Nigeria: Young People Are Left Behind In Sustainable Development Goals

Nigeria is a country that has a young population. Even though this age group is perceived to be generally healthy, the reality in the country is very different. According to the 2013 National Demographic Health Survey, maternal mortality stands at 576 deaths per 100,000 live births and adolescents and young people account for almost 50% of these deaths. Over time Nigeria has maintained its position as the 2nd country with the highest number of people living with HIV and almost 50% of this population are young people. With these alarming statistics, one would expect Nigeria to consistently advocate for more actions to improve the health and development of adolescents and young people. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

By December 2015, the Millennium Development Goals, a global development framework created in 2000, will come to end and be replaced with a new set of goals and targets called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The process of developing these goals started in 2012 and as at July 2015, the final goals and targets have been agreed to by the global community, waiting sign-off by Presidents and Heads of Governments.

Key amongst targets, Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) targets under the health (goal 3) and gender equality (goal 5) goals. Sadly, these targets do not explicitly mention adolescents and young people. Nevertheless, the global development framework presents an opportunity to make advancements on the health and development of young people.

The stance taken on behalf of Nigeria during the process of creating these new goals could endanger this opportunity. The negotiators stated that all references to sexual and reproductive health in the SDG document do not apply to young people. This position denies young people access to sexual and reproductive health including HIV/AIDS information, education, counselling and services. This clearly contradicts over six progressive national policies, plans and guidelines available in the country. Policies and plans developed were developed by several Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) including the Federal Ministries of Health, Education, Youth Development and the National Agency for the Control of AIDS.

The question that many young Nigerians, parents, teachers, local NGOs, development partners and even MDAs are asking is, “Why this position on young people’s health and development?” This was clearly reflected in the discussion during the Strategic Meeting on Nigeria’s Role in the Development of the SDGs: Implications for Adolescents and Young People’s SRHR, held on August 2th 2015 in Abuja.

The implication of this retrogressive stance include:

  • Negative perceptions of Nigeria internationally due to inconsistencies in positions taken during negotiations on social issues with our national policies.
  • Reduction or outright withdrawal of financial and technical resources from different stakeholders for the improvement of the health and development of young people after 2015.
  • Young people’s health and development will be de-prioritized, which doesn’t align with the “change” agenda of the new government, and also does not reflect the current realities of our country with high maternal mortality, teen birthrate, and HIV/AIDS mortality.

Young people, under the ACT2015 Nigerian Alliance, call on President Muhammed Buhari to:

  • Uphold Nigeria’s progressive policies by mandating the Nigerian negotiators to not register a written reservation with references to young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights at the plenary session of the 69th General Assembly to be held on Tuesday, September 1st
  • Adopt the global development agenda at the Heads of States Summit in New York from September 25th to 27th


For Further information:

Kosi Izundu, Act2015 Nigerian Alliance Coordinator

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