Twenty years of diverse partnerships and collaborations have put IWHC in the often unique position of bridging the gap between UN agencies and other global institutions on the one hand, and local advocates working to build movements at the community, national, and regional levels on the other. We have played a key role in ensuring that the policies, programs, and priorities of grassroots groups and global organizations reflect a broad, inclusive, and comprehensive understanding of sexual and reproductive health.
Our roots are in the international women’s movement, and this grounding has provided us with the credibility to develop strong collaborative partnerships with UN agencies and other international organizations. Given our experience connecting local needs with international priorities, influential agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Bank often turn to us for gender-sensitive, rights-based technical and policy assistance. We have historically worked to ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights remain central to population and health policies.
In this Section
Our collaboration with the World Health Organization to establish norms for safe abortion services in countries where abortion is legal. Read more>>
Youth Health and Rights
Our collaboration with the Commission on the Rights of the Child to ensure adolescents' sexual and reproductive health and rights. Read more>>
Our collaboration with the World Health Organization to develop working definitions of sex, sexuality, sexual health, and sexual rights. Read more>>
Global Health Policies
Our collaboration with the World Health Organization to help develop the first global strategy on accelerating progress toward reproductive health. Read more>>
Our History at the U.N.
Throughout the 1990s and into this decade, a number of international conferences held under the auspices of the United Nations drew attention to the needs of women and adolescents, with a particular focus on their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Recognizing the growing strength and capacity of the international women’s movement, IWHC played a leadership role in mobilizing women and young people for participation in these conferences, most notably for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo in 1994. At this conference, 179 governments agreed to a progressive, comprehensive 20-year Programme of Action that strives to strike a balance between the world’s people and its resources. This Programme of Action was the first to place women’s reproductive and sexual health and rights at the center of an international agreement on population, a field that had previously been dominated by strategies that sought to control women’s fertility and meet demographic targets with little recognition of women’s sexual and reproductive autonomy or human rights. This change in approach is commonly known as the “Cairo paradigm shift.”
Several conferences held during the years that followed—including the Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW, Beijing, 1995), the five-year implementation reviews of ICPD (ICPD Plus Five, New York, 1999) and FWCW (FWCW Plus Five, New York, 2000), and the United Nations General Assembly Special Sessions on HIV/AIDS (New York, 2001) and Children (New York, 2002)—offered opportunities to strengthen and advance the commitments made at Cairo. Together with international feminist alliances like HERA (Health, Empowerment, Rights, and Accountability), IWHC continued to mobilize women and young people to participate in these conferences, and succeeded in convincing governments to set more ambitious targets related to safe abortion, HIV prevention, contraception, and obstetric care. We also continued our support for local advocates who rely on these agreements as tools to lobby their own governments for an increased commitment to ensuring women and adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health and rights in the form of legislation, budgetary allocations, sexuality education curricula, and new programs and services.