The UN General Assembly Special Session on the International Conference for Population and Development (ICPD) on 22 September 2014 marked the end of the historic 20-year global ICPD review. In 1994, this groundbreaking agreement among 179 countries put the human rights of women and adolescent girls, including in matters of sexuality and reproduction, at the center of sustainable development. The global review process, involving Members States, the UN system and civil society, gave voice to multiple stakeholders across the globe who called not only for renewed commitment to the Cairo principles and their full implementation, but also for a forward-looking ICPD Beyond 2014 agenda suited to today’s realities.
In statements delivered by Heads of State and Government and Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Health and Gender Equality, among other dignitaries, several countries welcomed the progressive recommendations of the Secretary-General’s recent ICPD reports and underscored the importance of bringing them into the Post-2015 Development Agenda. They also reaffirmed their commitment to the ICPD Beyond 2014 regional agreements as the basis for action at national and regional levels. Various Member States affirmed their support for intensifying efforts to achieve gender equality, the human rights of women and girls, young people’s rights and participation, and universal sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.
“If people cannot decide for themselves on their most private matters – sexuality, marriage, children – how could we expect them to be able to take broader responsibility for their communities and the environment?”, stated former President Tarja Halonen, in her intervention as head of the delegation of Finland. She also affirmed that “differences in gender identity and sexual orientation or any other status cannot be a basis for differences in enjoyment of human rights”
In a recent opinion piece, Task Force Co-Chairs President Chissano and President Halonen urge Member States to show leadership and courage to implement the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s reports for the ICPD Beyond 2014 (see the reports here and here) to create a world where people have “real freedoms, opportunities and choices”. Several other Task Force Members served on their national delegations during the Session. Read the President of the General Assembly’s closing statement here.
Task Force Members Active in High-Level Events
In the run-up to the ICPD finale, Task Force Co-Chair President Chissano of Mozambique and Member Bience Gawanas of Namibia joined the Ambassador and Minister of Social Development of South Africa and the Executive Director of UNFPA in a high-level side event focused on Africa’s ICPD Beyond 2014 regional agreement, the Addis Ababa Declaration.
“As we commemorate the adoption of the ICPD twenty years ago, we must have the political will and vision to go much further in the years and decades to come,” Chissano told the audience. “And we have that opportunity – and obligation — as deliberations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda intensify, to make sure we all do our part.” Sexual and reproductive health and rights, he continued, “are an intrinsic part of human rights, of people’s ability to lead healthy and productive lives, and of families’ chances of breaking out of poverty. And for countries, they are essential foundations for sustainable development across its social, economic and environmental dimensions.” A video of the event and a copy of President Chissano’s speech are here.
President Chissano also spoke at Pushing Boundaries, Moving Reproductive Rights Forward, an event hosted by the Ford Foundation in partnership with the Center for Reproductive Rights to launch CRR’s 2014 World’s Abortion Law map. He was joined by a distinguished line-up of scholars and advocates, including fellow Task Force Member and Ford Foundation President, Darren Walker. In emphasizing the critical nature of securing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the post-2015 agenda, he noted that “legal restrictions rooted in gender discrimination put women and girls at risk,” with tens of thousands of lives lost to unsafe abortion, as well as millions of dollars spent treating injuries. Chissano emphasized the need to provide access to safe, legal abortion for the health and wellbeing of women and adolescent girls. “These are problems with solutions”, he said, calling for “bold political leadership”. Read his speech here.
The Task Force co-hosted the high-level event Post-2015 Development Agenda: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights- Fundamental Human Rights, Drivers of Progress, organized by the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health (GLC), in partnership with the United Nations Foundation. Dignitaries from government, the UN system and civil society brought to life the fundamental nature of SRHR for a healthy, satisfying, productive life for all people, in all countries. Panelists included Task Force Co-Chair and GLC Member President Halonen, former President of Malawi Joyce Banda, former Minister of Health of Botwana Joy Phumaphi, head of UNDP Helen Clarke, and several other distinguished panelists, including Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and President of the Global Fund for Women Musimbi Kanyoro, both of whom are Members of the GLC and the High-Level Task Force for ICPD.
In her opening statement, Halonen told the audience that SRHR “are cornerstones of women’s rights and gender equality, and key to young people’s – especially girls’ – chances of growing up healthy, charting their life course, and thriving.” They “must be affirmed as a non-negotiable foundation of the post-2015 agenda. We cannot afford otherwise. It’s common sense. Unless these rights are fully realized, progress towards eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development will continue to be undermined”. See video, articles and other material from the event here.
At Education Matters: Empowering Young People to Make Healthier Choices, co-hosted by the Task Force and organized by the Government of Germany, Task Force Member Holo Hachonda called for sustained support for the full range of needs and rights of young people across the post-2015 agenda, including a target on comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), during a dynamic discussion with the First Ladies of Tanzania and Malawi and CSE experts from Southern and Eastern Africa, moderated by the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi. The event underscored the importance of the Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for Adolescents and Young People in Eastern and Southern Africa – which aims to improve SRHR and HIV prevention among young people through CSE and youth-friendly services – to the new global development framework.
Task Force Member Ishita Chaudhry moderated a discussion on Leaving no one behind in the post-2015 Development Framework: Responding to the HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights needs of young marginalized people through community empowerment, with the Brazilian Ambassador to the UN, the Deputy Executive Director of Programmes at UNAIDS, and youth activists from Latin America, Asia and Africa, organized by the Government of Brazil and several civil society organizations, and chaired by Task Force Member Alessandra Nilo in her capacity as Director of GESTOS. Panelists addressed the role discrimination plays, including based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as global political economy issues such as intellectual property rights and challenges in access to medicines, in perpetuating the HIV and AIDS epidemic, calling for these issues to be addressed head on in the post-2015 agenda. Chaudhry captured the essence of much of the discussion when she pointed out that “Without addressing stigma and discrimination, focusing on those left behind and involving young people, we will not end HIV and AIDS.”