|Political Commitments to Women's Health|
This speech was delivered by Adrienne Germain at the G8 International Parliamentarians' Conference in Rome, Italy, on June 22, 2009.
Delivered by Adrienne Germain
G8 International Parliamentarians' Conference, Rome, Italy
This speech is also available in Word.
Thank you, Hon Mafuru MGN'ONG'O. Good afternoon, honorable parliamentarians, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to be with you to talk about political commitments to girls' and women's health. I am here today because as you have heard, and will hear again and again, more than half a million women die during pregnancy or childbirth every year and at least 20 million more are grievously injured.
I am here also because tens of millions of girls and women are beaten or raped daily-one in every three women in the world is subjected to violence in her lifetime just because she is a woman.
And every day, over 3,000 of the more than 7,000 people newly infected with HIV are young-between 15 and 24 years-old, half of them female. Their entire lives are compromised by this dreadful disease.
None of these tragedies have to happen. They all result from violations of fundamental human rights. They are preventable. We know what to do to protect human rights, ensure the health of women and girls, and save their lives. Although I agree with Sr. Bonino that the money is hard to raise, it really does NOT cost much, and the right kinds of investment would benefit everyone.
At the highest levels, we have political commitments. In the United Nations, the world's governments have repeatedly agreed on the necessary actions since 1974-35 years ago. Since 1974, two new generations have been born. Today we have the largest population of young people ever. More than one-third of the world's population-2.4 billion people-are 19 years-old or younger. So I am also here for them. To say to you that today's young people want the information, skills, and opportunities to grow up differently from their parents. They aspire to a world in which every woman's right to a just and healthy life is realized. It is our obligation to act now-to ensure that these new generations, and those to come, do not suffer and die as their mothers have.
We have a blueprint for action, and I am here today to ask you to endorse it, promote it, and fund it. In April of this year, the United Nations Commission on Population and Development-the CPD-reviewed the world's progress toward implementing the "Programme of Action" agreed to by 179 countries at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development-the ICPD.
In April, the world's governments not only reaffirmed their commitment to the ICPD Programme of Action. They agreed on precise action steps to make faster progress toward the core ICPD goals and, in doing so, to reach the Millennium Development Goals, in the remaining five years of their mandates. It is this CPD resolution that I ask you to endorse in your own declaration this week. On the table of handouts is a one-page document summarizing the Resolution and telling you where to find it on the web.
Beginning in 1992, the International Women's Health Coalition (IWHC) mobilized hundreds of women worldwide for the 1994 ICPD. We played key roles in the commitments made by the world's governments to make women's, and young people's, sexual and reproductive and health, and their human rights, central.
Since the ICPD, the United Nations, governments, and civil society have made some progress toward protection of human rights and access to reproductive health, but we have a long way still to go as this year's Commission on Population and Development acknowledged. The 2009 CPD resolution is pathbreaking and could even be considered "ICPD II," which is why I commend it to you. In it, governments not only recommit themselves to the original ICPD goals, they also strengthen and prioritize their action commitments in fundamental ways. I would like to review these briefly with you.
The 2009 CPD resolution is the first intergovernmental statement recognizing that implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action is essential for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This statement is vitally important because, in recent years, the MDGs have often seemed to replace the far more robust ICPD Programme of Action. Indeed the original ICPD Programme of Action provides a blueprint for how to achieve the MDGs. The 2009 CPD resolution is also the first intergovernmental statement recognizing MDG target 5b, universal access to reproductive health.
Second, governments at the 2009 Commission on Population and Development gave clear priority to providing technical and financial support to prevent and address maternal mortality and morbidity and to increasing funds for family planning. This statement of priority provides an essential balance to the dominance of HIV/AIDS funding in global health since 2001. The 2009 CPD resolution further recognizes the urgent need to invest in sexual and reproductive health services, information, and education, particularly for girls and women, in order to make better progress toward ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic, another breakthrough policy shift.
Third, the resolution places unprecedented emphasis on human rights. It signals the strongest commitment ever to the protection of human rights in the realm of sexuality, a vital arena for the health and lives of everyone but especially young people. In regard to sexuality, the resolution expands the definition secured in the Fourth World Conference on Women by stating that the human rights of women and men include the right to "have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality and reproduction, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, based on mutual consent, equal relationships between women and men, full respect of the integrity of the person and shared responsibility for sexual behavior and its consequences." The 2009 CPD resolution uses this language in action paragraphs for the first time. This commitment will be particularly useful in promoting programs with young people that help them develop skills for mutually responsible, satisfying sexual lives that promote and protect their own and their partners' human rights.
With regard to adolescents, the resolution makes a far more robust commitment than even the ICPD did to adolescents' right to "comprehensive education on sexuality and gender equality," access to male and female condoms, and their right to reproductive health services without restrictive language about culture, religion, or parental rights.
And, finally, the 2009 CPD resolution includes the first repetition since 1999 of the intergovernmental commitment to take specific measures for access to safe, quality abortion services in circumstances where abortion is not against the law.
This exceptional CPD resolution-a high point of political commitment to date-is the result of collaboration and leadership by government delegations and a web of dedicated advocates, most from the global south. It can and must be used by many different actors, including everyone here, to move ICPD implementation strongly forward.
I would like to briefly reiterate three of the most vital actions that we hope the G8 will fund and support on a priority basis:
Today, we have unprecedented political opportunity. Increasingly, world leaders understand that there will be no peace and no security in communities, countries, or the world until we secure every woman's right to a just and healthy life. Only healthy women whose human rights are protected can be productive workers and full participants in their country's political processes. Only when women are healthy and empowered can they raise and educate healthy children. These are the building blocks of stable societies. The governments that wrote the 2009 CPD resolution-your government delegations-understood this. I urge you to ensure that your governments reaffirm and act on them.