UN Takes Aim at Youth with Conferences in Mexico City and Tunisia

The United Nations (UN) is now preparing to kick off the International Year of Youth.  The Government of Mexico will host a world conference on youth in August that will produce a ministerial declaration on youth and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Conference organizers hope that the document will influence the high-level review on the Millennium Development Goals that takes place in September at the UN General Assembly.

While the Mexican World Conference on Youth (WCY) is not an official UN conference, it is being supported by several UN agencies, including: the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as well as other multilateral organizations.

Sources close to the conference have expressed concern over UNFPA’s involvement in the planning process and “support” to the organizing committee after the Mexican government asked the UN for help. UNFPA is said to be paying for the flights of select non-governmental organization (NGO) participants. As part of its “vision for youth,” UNFPA has increasingly pushed for young people’s access to “sexual and reproductive health information, education, commodities and services.”

The WCY will have two parts – a forum for NGOs and another for governments and policymakers.  Frustration has been mounting at the selectivity for participation. While the conference does not take place until the end of August, the NGO application process closed at the beginning of April and only applicants approved by the organizing committee are eligible to attend.  This would effectively keep out pro-life and pro-family groups.

One Mexican source told the Friday Fax, “I find this troubling especially since the influence of UNFPA and UNDP is not traceable. They act outside the established organizing committees and structures of the conference. It makes it almost impossible to prepare an adequate response and it seems as if the pro-life and pro-family NGOs are held in check by having them observed and controlled in the organizing committee.”

Mexican pro-life advocates say they are worried about the limited participation at the conference, but also about any document the conference might produce. They say the meeting is not really global because “only select countries have been invited [to be on the international organizing committee] and most of them are not pro-life countries.”

Pro-abortion NGOs have set their sights on Mexico as “a strategic opportunity.” In a March advocacy alert, well-known pro-abortion groups Catholics for Choice and Ipas teamed up with UNFPA to urge their constituents to lobby their governments to include a young person on their delegation to the conference.

The WCY is the beginning of a year that has the international community focused on young people. The UN is planning its own official global youth conference in Tunisia scheduled for July 2011.

The Mexican World Conference on Youth will take place in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico from August 23-27, 2010.

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