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Governments Call for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Development Policies
The 47th session of the UN Commission on Population and Development ended early Saturday morning with a call from governments to promote gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights as key priorities for sustainable development. The Commission urged world leaders to integrate these rights into the new, post-2015 development framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals, which are set to expire in 2015.
The weeklong Commission was convened to assess twenty years of progress since the groundbreaking agreements made at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994. To move the vision of Cairo forward, the Commission called on governments to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of women and girls—including sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights—and to address persistent inequalities and “discrimination on any grounds.”
The Commission also called on governments to train and equip health providers to ensure that—in circumstances where abortion is legally permitted—abortion is safe and accessible, and to intensify efforts to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support without stigma and discrimination.
IPPF Director General Tewodros Melesse said that while the agreement further recognized the centrality of the Cairo Programme of Action to sustainable development, the Commission could have done more to promote and protect the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women, men, and young people.
“At this critical juncture in the post-2015 process, governments have renewed the commitments made in Cairo in 1994 and since. The right to control one’s fertility and sexuality is fundamental to social and sustainable development, and governments have agreed it should be a core part of the next development agenda. Now, we need strong leadership from governments to lead us into the next twenty years.”
Throughout the week’s negotiations, many governments expressed strong support for advancing sexual rights, and fifty-nine governments explicitly called for action to end discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. These calls came from countries as diverse as the Philippines, South Africa, Nepal, Mongolia, Suriname, Australia, Norway, and most Latin American countries. These calls build on similar agreements made during regional reviews of ICPD in Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia and the Pacific in 2013.
Despite this strong support for sexual and reproductive health and rights, a small but vocal group of countries blocked language on sexual rights from the final agreement—a move that elicited strong rebukes from several government delegations during the closing plenary. Governments will reconvene in September at the UN General Assembly to renew political support for the actions required to achieve the goals of the ICPD Programme of action.