Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Pakistan, South Africa, Türkiye, Uganda

Rachel Arinii: championing youth sexual and reproductive rights at the UN

Rachel Arinii, representing the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, navigates UN bureaucratic challenges to advocate for youth empowerment and sexual and reproductive rights on a global stage.

ISHR has decided to publish a series of profiles of representatives of non-governmental organisations fighting to obtain ECOSOC consultative status to the UN through the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs. Consultative status is required to attend and participate in many UN meetings, including those of the Human Rights Council. We hope these profiles will help expose the Committee’s dysfunction, share the struggles of human rights defenders that are repeatedly blocked from bringing their experiences and insights on critical issues to policy-making at the UN, and ultimately help secure consultative status to the UN for these credible NGOs carrying out important and valuable human rights work.

The Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR) submitted their application in 2011 and since then has received more than 25 questions. The governments of China, Pakistan and several African countries, including Morocco and Sudan insist on asking repetitive questions. The rules of procedure are such that as long as a question is asked, it must be submitted to and answered by the NGO (thus deferring the NGO’s application usually to the next session). 

‘We envision a world where the diversities of all young people are respected and celebrated, and where they are empowered and supported to fully and freely exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.’

YCSRR aims to ensure that the sexual and reproductive rights (SRR) of all young people are respected, guaranteed and promoted, and strives to secure the meaningful participation of young people in decision-making that affects their lives, by advocating, generating knowledge, sharing information, building partnerships and training young activists with a focus on the regional and international levels.  The YCSRR is registered in Ontario, Canada as a not for profit youth-led organisation. In 2013 the organisation opened a satellite office in Jakarta, Indonesia.

YCSRR was established in 1999, during the five year review of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) a landmark document affirming adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). In terms of advocacy and engaging with the UN, the year of 2014 is extremely crucial for YCSRR, as it is the 20 year review of ICPD.

‘We are witnessing the shifting of trends where governments are becoming more retrogressive to the SRR agenda.’

YCSRR is experiencing strong push back against the realisation of youth’s rights especially for women and girls. Many governments suggest that the SRR agenda is a post-colonisation agenda and an imposition of ‘Western values’. This assumption is wrong as youth from the South are at the forefront of victimisation from the structural inequalities that hinder access and information to SRR.

YCSRR addresses these challenges through advocacy, including mobilising peers at the national and regional level, and collecting evidence of the realities on the ground. The goal is to ensure governments recognise and protect youth’s human rights, including their SRR.

‘We hope that the post-2015 development discussion can be a turning point for the UN to prioritise the importance of partnership with civil society, especially youth-led organisations.’

Since its establishment, YCSRR has been actively engaged at the UN. However, twenty years after the ICPD, the results for youth have been disappointing. Data and evidence from the UN’s 20-year review show that adolescents continue to suffer from lack of access to quality youth-friendly health services, experience obstacles in accessing comprehensive sexuality education, and face violence, harassment and trauma as a result of their sexual orientation and gender identity. In particular, barriers in accessing safe and legal abortion have led to a significant increase in mortality and morbidity (often severe and permanent) for young women and girls. Engagement by civil society in this and other UN processes is as essential as ever.

‘As an advocacy organisation, we need ECOSOC accreditation to enable us to be meaningfully engaged in the UN platform, especially during Commissions under ECOSOC and General Assembly sessions to advance the status of youth and advocate for the realisation of SRR.’

A lack of ECOSOC consultative status hinders the participation of YCSRR, but is also greatly discouraging for the youth-led organisation, which wants significant and meaningful engagement with the UN. Furthermore, the constant deferral by the NGO Committee of the organisation’s application for ECOSOC consultative status contradicts the message of the UN Secretary General at the 2011 International Year on Youth – to ensure that the voices of youth are heard in the UN. 

Contacts: Michelle Evans, [email protected], Programme Manager and New York Advocacy Coordinator

For more information on the work of YCSRR see