A high-level event today organized by UNFPA addressed the triumphs and challenges the world still faces 20 years after the adoption of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).
The debate came on the eve of next week’s Commission on Population and Development, which will be negotiating the follow up to the ICPD, so visionary at the time for its emphasis on human rights, especially those related to sexuality and reproduction.
Both Co-Chairs of the High-Level Task Force – H.E. Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland, and H. E. Joaquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique – spoke of the need to update the ICPD to address today’s realities, as well as to fully implement its Programme of Action.
At the debate, entitled ICPD Beyond 2014, Human Progress and Sustainability, President Chissano outlined some of the consequences for Africa from gaps in ICPD implementation: “Over half the world’s maternal deaths occur in our region, including the highest number of deaths related to unsafe abortion.
”We’re the region most impacted by HIV/AIDS, with almost 2 million new infections in 2011. Nearly half of our women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. Harmful practices – such as early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation – persist in great numbers”, he said, also noting the alarming rate of adolescent pregnancy.
In her closing remarks, President Halonen spoke of the choice ahead. “We can give into our fears and leave others to suffer from discrimination and violence. Or we can be brave enough to help others to have the same rights we have; the right for every woman, girl, boy and man to decide about their own bodies, sexuality, relationships and marriage. These are human rights first and foremost. They are the foundation of any just and equitable society.”
Task Force members Lambert Grijns of the Netherlands and Dame Carol Kidu of Papua New Guinea also participated as special guests, with Mr. Grijns in his capacity of Ambassador for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights & HIV/AIDS and Director of the Social Development Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Asked about how to fund the ICPD beyond 2014 agenda, Mr. Grijns reframed the calculation: “The costs of inaction are higher than those of action,” he said. “The benefits or action outweigh those of not acting.”
Asked about challenges faced by civil society in terms of influencing funding, Dame Kidu noted that while the ICPD and its 20-year review were helpful in bringing attention to the role of civil society in advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights, funding has not kept up. She also observed that “the broad concept of civil society is not always socially inclusive” and how difficult it is for some groups, especially those that remain essentially invisible, even criminalized, to have a role in shaping the budget process or policymaking. “Our challenge,” she concluded,” is to make sure the sexual and reproductive health and rights have a high priority in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.”
Women and Girls Must Top the Development Agenda – UNFPA, April 4, 2014