WYA in Action at the United Nations


Since its founding, WYA has been a critical voice for human dignity at the United Nations. 

This year was no different. Our WYA advocacy team attended the 57th Session of the UN Commission on Population and Development from April 29-May 3 at the UN Headquarters in New York. 

The Commission on Population and Development (CPD) reviews progress towards the goals of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which took place in Cairo in 1994. The CPD’s main concerns are population and development issues, as well as demographic trends. Its annual session gives countries a chance to discuss these topics together and make policy recommendations to the UN.

This year, WYA sent an all-star advocacy team to the CPD session: Ramon Barba (WYA Europe’s Regional Director of Advocacy); Africa Advocacy Fellow Nyingi Wahome; Global Advocacy Fellow Rokaia Elhommosani; and Mislav Barišić, WYA’s Director of Policy and Research.

Our advocates serve as a voice for the millions of youths around the globe who believe in human dignity. “We offer a different, unique perspective and we communicate it to the delegates gathered there,” says Mislav Barišić. “We also offer our unique solutions, such as the Human Dignity Curriculum and FEMM.” 

WYA advocates monitor proposed text for the session’s documents and make recommendations on language to include or take out. The WYA team also works to ensure that countries aren’t coerced into accepting documents, particularly content containing problematic ideology. 

“All too often representatives of many Member States feel pressured to go along with proposals their country might disagree with,” Mislav says. “We offer our knowledge and insights into the language proposed as well as arguments and language proposals for policies that respect every person and his or her rights.”


Troubling Developments 


This year’s session focused on the ICPD’s 30th anniversary. Unfortunately, it was not without controversy. 

The session was chaired by Noemi Espinoza Madrid, the Honduran Ambassador to China. This was strange since the Commissions are always chaired by Ambassadors to the United Nations itself. The fact that an Ambassador to China chaired the CPD raises concerns about the possible outsize influence of China within the UN system. It is additionally concerning given China’s long record of human-rights abuses and totalitarian policies. 

Perhaps it was no coincidence, then, that the process for creating the session’s final Declaration was more tightly controlled and less transparent than usual. 

“We are observing some unwelcome developments, including that the negotiations on the outcome document are done outside and before the CPD, which limits how we can have any impact on it,” Mislav said.  

Many attendees were disappointed with the session’s final Declaration. It was a two-page document that called for greater international cooperation to achieve the ICPD’s goals, but offered no concrete steps towards that end. 

The Declaration also made no mention of poverty or the family—major concerns of the ICPD. Mislav noted that the absence of language about the family was particularly striking, because 2024 is the 30th anniversary of the International Year of the Family. The Declaration also failed to acknowledge that declining fertility rates have become a problem, even though this is an issue that’s worrying many countries. 

Even more troubling, the first draft of the Declaration called for universal access to “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.” This phrase is coded language for abortion access, something which the original ICPD very clearly opposed. However, enough countries pushed back against this language to get it removed from the final Declaration. 

In short, the CPD missed a valuable opportunity to address some of today’s most pressing social issues and was sidetracked by ideology. 

Tanzania’s representative called out the problems with the final document, saying: “In future negotiations, language that does not have a clear definition and does not enjoy consensus within the United Nations, although important to some delegations, should be avoided. It has been clear that they cost us a great deal of time but also deny us better results.”

Taking a Stand for Human Dignity


In spite of frustrations, there were hopeful takeaways from the session, too.  

“The push for sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights and other non-consensual ideological language is clear, but at the same time we are happy to note that many countries are opposing this push,” Mislav says. He and the team were also encouraged to see states such as Nigeria, the Holy See, Senegal, Cameroon take a firm stand against gender ideology in the document. 

WYA made valuable contributions to this year’s session, introducing the Human Dignity Curriculum and FEMM to many countries and submitting both written and oral statements that affirmed the dignity of the human person and the importance of the family. 

In its written statement, WYA declared:  

Our commitment to the fundamental unit of society—the family—remains unwavering. Families are the first schools of human virtues and the primary environment where individuals learn to live in solidarity with others. We believe that supporting families is integral to achieving sustainable development goals, as strong family units lay the groundwork for resilient and thriving societies. 

WYA continues to advocate for achieving the ICPD’s goals in a manner that respects true human dignity. The answer to social problems is not population control; it is developing human potential, and giving every person the opportunity to personally flourish. The first step to unlocking this human potential is to ensure that all countries respect the family as the building block of society and provide their citizens with basic needs such as clean water, food, sanitation, healthcare, and education.

As Mislav says, “Once people are able to reach their potential, through creativity, work, innovation, starting families—they contribute to society in countless ways and this is the most important pillar of sustainable development.”

Written by WYA Staff

Published May 28, 2024

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