Global Forum For Adolescents – 11 – 12 October 2023

Munya Mandipaza – INERELA+ Executive Director

The Global Forum for Adolescents, 11-12 October 2023, was organized by the Partnership for Maternal New Born and Child Health (PMNCH) – the world’s largest alliance for women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health to galvanize attention to the needs and priorities of adolescents and young people around the world. PMNCH has been working with young people for several years, exploring what they want and need for their well-being and putting their top concerns in front of decision-makers with the power to ignite change.

The world’s largest online meeting of adolescents and young people brought together a global community of adolescents, advocates and leaders for two impactful days of debate, dialogue and action. The two days engaged a diverse mix of thought leaders, change-makers and passionate individuals in crucial conversations and commitments towards adolescent health and wellbeing.

Participants, including policymakers and young people, shared evidence, lived experiences, and proven examples of effective policy and programming solutions. Forum sessions covered the full spectrum of challenges and opportunities experienced by young people growing up in today’s world including the need for greater attention to adolescent well-being in schools, combating violence to foster safe spaces, and creating safety for digital natives. The Forum also saw the launch of advocacy tools, research products, innovation materials, and key data to support advocacy for greater investment and commitment. The INERELA+ Executive Director – Munya Mandipaza was in attendance.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.5 million adolescents and youth died in 2021, averaging 4,500 deaths every day from preventable causes. Leading causes include road traffic accidents and interpersonal violence, while mental health disorders represent a rising concern for well-being. Many young people struggle to access sexual health and family planning services thereby risking unplanned pregnancies. Substance use, child marriage, nutritional status (under and over-nutrition), and injuries are other major concerns.

Adolescents and young people have specific health and well-being challenges often overlooked in policy and investment. Less than 1.6% of development assistance for health was dedicated to adolescent health between 2003 and 2015 even though there are 1.8 billion people between 10 and 24 in the world today.

During the Global Forum, 17 governments and two regional bodies highlighted their responses, announcing specific policy and financial commitments. The majority of commitments came from African governments, with nine countries (Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, and South Africa) setting out plans and investments focusing on young people, including specific new financial commitments from Malawi and Liberia.

Other governments and regional bodies that pledged to improve adolescent health and well-being include Canada, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Portugal, Serbia, Sint Maarten, and the United States, as well as the African Union and the European Commission.

The Global Forum also served as a launching pad for a new health and education strategy developed by the African Union, recognizing the key role that young people play in shaping the economic and social future of the continent. More than 1 billion people live in Africa, half (735 million) of whom are under the age of 20 years.

More than half of these commitments address the call for more vocational training and secondary/third-level education, mirroring the main priority identified by 1.2m adolescents and youth worldwide through the What Young People Want effort launched by PMNCH earlier this year. Other pledges focus on providing affordable, high-quality adolescent health and well-being services and strengthening the agency of adolescents and youth. The Forum closed with the exciting launch of the Agenda for Action for Adolescents responding to the demands of over 1.2 million young people from 80 countries, and the announcement of commitments from a wide range of stakeholders including 17 Member States, 2 Regional Committees, 13 philanthropic and funding organizations, 2 NGOs, and other organization.

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