had the privilege of participating in the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and its regional meetings, specifically the recent ICPD30 gathering for Europe and Central Asia. As a refugee activist, a person living with HIV, an LGBTQIA+ rights advocate and Lead of The PACT Advocacy team, I’m committed to ensuring that the voices of my community are not just heard but actively engaged in shaping the policies that will define our future. It’s an honor to share the vibrant and dynamic perspective of youth in our region as we actively participate in these crucial discussions.
Statement – First Thematic Session: Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development
Born into the 21st century, it’s disheartening to witness ongoing conflicts and wars in our world. As young people, we understand the complex interplay between population dynamics and sustainable development, and we’re steadfast in our commitment to addressing these intertwined challenges. Here are the key demands we’re passionate about:
1. Bridging the Educational Divide: We fervently believe that every young person, regardless of their gender, location, or socioeconomic background, should have unhindered access to quality education. Education is the gateway to breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty and cultivating healthier societies.
2. Breaking Free from Gender-Based Violence: Our resounding call is for the eradication of gender-based violence. This is a pivotal step toward creating a more equitable and just society.
3. Meaningful Youth Participation: Governments must not only make promises but ensure meaningful youth participation in decision-making processes related to population dynamics and sustainable development. We emphasize that commitments without budget allocations are mere words; we need financial empowerment for young people.
4. Investing in Youth’s Professional Development: We’re strong proponents of governments investing in the professional development of young people. Lack of expertise should be seen as an opportunity for groundbreaking ideas.
5. Health for All: We’re dedicated to advocating for universal access to health, encompassing sexual and reproductive health. Access to essential healthcare services is not a mere dream; it’s a fundamental necessity for a healthier and more equitable future.
6. Environmental Stewardship: In our role as young environmental stewards, we demand that governments allocate resources to combat climate change, safeguard biodiversity, and ensure responsible utilization of natural resources. A sustainable future requires immediate, comprehensive action.
7. Smart Investment for Transformation: Governments must invest in the analysis of challenges and solutions concerning young people. National budgets should be a testament to initiatives that dismantle discrimination, stigma, and exclusion.
United as young environmental stewards, we’re deeply dedicated to building a world where sustainable growth, human rights, and a thriving planet are not just aspirations but realities. Let’s forge a path to this vision together, leaving no one behind.
Second Thematic Session: Families, Sexual and Reproductive Health over the Life Course
In this session, we, the youth, implore governments to take resolute action in the following areas:
1. Embrace Youth-Friendly Services: We place a premium on supporting and educating healthcare and education workers, with a focus on providing youth-friendly services rooted in evidence-based practices and a human rights-centered approach.
2. Emphasize Inclusive Language Training: The significance of inclusive language training and culturally-sensitive approaches in educating professionals working with diverse youth populations cannot be overstated.
3. Engage Youth in Decision-Making: We underscore the importance of involving diverse youth in decision- and policy-making pertaining to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) from a human rights-centered perspective.
4. Seamless Integration of Youth-Friendly SRH Services: We call for governments to commit to the seamless integration of youth-friendly SRH services into primary healthcare systems, safeguarded by inclusive health policies.
5. Equal Access to SRH Services: We passionately urge governments to ensure equal access to youth-friendly SRH services for all young people, especially those in remote areas and during humanitarian crises.
6. Challenge Harmful Policies: Governments must unequivocally commit to dismantling harmful policies and practices targeting young people living with HIV, refugees, LGBTQIA+, and individuals with disabilities. We emphasize the need to recognize structural inequalities and combat stigma.
7. Combat Hate Speech: We voice our concern about the existence of hate speech, discriminatory practices, and non-inclusive policies, and we call for accountability and an end to stigma.
This session underscores our dedication to providing equal access to SRH services, preventing unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, gender-based violence, and safeguarding against HIV & AIDS. Our unwavering goal is to ensure that all young people, regardless of their geographical location, have equitable access to these vital services.
Statement – Third Thematic Session: Inequalities, Social Inclusion, and Rights
In this session, we place paramount importance on upholding human rights, addressing disparities, and cultivating a society where everyone has a place:
1. Comprehensive Human Rights Education: We ardently advocate for comprehensive human rights education, especially in conflict areas and occupied territories. This education should not only raise awareness but emphasize the rights of migrants, refugees, and immigrants from diverse backgrounds, promoting understanding and equality.
2. Unwavering Pursuit of Gender Equality: Our battle against persistent gender inequalities and harmful practices is a testament to our commitment to justice, solidarity, and the unwavering protection of every individual’s right to live free from fear and prejudice.
3. Empower the Youth: It’s high time we provide financial support to diverse young voices within our communities. This means giving them the resources they need to not just survive but thrive and contribute to policy-making processes. We honor the voices of youth refugees and immigrants, who bring unique perspectives to the table and empower them to shape decisions that impact their lives.
As young advocates, we are resolute in our determination to effect meaningful change in our region. We aim to leave behind a legacy of equality, inclusion, and empowerment. We extend an open invitation to governments, NGOs, and all stakeholders to join hands with us in creating a better, more sustainable future where no one is left behind. Together, let’s make this vision a reality.
Advocating for refugee rights and ensuring the inclusion of youth in sensitive matters such as Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and the ICPD agenda across two distinct regions, Europe and Central Asia, undoubtedly presents its unique set of challenges. Balancing these priorities requires a delicate and diplomatic approach, given the divergent perspectives and regional dynamics. Nevertheless, overcoming these challenges is essential to make sure that the voices of refugees and youth are heard and respected. One key strategy involves forging partnerships and alliances with like-minded individuals and organizations who share the commitment to these causes. This collaborative approach helps amplify the impact of advocacy efforts, bridging the gap between seemingly disparate regions and agendas. Additionally, education and awareness campaigns aimed at policymakers, civil society, and the general public can foster a deeper understanding of the intertwined nature of these issues, making it easier to find common ground and create a platform for meaningful dialogue. By navigating these challenges with resilience, diplomacy, and a shared vision for a more inclusive and equitable world, we can strive to make a lasting impact on both the refugee rights and SRHR fronts in Europe and Central Asia.