Reaching the Global Goal: Health and Rights for All

Adrienne Germain and Serra Sippel

This afternoon, the world will be watching for a renewed U.S. commitment to reaching the goals of the ICPD Plan of Action. But after the speeches, commitments made must be turned into action.

This article is co-authored by Adrienne Germain, President of the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Serra Sippel, President of the Center for Health and Gender Equity.

This
afternoon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will deliver a major speech to mark
the 15th anniversary of the United Nations International
Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)
, which set ambitious goals
for improving sexual health and reproductive rights throughout the world.

Prior
to the ICPD, the importance of securing women’s health and rights was largely
absent from international development discourse. It took the mobilization—and
action— of grassroots women’s groups from across the Global South to persuade
governments that women’s health and human rights are imperative in their own
right—and crucial to sustainable global development. In response to this
movement, 179 governments agreed to a 20-year action plan.

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Since ICPD, we have seen progress on securing the health and
rights of women and young people. 
Despite these gains, much remains to be done. Women and girls in many parts of the world still face
egregious violations
of their basic human rights, and lack access to the
comprehensive reproductive health services they need to stay healthy:
contraception,
comprehensive sexuality education, testing and treatment for reproductive
cancers and prevention, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted
infections, including HIV; maternity care, and access to safe abortion
services.
 

Recognizing the urgent need for concrete action, more than 50
faith-based, human rights, health, and environmental organizations and program
implementers—including CHANGE and IWHC— are advocating for specific
steps
the U.S. can take to fulfill the goals of ICPD. The core
recommendations include:

  • Ensure that U.S.
    policies and programs address the real-life circumstances of individuals and
    communities being served and ensure equitable and maximum access to services
    and information;
  • Ensure that U.S.
    programs and policies protect and promote the human rights of women and youth,
    including their right to decide freely and responsibly on matters related to
    their sexual and reproductive health free of coercion, discrimination and
    violence;
  • Increase the amount of U.S.
    funding that goes directly to innovative, local and women’s organizations that
    advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality; and
  • Re-engage with
    international organizations on meeting global goals (such as ICPD) related to
    sexual and reproductive health and rights through increased financial support and
    enhanced coordination.

This afternoon, the world will be watching for a renewed U.S. commitment
to reaching the ICPD goals, and other related UN agreements such as the Millennium
Development Goals. The
Congress is working on a similar statement of commitment, though a resolution
introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee
(D-CA).

These statements of commitment by the Administration and the Congress now
need to be turned to action – in program implementation, funding levels, and
diplomatic endeavors to ensure
the right of all people to make decisions about their own
sexuality and access the services needed to make that right a reality.  And we all need to be behind them and
support them in taking those steps forward. 

The speech will be streamed live on www.icpd2015.org starting at approximately 2:30
pm EST. A transcript and video of the speech will be posted on this site
following the event.

 

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