Intersessional Seminar on Youth and Human Rights
12 April 2021
Concluding remarks by H.E. Ambassador Rui Macieira, Permanent Representative of Portugal in Geneva
As part of the core group for the realization of this seminar, let me start by thanking the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for all the efforts put into its organization.
I am very happy to deliver these closing remarks.
First let me thank all the speakers for their important contributions. They made sure that we had an interesting and lively discussion throughout the day.
The challenges that young persons face in the realization of their human rights were apparent today. It’s clear that mainstreaming Youth in human rights mechanisms, such as the Treaty Bodies, the UPR or in the implementation of the SDGs and the outcomes of UN Conferences, is a good starting point to address these challenges. This was made very clear on session 3.
It is almost a cliché, but young persons are indeed the ones that can best change our world towards sustainable development and realizing human rights. We must help galvanize this potential!
Yet, as we all know, and was particularly clear on session 2, on top of the general challenges that all Youths face, many face also significant layers of discrimination.
Because of this, every State has the obligation to remove the barriers to the enjoyment of young persons’ human rights. It is particularly urgent to address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that affect them. These stem inter alia from poverty, gender, disability, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, migration or health conditions. Young people with these conditions often face aggravated barriers, stigma and often-punitive legal frameworks.
Quality and inclusive education is a main gear for change. Therefore, the realization of the right to education must be a reality for all children and young persons.
Unfortunately, we’ve all witnessed the huge negative impact the pandemic is having on education.
Discrimination against young women and girls is still a major problem. We must know that this is not just a problem for girls or young women: this discrimination drags the whole society, all of us, down.
Therefore, we all need to join forces to end, once and for all, any form of discrimination. And we must eliminate all harmful practices against girls and young women, including genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage.
The right to health, including mental health, plays, a crucial role. COVID-19 was particularly damaging for the health of young people. We know that the scars of health problems in young age often stay with people their all life. This lessens their capacity to lead happy and productive lives.
The need to invest in providing human rights-based health services and support, including mental health, is therefore central.
Health systems need to have appropriate services responsive to the specific needs of young persons, free from stigma and discrimination. This includes the provision of sexual and reproductive health advice and services.
Even before the pandemic, young people were facing significant challenges in entering the labour market in a context of rapidly changing economic and technological structure. COVID only made the situation worse. Policies to ensure decent work for young people are all the more important now.
Allow me to reiterate the commitment of Portugal to ensure the full enjoyment of young persons’ human rights, without discrimination of any kind.
In fact, the promotion of the rights of young persons has been among the priorities of the Portuguese external action for a long time.
In 1998, we hosted the first World Conference of Ministers responsible for Youth. This conference led to the UN approval, in 1999, of the 12th of August as the International Youth Day.
Portugal has lead in New York - both at the UN General Assembly and at the Commission for Social Development - resolutions on policies and programs involving Youth. In Geneva we are members of the “core group” of the Human Rights Council resolutions on this topic.
The second World Conference of Ministers responsible for Youth was also held in Portugal, in 2019.
It’s Ministerial Declaration was adopted with the direct participation of young persons. They took stock of the last 21 years and jointly decided which commitments mattered most to them so that, together, we can better cope with the megatrends that shape the present and the future.
Nationally, we have developed a National Plan for Youth, which is an important political instrument for cross-sectoral coordination to mainstream Youth throughout national public policies
Finally, in order to monitor and assess the sustainability of the Lisboa+21 Declaration, Portugal developed a digital tool that allows each entity to measure whether its initiatives comply with the Declaration’s principles and also to contribute to its implementation.
Many thanks again to all for your contributions and we look forward to continuing making progress on the realization of young persons’ human rights!