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During the 1990's, UN world conferences on population and development revolutionized the way the world views population policy and funding by making women's and young people's sexual and reproductive rights and health central. The International Women's Health Coalition (IWHC), mobilized hundreds of women to play a central role in this momentous shift.
Specifically, at the UN's International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo in 1994, 179 governments committed to pursuing an ambitious 20-year "Programme of Action" (PoA) that strikes a balance between the world's people and its resources and puts human rights at the center of development work.
Since the ICPD, the United Nations, civil society, and governments have been working to make protection of human rights and access to reproductive health global realities. During these 15 years, progress on implementing the ICPD Programme of Action has been reviewed by governments in UN meetings, and acknowledged to be too slow.
In April, the UN Commission on Population and Development conducted a 15-year review of the implementation of the original Programme of Action, and produced a resolution recommitting national governments to priority actions. Highlights of the pathbreaking intergovernmental agreement include:
The first strong intergovernmental statement that implementation of the
Programme of Action is essential for achievement of the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs), and the first such statement recognizing MDG
target 5b (universal access to reproductive health);An unprecedented emphasis on human rights, including in regard to sexuality;
Priority for technical and financial support to prevent and address
maternal mortality and morbidity, and funding for family planning;
The first repetition since 1999 of intergovernmental commitment to take specific measures for access to safe, quality abortion in circumstances where abortion is not against the law;
- New commitment to "comprehensive education on sexuality and gender equality," access to male and female condoms, and reproductive health services for adolescents without restrictive language on culture, religion, or parental rights; and
- Assertion of the importance of addressing HIV prevention through sexual and reproductive health services, information, and education, particularly for girls and women.
This strong resolution is the result of collaboration and leadership by government delegations and a web of dedicated advocates, many from the global south. It can and must be used by many different actors to move implementation strongly forward as follows:
- At the country-level, advocates can evaluate the extent to which government policies, funding, and programs reflect the ICPD commitments, and demand that their governments do more. Country-based UN offices can support these advocates while assisting governments to meet their commitments.
- Government delegations and advocates should promote reaffirmation of the language of the 2009 resolution in future negotiations, including the UN General Assembly and the Commission on the Status of Women, as well as the Commission on Population and Development.
- Global advocates can work with UN agencies and multilateral agencies, such as the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, to help them align their policies and funding with the actions contained in the CPD resolution.
To read further analysis and specific language contained in the 2009 resolution, click here.