02 November 2016

Urban Agents of Change: Ensuring the health and wellbeing of adolescents in cities

17 October 2016—An Every Woman Every Child high-level side event at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, co-organized by the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General, Save the Children and the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, highlighted some of the key challenges and important solutions that are included in the New Urban Agenda for improving the health and wellbeing of adolescents living in cities.

Ms. Jovana Rios Cisnero—member of the High-level Advisory Group for Every Woman Every Child, Vice President of the Panamanian Family Planning Association Board, Member Board of Directors, IPPF Western Hemisphere—gave the keynote address. She highlighted the importance of engaging young people to discuss, plan and implement the New Urban Agenda for health and wellbeing in cities, in tandem with the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health and in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The keynote address was followed by a short video from the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi. The Youth Envoy highlighted the unique importance of the New Urban Agenda and the critical role of youth in contributing to the drafting of this Habitat III outcome document. Mr. Alhendawi further called for decision-makers to ensure every young person living in cities has access to the quality health services he/she deserves.

Following the video, Mr. Chris Dekki, from the UN Major Group for Children and Youth, opened and moderated an interactive high-level panel discussion that included questions from participants via twitter and directly from attendees at the event. Panelists included Ms. Cisnero, and:

Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary-General, UN Habitat

Dr. Garry Conille, Under Secretary General, Programmes and Operations, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Ms. Fransheska Canto, Young Leader

Mr. Thomas Chandy, CEO, Save the Children India

In his opening remarks, Mr. Dekki emphasized how young people are themselves critical ‘agents of change’, supporting governments and organisations to create more sustainable future in cities around the world. The theme was discussed throughout the panel.

Dr. Kacyira explained how the New Urban Agenda addresses adolescent health and wellbeing and further reflected on the important mandate for the New Urban Agenda to ensure implementation and follow up of sustainable development initiatives over the next 20 years. She stated we are not only planning for our own children, but also the most marginalized—noting humanitarian crises often arise when young people are not given the support they need.

“The New Urban Agenda empowers young people to be the best they can be,” said Dr. Kacyira.

Mr. Conille went on to respond to a question about the humanitarian challenges in urban settings, describing the impact humanitarian crises have on the health and wellbeing women, children and adolescents in communities and cities around the world, with a particular focus on issues faced by many migrants and refugees. He also remarked that while young men aren’t considered especially vulnerable, the reality is that they are at high risk.

Ms. Canto spoke passionately about the issues affecting young people in LAC cities and how she believes that youth have the skills to take on leadership, decision making roles at the city level. She stated that her dream city is one in which governments consult with young people.

Mr. Chandy introduced Save the Children’s recently launched Every Last Child campaign that seeks to ensure the most excluded children and adolescents living in urban areas are reached by programmes and policies to empower them and improve their health and wellbeing.

Before opening up the discussion for further questions and reflections from the event attendees, Mr. Dekki called on Dr. Esperanza Martinez, Head of Health for International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, to share her insights and the challenges she has witnessed in fragile cities. Dr. Esperanza highlighted the critical issues many families are currently facing that prevent them from realizing their human rights and having access to essential services.