New task force for ICPD launched to prioritize gender equality, youth health and rights, in international development effortsNew York

Former Presidents Tarja Halonen (Finland) and Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique) will chair a new global High-Level Task Force for ICPD to galvanize political will and social mobilization for sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The Task Force, which was officially launched on October 1 in New York, is comprised of 26 eminent government, civil society, and private sector leaders who will work with governments, UN agencies, and civil society to ensure that sexual and reproductive rights and health is central to the global development agenda going forward. Particular attention will be paid to addressing women’s and young people’s empowerment.

In 1994, at the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, 179 governments set forward a visionary plan to advance women’s empowerment, gender equality, and reproductive rights. It also established a goal to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health. The critical importance of these investments has been reaffirmed in subsequent United Nations agreements, including the Millennium Development Goals. In the next few years, the United Nations and the international community will evaluate progress made towards these goals and chart the course of global development for years to come.

“The year 2015 will be a milestone,” said Halonen. “As governments chart a global agenda to reduce poverty and inequality, sexual and reproductive health and rights must be prioritized. To this end, the High-Level Task Force was formed. Investments in services and programs that help young people and women achieve their full potential are common sense: they improve the lives of individuals, strengthen communities and create a more just and sustainable world.”

While considerable progress has been made towards expanding access to sexual and reproductive rights and health since Cairo, the world is still far short of meeting the core ICPD goals:

  • Every day, 800 women die from causes related to childbirth and pregnancy, with 99% of deaths occurring in developing countries
  • More than 200 million women in developing countries want—but lack access to—effective contraception
  • Every 30 seconds, a young person becomes HIV-positive

“Nearly twenty years ago, governments and civil society laid out a plan to ensure the sexual and reproductive rights of the world’s women, men and young people,” said Ishita Chaudhry, a Task Force Member and recognized youth leader. “It’s now time to keep our promise and realize that bold vision.”

Task Force members are individuals from a range of countries and regions who share a long record of dedicating their talent and time to the struggle for equality and equity and championing the rights of those who most lack power and voice. Their profiles and experience reflect a rich diversity—of service as former heads of state, ministers and parliamentarians, civil society leaders, philanthropists, recipients of awards and the Nobel Peace Prize.