12 August 1998

Press Release


19980812 Adopts Lisbon Declaration, Governments Pledge to Place Youth Policy at Highest Political Levels

(Received from a United Nations Information Officer.)

LISBON, 12 August -- Youth ministers and representatives of 146 States today committed their governments to placing national youth policy formulation, implementation, follow-up processes and funding at the highest political levels.

Closing the first-ever World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth in Lisbon, delegations adopted, by acclamation as orally amended, the "Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes", which committed nations and the international community to taking actions in such areas as youth participation, development, peace, education, employment, health, and drug and substance abuse.

The adoption of the Lisbon Declaration is a capping event of more than a decade-long effort to raise youth policy to a level of prominence on both the national and international agendas and, in so doing, strengthened national and global actions in support of young people. By adopting the Lisbon Declaration, governments agreed to develop national youth policies and operational programmes, at the appropriate levels, and to implement international commitments and youth policy goals. In addition, they committed to introducing measurable time-bound goals and indicators to allow a common basis for national evaluation of the implementation of the agreed policies.

Among such initiatives, governments agreed to recognize the importance of general health care, including reproductive health care. They pledged to establish a dependable database on youth reproductive health and to provide access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable legal methods of family planning of their choice. Also, recognizing that the consumption of tobacco and the abuse of alcohol by young people posed a major threat to their health, each country would develop comprehensive programmes to reduce the consumption of tobacco, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, and the abuse of alcohol.

Recognizing that the family was the basic unit of society and, as such, should be strengthened, governments recognized that the family was entitled to receive comprehensive protection and support, and that, in different cultural, political and social system, various forms of the family existed. It also recognized that young women and young men who entered into marriage must do so with the free consent of the intending spouses, and husbands and wives should be equal partners.

Also, the Declaration called for measures to be taken in accordance with the relevant provisions of international law, including international standards of human rights, aiming at preventing the participation and involvement of youth in all acts of violence, particularly acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, xenophobia and racism, foreign occupation, and trafficking in arms and drugs. Also, governments pledged to promote and protect the rights of peoples, including youth living under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation, particularly those peoples' right to self-determination.

In other action, the Conference proposed the proclamation of 12 August as an international youth day. The Conference took that action through the adoption of a draft resolution, following an oral amendment to change the date in the draft text from 8 August to 12 August. The acceptance of 12 August came after interventions by the representatives of Mali and Botswana, who suggested that the closing date of the Conference be marked with the commemoration of the international youth day.

The Conference, in light of the importance of the oceans, recommended that educational initiatives be undertaken to foster young people`s effective participation in preserving the oceans as the heritage of humanity, as essential parts of the global balance and of the well-being of present and future generations.

The Conference also adopted the report of its session, as presented and orally revised, and it authorized the Rapporteur-General to finalize that report. Also this morning, the Conference adopted the report of its Credentials Committee, as orally amended.

The Conference also considered a draft resolution on the establishment of networks and mechanisms for youth follow-up. The representatives of Germany and the United States voiced objections to the draft, including the late introduction of the text and the presentation of a topic which, they said, should be considered at the United Nations. Based on a suggestion of the Conference President, Jose Socrates, the draft text was withdrawn, with the understanding that it could be presented to the United Nations General Assembly when it convened its session in New York next month.

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During a three-day general exchange of views on the 1995 World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond, discussions focused on national youth policies; relevance of the 1985 International Youth Year themes -- participation, development and peace; and issues for action, including education, employment, health, drug abuse and other matters.

At the close of the Conference, participants also adopted the recommendations drafted by its three Working Groups, which had worked in parallel to the plenary debate to develop strategies for future action in those three areas. Those recommendations, among others, called on the United Nations to appoint a special rapporteur on youth to help advance youth participation, and for the elaboration of a convention on the rights of youth. The United Nations was urged to address youth participation in political leadership.

Prior to the Lisbon Conference, which began on 8 August, the United Nations convened the Fourth World Youth Forum in Braga, Portugal, from 2 to 7 August. At the close of the Forum, participants, comprising mainly youths and youth-related organizations, adopted the Braga Youth Action Plan which underlined the participation of youth as a prerequisite for the development of humankind as a whole. A delegation of young people officially presented the Action Plan to the opening meeting of the Lisbon Conference. In addition to urging ministers to take note of the recommendations contained in the Plan, they called on governments to take concrete actions to make youth participation in development a reality.

Explanations of Position

Speaking following the adoption of the Lisbon Declaration, the representative of the Holy See, John Link, said that his delegation had some serious concerns regarding the Declaration. Particularly, there was no mention of the vital role of parents in regard to their prior rights and duties and responsibilities for the guidance and education of their children. For that reason, the Holy See gave its partial consent to the document, he continued. Regarding the term "reproductive health care" and "reproductive health", the Holy See considered those terms as applying to a holistic concept of health which fostered personal maturity in sexuality and in the mutual love and decision-making that characterized conjugal relationship in accordance with moral norms. The Holy See did not consider abortion or access to abortion as a dimension of those terms.

With reference to the term "family planning" and "family life education", and any terms regarding family planning education and services, he said the partial joining of consensus by the Holy See should in no way be interpreted as a change in its position on family planning methods, which the Catholic Church considered morally unacceptable, or on family planning services that did not respect the liberty of the spouses, human dignity and

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the human rights of those concerned. The Holy See reaffirmed that education and information of young people on sexual and reproductive health was primarily and fundamentally the right, duty and responsibility of parents. On the terms "young women" and "young men" in regard to access to family planning services and reproductive health services, the Holy See reserved its position with the understanding that those terms meant married couples and the individual man and woman who constituted the couple.

He said that with regard to the terms "gender", "gender-based", "gender sensitive" and "gender equitable", the Holy See reserved its position with the understanding that they were grounded in biological sexual identity -- male and female. In connection with the terms "family unit", "family structures" and "integrated perspectives of families", the Holy See reserved its position with the understanding that those terms meant the family as the basic unit of society, and in terms of marriage as an equal partnership between husband and wife in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also reserved its position, particularly on any existing agreements mentioned in the Declaration, consistent with its acceptance or non-acceptance of them.

Rita Diaz de Sciolli, representative of Guatemala, said that while her delegation supported the consensus reflected in the Lisbon Declaration, it had concerns about documents in which the role of parents was not specified. Guatemala would follow the rules of the Declaration, in line with reservations it had made in accord with previous international conferences. The efforts of her Government to implement the Lisbon Declaration would be in accord with the laws, development priorities, and the religious and cultural beliefs of her country.

Guatemala's interpretation of the Declaration would respect the right to life from the moment of conception, she said. Parents' right to choose the type of education, including sexual education, of their children would be respected. The family, based on marriage between men and women, would receive social, economic and legal protection. Her Government also maintained reservations related to aspects of the Declaration on reproductive health, sexual rights, reproductive health and all forms of interruption of pregnancy and distribution of condoms.

The representative of Iran, Morteza Mirbagheri, said his delegation had joined the consensus on the Declaration with the understanding that policies and programmes for its implementation were to be consistent with the cultural and religious values of the countries concerned.

Closing Ceremony

In concluding the Conference -- the first international conference to be convened by a Member State in cooperation with the United Nations -- participants expressed their profound gratitude to the Government of Portugal

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for holding the Conference and for the excellent facilities, staff and services that were placed at its disposal. They requested that their appreciation be conveyed to the city of Lisbon and the people of Portugal. Appreciation was also expressed to the United Nations for its cooperation for the successful organization of the Conference. The Conference brought representatives of 146 States, three associate members of regional commissions, the observer for Palestine, and representatives of United Nations offices, intergovernmental bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Representatives of regional groups expressed their appreciation to the Government of Portugal for hosting the Conference and to the United Nations for its cooperation.

The Secretary of State for Youth of Portugal and Secretary-General of the Conference, Miguel Fontes, said the Lisbon Declaration's political importance and scope reflected international commitment to find answers to the issues faced by young people at the end of the century. The spirit of cooperation and commitment that had characterized the Conference should continue.

Patrizio Civili, Special Representative of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said the spirit of renewed commitment which had characterized the Conference should be seen as a point of departure for national and international action to realize the potential of youth for peace and development. The United Nations would ensure that the interrelated polices and measures needed to implement the Lisbon Declaration were effectively coordinated and integrated.

Jose Socrates, Conference President and Deputy Minister to Portugal's Prime Minister, said a strong political will had been demonstrated to enable young people to be agents of change in areas such as environment, health and the fight against drugs. All partners must work together to implement the Declaration. The strategy had been defined; the task now was implementation.

Lisbon Declaration

National Youth Policy: By adopting the Declaration, governments agreed to ensure that national youth policy formulation, implementation and follow-up processes were accorded commitment from the highest political levels, including the provision of adequate level of resources. Young people's own assessment of priorities was to be included in governments' review of their situation and their needs, and they were to actively contribute to the formulation, implementation and evaluation of national and local youth policies, programmes and action plans.

The Declaration also called for the mainstreaming of national youth policy and international development plans and programmes, and for the

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introduction of measurable time-bound goals and indicators to allow a common basis for national evaluation of the implementation of policies. The necessary policies and programmes would be established by the year 2000 to improve living standards for young women and young men.

Also by the Declaration, governments committed themselves to developing capacity-building through the empowerment of formal and informal coalitions and networks of youth, and to strengthening responsible partnerships among all key stakeholders to create synergies to better address youth potentials and problems at national and at local levels.

To implement the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond, they agreed to develop national youth policies and operational programmes, at appropriate levels. In doing so, national priorities and limitations arising from different socio-economic and cultural development contexts would be taken into account. Bilateral, subregional, regional and international exchange of best practices at the national level would be supported, as would the provision of appropriate development tools and technical assistance, through the creation of networks.

Participation: Recognizing that youth were a positive force and have enormous potential for contributing to development and the advancement of societies, governments committed themselves to ensuring their active participation in all spheres and in decision-making processes at the national, regional and international levels. In doing so, they would ensure that the necessary gender-sensitive measures were taken in order to attain equal access of young women and young men. Education, training in democratic processes and the spirit of citizenship and civic responsibility of young women and young men would be promoted, to strengthen their commitment to, participation in, and full integration into society.

Access by youth to legislative and policy-making bodies, through their representatives, would be facilitated in order to involve them closely in the formulation, execution and evaluation of youth activities and programmes and to ensure their participation in development. Priority would be given to the building of communication channels with youth in order to give them a voice, at the national, regional and international levels. Youth volunteerism would be encouraged as an important form of youth participation.

Governments would reinforce policies that allowed independent and democratic forms of associative life, including the elimination of identified obstacles to youth participation and to freedom of association in the work place. Also, by the Declaration, higher priority would be given to marginalized, vulnerable and disadvantaged young women and young men, especially those who are separated from their families and children living and/or working in the streets.

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Development: In committing to ensuring the right to development of all young women and young men, governments agreed to enhance the role of youth organizations in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of national development plans and programmes, and to establish or strengthen policies to combat poverty and ensure actions for its alleviation. They would promote young people's access to land, credit, technologies and information to enhance the opportunities and development resources of those living in rural and remote communities. They would ensure actions to promote equal access to and use of new information technologies.

Bilateral, regional and international cooperation would be encouraged to create an enabling environment for the full participation of young women and young men in economic and social development. Also, governments would encourage awareness and commitment among young women and young men to sustainable development principles and practices, especially on environmental protection, and support the actions of youth in promoting those principles.

The Declaration recognized that the family unit had a vital role to play in the integration of youth into society by acting as an agent of transition, a facilitator of learning and education, a provider of emotional and economic support, a transmitter of values and a contributor to the formation and development of young women and young men as responsible adults.

By the Declaration, governments would discourage the adoption of and refrain from any unilateral measure, not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations, that impeded the full achievement of economic and social development by the population of the affected countries, particularly young women and young men, that hindered their well-being and that created obstacles to the full enjoyment of their human rights. They would take measures to alleviate any negative impact of economic sanctions on young women and young men.

Peace: The Lisbon Declaration contains a separate section on peace. Governments committed to preventing the participation, involvement and recruitment of children in armed conflicts; protecting the rights of peoples, including youth, living under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation, particularly the right to self-determination; mobilizing youth for the reconstruction of areas devastated by war; bringing help to refugees and war victims and promoting reconciliation and rehabilitation; and ensuring that young people live in an environment free from threat, conflict, violence, maltreatment and exploitation.

Bearing in mind the important role of youth in promoting peace and non-violence, governments agreed that measures should be taken in accordance with international law, aimed at preventing young people's participation and involvement in all acts of violence, particularly terrorism in all its forms, xenophobia and racism, foreign occupation, and trafficking in arms and drugs.

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Further, they committed to strengthening the role of youth and youth organizations in building peace, and preventing and resolving conflict, on the basis of, inter alia, United Nations resolutions and treaties and the promotion of education, tolerance and democracy. Ministers also agreed to implement a global system of peace education and training aimed at social progress, fighting inequalities and promoting tolerance, respect and mutual understanding. They agreed to assist youth and youth groups in contributing substantially to the celebration of the International Year for the Culture of Peace in the year 2000. Further, they agreed to encourage, as appropriate, the role of youth in working for disarmament, including all types of weapons of mass destruction.

Education: Regarding education, the ministers agreed to guarantee equal access to basic education for young women and young men, especially in rural areas and among the urban poor. Time-bound goals for expanding equal access to secondary and higher education and for improving the quality of that education would be set, they agreed.

The ministers also agreed to encourage the inclusion of family life, education, reproductive health -- including traditional practices harmful to the health of young women and girls -- and drug and substance abuse prevention in school curricula and extracurricular activities. Also, they committed to ensuring that young women and young men were informed about their human rights, and trained in modern communication techniques and media literacy. While youth participation in community work would be encouraged as part of the education system, formal and non-formal education would be promoted, as would functional literacy and life-long learning.

Also by the Declaration, the ministers committed to providing adequate resources to vocational training and ensuring that education and training systems corresponded to identified needs and technological advancements. Support would also be provided to student organizations, as appropriate, and to families and schools dealing with youth with physical and mental disabilities. Governments agreed to provide for the rehabilitation and reintegration into society of detained or incarcerated young people, and designing new strategies to end exclusion.

They also agreed to reinforce new partnerships to enable young people to learn and express themselves through cultural, physical and sports activities and to establish and develop sport, cultural and recreational activities among youth aimed at promoting and strengthening exchanges at national, regional, subregional and international levels.

Employment: In the Declaration's section on employment, the ministers committed to promoting equal employment opportunities for young people, as well as equal protection against discrimination -- including in wages -- in accordance with national legislation, regardless of origin, race, gender,

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disability, political belief, creed or religion, or social, cultural or economic background. They agreed to promote equal opportunities for young women through such measures as the adoption and implementation of laws against sex-based discrimination in the labour market, as well as legislation to guarantee the rights of young people to equal pay for equal work or work of equal value.

To promote youth employment, partnerships would be improved between public authorities, the private sector, educational institutions, and civil society, the ministers agreed. Governments would invest in the entrepreneurial capacity of young people, providing them with skills and resources to establish their own enterprises. Employment-oriented education and training would be promoted, with constant adjustment of education to the changing social and economic environment. Governments agreed to promote research on youth unemployment, in order to design and implement youth employment policies and programmes, with due regard to gender-specific circumstances.

The ministers also agreed to promote greater national and international commitment to the protection of youth migrant workers, with attention to their human rights, social needs and protecting them from exploitation. They committed to taking effective measures to secure the immediate elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including support to ongoing negotiations by the International Labour Organization of a future instrument addressing this issue. Measures would also be taken to protect youth -- with due regard to the particular situation of young women -- against other forms of exploitation, including sex tourism, prostitution, trafficking in human beings, bondage and any kind of labour which negatively affected their mental, physical, social and moral development.

Health: Committing to the promotion of equal health development for young women and young men, governments recognized the importance of general health care, including reproductive health care. They agreed to create political, legal, material and social conditions that would allow access to basic health care with youth-friendly services, paying particular attention to information and prevention programmes. Special attention would be placed on major diseases, such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS.

Governments also committed to providing access to effective and affordable legal methods of family planning of young people's choice. Further, they agreed to prevent and respond to health problems by creating supportive environments, providing information and access to health services, including counselling, involving the family unit, peer groups, schools, media, health services and other partners. The important roles played by the family, youth organizations and non-governmental organizations would be supported, as the best means to provide for a healthy life through the provision of skills and motivation.

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Recognizing that the consumption of tobacco and the abuse of alcohol by young people posed a major threat to their health, governments also committed to supporting the development of comprehensive programmes to reduce the consumption of tobacco and exposure to tobacco smoke, as well as the abuse of alcohol. They committed also to combating treatable diseases, and preventing and responding to non-treatable diseases by establishing partnerships between developed and developing countries and promoting information and vaccination campaigns with broad involvement. Further, they committed to elaborating education and awareness programmes among youth to fight HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.

Further, governments recognized the special health needs of youth with mental or physical disabilities and committed to ensuring their rehabilitation and reintegration in order to promote self-reliance. They committed to promoting humanitarian landmine activities and increasing landmine awareness among children and youth; formulating policies favourable to developing health programmes in rural and poor urban areas; and intensifying efforts for international cooperation for relief in emergency situations.

Also regarding health, governments recognized the problem of sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and other types of violence against young people, and agreed to take effective preventive measures, such as those outlined at the World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, (Stockholm, 1996). They committed to protecting young people from all forms of violence, including gender-based violence and sexual abuse, as well as to promoting physical and psychological recovery and reintegration of the victim.

Drug and Substance Abuse: A separate section of the Declaration concerns drug and substance abuse. In this area, governments pledged to raise awareness among youth of the dangers of drug abuse of both licit and illicit substances, and to promote alternatives so that young people could move towards healthy lifestyles. They agreed to work in partnership with young people and youth groups in that effort, and to mobilize communities to participate. Also, they agreed to collaborate -- in partnership with the young -- on strategies to reduce the demand for drugs, combat trafficking and support the rehabilitation of drug abusers, focusing on their social reintegration. Governments also agreed to strengthen international, regional, subregional and bilateral cooperation in that area, and institute strong measures to restrict and/or prevent access to drugs by young women and young men.

In light of all of the above commitments, in the final part of the Declaration, the ministers committed their governments to implement the measures and foster the further implementation of the World Programme of Action with the active participation of youth, ensuring that the unique perspective of young people was reflected in national policies and programmes. They invited all relevant United Nations bodies, intergovernmental

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organizations and regional financial institutions to give greater support to national youth policies and programmes within their country programmes. The United Nations Secretary-General was invited to consider strengthening the Secretariat's Youth Unit and submit proposals to the General Assembly at its fifty-fourth session on ways and means to achieve that.

The Secretary-General was also invited to actively participate in the follow-up to the Conference within the framework of the World Programme of Action. They agreed to urge interested governments, NGOs and the private sector to make increased financial contributions to the United Nations Youth Fund. Also, an advisory body would be set up to provide guidance on fund-raising strategies and in formulating, implementing and evaluating follow-up to the Conference.


The President of the Conference was Jose Socrates (Portugal); J.K. Marirmoi (Kenya) was Rapporteur-General; and Ethel Blondin-Andrew of Canada was Chairperson of the Main Committee.

In addition to the ex-officio Vice-President, Filomena Martins (Portugal), there were 27 Vice-Presidents. From the African Group: Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and South Africa; from the Asian Group: China, Fiji, Iran, Pakistan, Philippines and Syria; from the Eastern European Group: Azerbaijan, Czech Republic and Romania; from the Latin American and Caribbean Group: Argentina, Bahamas, Chile, Colombia and Paraguay; and from the Western European Group: Andorra, Australia, Greece, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United States.

The Conference's Credentials Committee consisted of Argentina, Barbados, Bhutan, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Norway, Russian Federation, United States and Zambia.

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For information media. Not an official record.