The 47th Session of the Commission on Population and Development is currently underway in New York (April 7th to 11th). The aim of the session is the assessment of the status of the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action that resulted from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.
Participating in the German delegation as the only NGO representative, I was invited yesterday to address the Commission where I identified five vital elements which need to be taken into account by a CPD resolution and in the follow-up to Cairo in September. The following is a complete account of my statement:
Statement by Renate Baehr, DSW (Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung), Member of the High-level Task Force for ICPD. April 7th, 2014
Today, we already heard a number of very inspiring, very progressive statements which mentioned important aspects of the issues that I myself, as the Executive Director of DSW and member of the High-Level Task Force for ICPD, but also many of the NGO experts present at this CPD, promote and have been promoting for many years. I particularly would like to thank Nafis Sadik as well as Fred Sai and Mervat Talawy for their inspiring words this morning.
Many of the core elements we advocate for were also identified and agreed upon in the regional conferences which are negotiated elements of the official ICPD review process and which therefore should be taken into account within the framework of further process. Similarly, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the Secretary General’s report ‘Framework of Actions for the follow-up to the Programme of Action of the ICPD Beyond 2014’ which should equally be welcomed and endorsed in the CPD resolution.
As I said, many aspects have already been mentioned and without going into very much detail – for which there is of course not enough time in three minutes – I will note the most crucial elements which need to be explicitly addressed in a CPD resolution and, subsequently, in the follow-up to Cairo in September of this year:
1) SRHR for all
First and foremost among these are the promotion, respect, and protection of sexual and reproductive health AND rights for all! In order to guarantee these rights, member states should commit to enact and implement laws and policies that respect and protect sexual and reproductive rights for all individuals without discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Member states should revise or repeal punitive laws and policies such as those that criminalize abortion, or punish women and girls for undergoing illegal abortions.
2) Universal access to SRH information, education, & services > especially: comprehensive sexuality education!
This goes hand-in-hand with achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health education, information and services – and I would especially like to stress at this point the absolute necessity for comprehensive sexuality education. In the reports presented by John Wilmoth and Kwabena Danquah this morning, we heard several very compelling numbers and statistics on why this aspect is so crucial!
3) Particular address of needs, empowerment, and participation of adolescents and young people
Thirdly, we need to focus on adolescents and young people. As the largest youth generation of all time, young people’s – specifically their sexual and reproductive health – needs deserve special attention and we should dedicate increased resources to their health, education and empowerment and also in their participation in shaping a sustainable future for all. Disregarding this key part of the population would represent a fatal neglect.
4) Promote, respect, fulfil & protect the human rights of women and girls, among others through finally achieving full gender equality
Another point we have already heard mentioned today, is the need to anchor the CPD outcome in the core human rights principles of universality and interdependence. Clear commitments should be made to guaranteeing the human rights of all people, particularly women and girls, including, among others, their right to equality and non-discrimination; their right to education; and their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of discrimination, coercion and violence. As also Nafis so elegantly pointed out in her keynote speech, an investment in sexual and reproductive health and rights is an investment in the development of societies – where women can decide on the timing and spacing of their children without coercion, families can invest more in the education and health of each individual child who in turn contribute to the socio-economic development of their families as well as their countries.
5) Integrate the goals & outcomes of ICPD with the Post-2015 process and ensure accountability!
In Cairo in 1994, important strides were made in the way we see development and in the measures we employ to implement the core priorities. However, global sustainable development will be shaped by the Post-2015 agenda which will be set next year. It is therefore imperative that the many important goals identified in the framework of the ICPD process and the insights gained in the years of their implementation are integrated into that agenda. To ensure the respect, protection and fulfillment of all human rights, as well as the delivery of good quality services, accountability must be emphasized in the CPD outcome, and should reference transparency, meaningful and effective participation by affected populations and civil society, as well as effective and independent institutions, complaint mechanisms and remedies for when rights have been violated.
Contrary to Nafis and Fred Sai, I was fairly new in the field of population and development when I participated in the ICPD conference in Cairo. Since then, I am very happy to see much has been achieved. However, we are now at a critical point in time – much depends on us taking the necessary action to move into a new era in development in which the poorest and most marginalized have control over their well-being and share in the world’s rich resources.