Jul 9, 2014, 7:45 PM
News Code: 2720816
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Iran to mark World Population Day

Tehran, July 9, IRNA -- World Population Day is marked globally on June 11 with the slogan “Investing in Young People.”

Iran Daily conducted an interview with UNFPA's Iran Representative Dr. M. Hulki Uz on the importance of the day.

Excerpts follow:

IRAN DAILY: Please tell us about the background of World Population Day and this year’s theme.

UZ: Every year, UNFPA and its partners celebrate World Population Day across the world. The day is an opportunity to bring attention to a particular theme within the area of population and development. This year’s theme is “Investing in Young People."

Through this theme, we want to underline the importance of making focused investments in young people and providing them with opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and resilience needed for a healthy, productive and fulfilling life.

What is the global youth situation?

There are 1.8 billion people of ages 10-24 in the world, making up one quarter of the world’s population, comprising both adolescents (aged 10-19) and youth (aged 15-24).

Worldwide, an estimated 515 million adolescents and youth live on less than $2 a day. In addition, 69 million adolescents of lower secondary school age currently remain out of school and young people are almost three times more likely than adults to be unemployed.

Are there any global youth-related challenges that you want to highlight?

Worldwide, more than 15 million girls of ages 15 to 19 give birth every year. Nine out of 10 adolescent pregnancies take place in the context of child or early marriage.

Despite near-universal commitments to end child marriage, one in three girls in developing countries, excluding China, will probably be married before they are 18, and one out of nine girls will be married before their 15th birthday.

I also want to mention that among 15-19-year-olds, suicide is the second leading cause of death, followed by violence in the community and family. Globally, the risk of becoming a victim of homicide is highest for young men in the 15-29 age group and declines steeply with age thereafter.

How do you perceive the Iranian youth situation?

Over the past decade, Iran has experienced a ‘youth bulge’. Today, around 50 percent of the population is under the age of 30 and the country’s large cohort of people between 15 and 29 makes up around one-third of the population.

In terms of education, Iran has made remarkable progress. Between 1956 and 2011, literacy rates among young men increased from 28 to 96 percent, and that of young women increased from 10 to 97 percent.

Youth in Iran typically live in urban areas, with one out of six living in Tehran province. Youth unemployment has become an important economic and social challenge, with around 70 percent of those unemployed being young people.

How does “Investing in Young People” relate to Iran?

Iran’s young population presents an opportunity to accelerate the country’s socioeconomic development. Iran must harness the demographic window of opportunity presented by its large youth cohort by gearing policies toward addressing the needs of youth, including education, employment, housing and health.

How is UNFPA Iran supporting these efforts?

UNFPA has, at the invitation of the government of Iran, technically and financially supported an in-depth analysis on youth as an emerging population issue in Iran, conducted and published by the Statistical Center of Iran and the University of Tehran.

We will now work with our implementing partners to develop a comprehensive national youth policy for Iran. I believe that addressing the issue of youth would place Iran in a strong position to act as an example to other countries in the region.

Globally, how can we invest in young people?

Adolescents and youth are central to the future development agenda. Investing in their future by providing quality education, decent employment, effective livelihood skills and access to education, is essential to their development and that of their families, communities and countries.

A safe, successful and healthy passage from adolescence into adulthood can only be fulfilled if families and societies make focused investments and provide opportunities to ensure that adolescents and youth progressively develop the knowledge, skills and resilience needed for a healthy, productive and fulfilling life.

How can young people get involved in shaping the future development agenda?

Young people are still too often excluded from decision-making processes that directly affect their lives. To show global support for young people to be placed at the very center of the post-2015 development agenda, UNFPA is launching a digital campaign in the form of selfies.

To be part of this campaign, we encourage young people to post selfies on Instagram and other social media with the hashtag #WPD2014. The photos will automatically become part of a creative product which in September 2015 will be presented at the UN General Assembly.

Any concluding comments?

The challenge is to make the most of the large youthful population and to capitalize on the contributions of the increasing numbers of older persons. With good planning and thoughtful policies, this can be done.

Population momentum, combined with declining fertility rates, provides a unique chance to spur economic development as the workforce increases and the dependency burden of society decreases.

Young people are drivers of change. They must have the choices and tools to fully participate in development, realize their potential and contribute to their societies.