TSHWANE DECLARATION OF THE YOUTH INDABA ON “STRENGTHENING YOUTH-LED ACCOUNTABILITY IN SADC PARLIAMENTS FOR DELIVERING ON COMMITMENTS ON SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS (SRHR), HIV AND GENDER EQUALITY”
The Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), African Youth and Adolescent Network on Population and Development (AfriYAN), Restless Development and the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), convened a Youth Indaba for delivering on political commitments on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), HIV and gender equality in the SADC region through youth-led accountability, in Pretoria, South Africa from 15 to 17 October 2019.
The purpose was to advance the goals and commitments set out in the SADC-PF Youth Development Policy Framework (YDPF), which was adopted by the 39th Plenary Assembly Session and the SADC-PF Youth Development Programme Five Year Strategic Plan, adopted by the 42nd Plenary Assembly Session. The advancement of the goals and commitments was done by, inter alia, strengthening the knowledge, capacity and skills of young Parliamentarians and youth in the SADC region to hold decision-makers accountable, especially in relation to commitments on sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV and gender equality within the context of universal health coverage (UHC) Participants consisted of young Parliamentarians from Eswatini, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Madagascar, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, together with youth activists and young professionals from SADC Member States. The programme of the Youth Indaba included an intergenerational dialogue between the youth participants and senior Parliamentarians and development partners, focusing specifically on the unfinished business of the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (ICPD PoA), and placing young people at the centre of development, including supporting meaningful youth engagement and youth-led accountability.
Arising from extensive deliberations by the stakeholders and the GEWAYD Standing Committee, Youth Indaba:
- RECALLS that SADC Member States have committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and by that, have made strong commitments to strengthen investments in young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, and promote gender equality within several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 3 on Good Health and Wellbeing; SDG 4 on Quality Education; SDG 5 on Gender Equality and SDG 17 on Partnerships for the implementation;
- ACKNOWLEDGES that 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICDP), held in Cairo in 1994, and its Programme of Action (PoA) that puts international human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR); non-discrimination; equality; youth participation; inclusion; empowerment and accountability, at the core of its agenda;
- RECOGNIZES the continental frameworks and their relevant revisions as defined by the African Youth Charter; African Union’s Agenda 2063; the Maputo Protocol and Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights 2016 – 2030; and the African Union Catalytic Framework to end HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria by 2030;
- RECALLS and RE-COMMITS to the recommendations included in regional frameworks such as the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development; the SADC Programme of Action on the UN 60TH Commission on the Status of Women Resolution 60/2; the SADC GBV Strategy and the SADC SRHR Strategy 2019-2030;
- FURTHER RECALLS that Ministers of Health and Education of SADC Member States have endorsed the ESA Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and Youth-Friendly Services (YFHS);
- ACKNOWLEDGES that in the SADC region around 75 per cent of the population is under the age of 35 and that the success and sustainability of the region’s ability to achieve economic growth through harnessing its demographic dividend highly depend on government and decisionmaker’s ability to reach this vital group to ensure that all young people have access to education, health, empowerment and no one is left behind;
- CONCERNED that this population group remains one of the most vulnerable groups in the region in areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and gender equality, in particular adolescent girls and young women in terms of new HIV infections, experience of early pregnancy and adolescent births, marriage before they are 18 years old, unsafe abortions, new infections of Human Papillomavirus and access to menstrual health, and young men who bear a disproportionate burden of AIDS related deaths. In addition, young people face a broad range of social and economic challenges, including unemployment, limited access to quality education, skills for entrepreneurship and employability, and they are disproportionately affected by the negative consequences of migration and climate change;
- FURTHER CONCERNED that people under the age of 35 are rarely found in formal political leadership positions and that in many countries, eligibility for the National Parliament is set at 25 years or higher and aware of the fact that where younger age groups are represented in Parliament, they have limited influence in decision making processes;
- ACKNOWLEDGES the importance of meaningful youth participation in matters that affect young people’s lives as a fundamental human right and for the effectiveness of laws, policies and programmes targeting young people;
- NOTES that notwithstanding the responsibility of the SADC, its Member States are to establish a conducive socio–economic environment for young people to thrive and reach their potential, young people are also expected to be responsible for their own development and are accountable to their countries and to the SADC region.
The Youth Indaba resolved as follows:
Global, continental and regional commitments on SRHR, HIV and gender equality be domesticated into harmonised laws, policies and programmes, with particular emphasis on issues pertaining to adolescents and young people’s development and their access to university health coverage (UHC);
- Laws and policies that limit the freedom of expression and choices of young people be amendment and, where necessary, revoked as they negatively impact on young people’s ability to access integrated SRHR/HIV/GBV-services, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), social protection and harm reduction services, including for the most marginalized and key populations;
- The knowledge and capacity of young people be enhanced in order for them to advocate for SRHR, HIV and gender equality within national development agendas;
- Young people be provided with platforms to effectively influence legislation and policy reforms and to advocate for adequate and sustainable allocation of domestic resources that are proportionate to the population size and needs of young people so as to accelerate implementation of national programmes at scale;
- Through accountable Parliaments, the socio–economic challenges of youth be effectively addressed, including by introducing gender-sensitive, inclusive integration of young Parliamentarians in existing parliamentary structures that will be the legitimate voice of youth across the SADC Member States; in line with the SADC-PF Youth Development Programme Five Year Strategic Plan; and
- Parliaments, using their legislative, oversight and representation mandate, should ensure that the executive delivers on their commitments to sexual and reproductive health, HIV and gender equality for adolescents and youth as listed above.
46th Plenary Assembly Session, Swakopmund, Namibia