Pacific Youth - Their Rights, Our Future

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In the Pacific region 56% of the population is under the age of 25. While Pacific adolescents have diverse needs, opportunities and experiences living as they do across 20,000 islands in 22 Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs), one thing that too many Pacific Island adolescents share is a disproportionate burden of poor sexual and reproductive health. There are high rates of adolescent pregnancies, endemic levels of physical and sexual violence against girls, a growing prevalence of young people engaging in transactional sex and high rates of sexually transmissible infections (STIs). Restrictive abortion laws in most countries means information about abortions, including the prevalence and effects of unsafe abortions, is limited. These sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) challenges directly contribute to a wide range of negative short and long-term consequences for the health and wellbeing of Pacific adolescents, their families and communities. It is also increasingly contributing to broader social and economic challenges that significantly hinder the development of PICTs. Beyond enabling adolescents to enjoy their rights, there are considerable advantages to investing in adolescents' and their sexual and reproductive health: - Adolescents are the drivers of development - investing in them can help address poverty, socio-economic disparities and gender inequality; - Investing in adolescents enhances efforts to address significant challenges such as HIV, urbanisation and climate change. The realisation of adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights requires strong political leadership. Parliamentarians have an important role to play in creating supportive policy, reforming restrictive legislation, prioritising funding, and ensuring that adolescents are meaningfully engaged in high level decision making that affects them. It is for these reasons the NZPPD chose to hold an Open Hearing on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the Pacific on 11th June 2012. This report is based on the key messages provided in the written and oral submissions NZPPD received. It should not be considered an exhaustive examination of adolescent SRHR in the Pacific. NZPPD's recommendations are the result of roundtable discussions following the Open Hearing. They are targeted to the highest decision making level, and are centred on creating a supportive environment for ensuring adolescents' sexual and reproductive rights.

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