Youth Rights and International Human Rights Law: Current statute and development avenues

In 2013, about 225 million young people in developing countries (20%) are inactive, neither in school nor working nor on training courses. Over 1,8 million young people aged between 15 and 24 years old die each year, mostly from preventable causes, and10.6% of the same age group are illiterate.

In 2011, five million young people live, according to estimates, with HIV/AIDS and some 2,400 contract the disease every day. Young people represent 25% of the global population on working age, but account for 43.7% of the unemployed population and half of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.

These figures demonstrate the scale of the challenges still facing young men and girls worldwide. Today, the younger generation (10-24 years old) - proportionally the largest of all time,- which plays a central role in the dynamics of change, and which is a driving force for wealth generation, strength in the political, economic and social development and a source of creativity and innovation, encounters major difficulties in exercising their rights.

In1995, the international community launched a global program of action for youth which recognized the necessity to take into account the needs and aspirations of young people. This programme has enabled the creation of a framework for action at national and international levels, aiming at improving the situation of young people. The program includes various measures such as the support of intergovernmental policies, research studies, and the strengthening of the UN action through the Youth Development Network Inter-Agency, created in 2010.

In a joint statement on the High-Level Meeting on Youth in 2011, the network stated that it is committed to "increase the effectiveness of the United Nations in advocating for and supporting national efforts to accelerate the implementation of international agreements and development goals as they relate to adolescents and youth." The inclusion of youth as a thematic priority in the program of action of the UN Secretary General and the appointment of a special envoy on youth came to reinforce the efforts of the organization in this field.

The work of the UN system for the youth is indeed based on a long list of international policy declarations, recommendations, resolutions, etc. which, although not a legally binding legislation, play an important role in setting standards and best practices for developing youth policies and their implementation at national level. This corpus also offers non-governmental organizations a framework legitimizing their advocacy.

Under the international human rights law, youth are rights holders, and are entitled to exercise and claim them. However, more and more actors offer the prospect of developing an international instrument specifically on the rights of young people, in order to target a population with specific characteristics and needs. This trend is reinforced by the existence of regional documents (charters and conventions) which provide a common regional base for youth, including the European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life, the African Youth Charter and the Ibero-American Convention on the rights of young people.

In July 2013, the Committee of Experts convened by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to analyze the context of human rights applicable to young people and to develop possible strategies for the promotion and protection of youth rights internationally, agreed on the fact that young people have difficulties in exercising their rights because are they young, and that there are still gaps in the protection of their human rights.

Several participants have underlined the need for a legally binding instrument that will promote and protect the rights of young people at the universal level. However, short and medium term options were also recommended, including the integration of the rights of young people in the work of treaty bodies, special procedures and within the mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review, and analysis of gaps and limits in the scope of the current youth human rights. Furthermore, the idea of a special rapporteur on youth, as a special procedure of the Council of Human Rights, has also been raised.

This forum is an opportunity for sharing experiences, pluralistic debate and further thinking on an increasingly urgent and emerging issue: the need for a specific international legal framework on youth rights, but also for various options to strengthen the institutionalization of youth rights in the international human rights system.

The proposed theme will, in particular, analyze and evaluate the current legal framework and the approach of the Youth UN System. It will also enable the sharing of experiences and best practices at the regional level and the mobilization of youth organizations level of regional cooperation frameworks and internationally for promoting the rights of young people.

This theme is proposed by several networks and associations including of Moroccan Youth (not exhaustive) Prometheus, Youth Action, AJC, and the Ombudsman forum.