News Human Rights

Dispatches from CPD 2012: Will We Take Action to Make Things Better Or Just Keep Re-Writing Plans?

At this extremely important time for the globe, we need to ensure that the outcome documents of this year’s, and forthcoming meetings of the Commission on Population and Development are strong and will guarantee an increased focus on young people and their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Dave is a volunteer youth delegate to the Commission on Population and Development, working with the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

To see all our coverage of the 2012 Commission on Population and Development, click here.

This morning, the 45th session of the Commission on Population and Development officially began. Delegates from around the globe registered and entered the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to discuss the future of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and how countries can best implement the Programme of Action (PoA) that was formulated in Cairo in 1994. For the first time in recent years it was attended by the United Nations’ Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who opened the proceedings, applauding the large number of youth delegates attending this year.

So, the CPD process has been going for a while and it was imagined that the PoA would be implemented by 2014. As we are just two years away from this date there are still many unmet needs of people around the globe, particularly adolescents and youth. The implementation of the PoA is clearly going to be incomplete by 2014 and you can see this in your day-to-day lives when hearing about how many young people do not have the knowledge or agency to exercise their own rights and dictate decisions concerning their own bodies.

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Given that there is clearly a great deal of work left to do in this extremely important field, there is a large amount of talk around a new stage in SRHR and development known as ‘ICPD+20 and beyond.’ The United Nations and its member countries need to evaluate the successes and shortcomings of the PoA and decide on a future direction. One of the ways that will assist with determining the focus for what the CPD process will look like after 2014 is a global survey that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is conducting over the next year. This survey aims to find out what countries are doing to implement the PoA and look at how their efforts could be improved in order to ensure all people are able to attain their sexual and reproductive health.

All of this talk is wonderful and it shows that the community is still committed to implementing the PoA. However, young people at the CPD want some assurance that the CPD process will not just continue for another 20 years and become ‘ICPD to infinity and beyond’: we want action, and a sense of urgency, from member states and civil society. We want real, concrete movements that will ensure the PoA is met sooner rather than later.

What is also very timely about this year’s Commission is that other big development programmes, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are coming to the end of their term and consequently there is a whole new global development agenda being formulated. At this extremely important time for the globe, we need to ensure that the outcome documents of this year’s and forthcoming meetings of the CPD are strong and will guarantee an increased focus on young people and their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Commentary Human Rights

A Sustainable Samba: Sex, Rights, and Health at Rio+20

Esther Agbarakwe

If ICPD and CPD showed a commitment by world leadership to achieve a better quality of life for all, what will Rio+20 show?

Cross-posted with permission from Population Action International.

Follow #YouthRio June 19th at 3pm ET to participate in a Tweet chat with Esther and other youth advocates on the importance of including young people and sexual and reproductive health in the Rio+20 summit. 

See all our coverage of Rio+20 here.

There’s an African proverb which says “when you’re dancing in the village square, it’s the onlookers who can judge whether you’re dancing well or not.” As the UN negotiations at Rio+20 unfold this week, youth advocates will be watching the “dance” to see if sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are recognized for their contribution to sustainable development.

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Eighteen years ago, 179 countries met in Cairo for the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). The outcome of the conference was a 20-year Programme of Action recognizing that every person counts, and that population is not about numbers but about people and their quality of life. It was a milestone in the history of population and development, as well as in the history of women’s rights.

Just over a month ago, at the 45th Session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD), member states issued a bold resolution in support of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and human rights.

Yet in the negotiating text of the outcome document for Rio+20, the inclusion of these rights is still uncertain. Language on family planning is hotly contested – at risk of being removed from the final draft – and SRHR issues are not mentioned at all.

If ICPD and CPD showed a commitment by world leadership to achieve a better quality of life for all, what will Rio+20 show?

At the COP 17 Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa last November, lead US negotiator Jonathan Pershing was asked about the lack of attention given to sexual and reproductive health and rights and contraceptive access in the climate negotiations. Mr. Pershing was quick to admit the importance of these services for women, communities, and the planet, but expressed doubt that they would come up formally due to the ‘controversial’ nature of the issue. “Take this to Rio” he recommended.

Along with other bloggers, organizers, young people, NGO representatives, and government officials from around the world, we will be taking these issues to Rio indeed. And we have to ask – how controversial is a woman’s right to make decisions about her health and childbearing, a right that will improve her life and that of her children, in addition to the health of her community and the sustainability of her planet?

Representatives from the Sierra Club, Advocates for Youth, The Youth Coalition, SustainUS, Population Action International, and the government of Sri Lanka agree that there should be no controversy in ensuring the health and rights of people in every community, especially young people. On June 19th, these groups will be coming together to host a side event highlighting the voices and experiences of youth from around the world in dealing with the intersection of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and sustainable development in their home communities. From Brazil to the Philippines, young leaders recognize that the ability to manage resources, participate in income-generating activities, procure water, stay healthy, and contribute to community decision making are inextricably linked to one’s access to reproductive health services.

Our planet has already hit the 7 billion mark, and the largest-ever generation of young people are worried and wondering what the older generations have been doing. We’re looking for a sustainable space where families, communities and societies can live harmoniously with the environment in a just and sustainable manner. This is not about science and numbers, but about people, their rights and the future of their great-grandchildren.

These young people aren’t the only ones who ‘get it,’ which is why Rio+20 is already shaping up to bring unprecedented attention to gender, women’s rights, and sexual and reproductive health in the context of sustainability. Dr. Carmen Barroso, head of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Western Hemisphere Region, spoke at an event at the Woodrow Wilson Center shortly before leaving for Brazil, where she emphasized the links between IPPF’s work and that of the conservation, sustainable development, and climate communities. Dr. Barroso sees the inclusion of these themes and connections in Rio to be largely tied to youth involvement, stating that “young people are demanding their place at the table.”

Heads of state from around the world will indeed be dancing in the village square next week, and it’s up to us to judge if they’re dancing well or not. We don’t yet know if the formal negotiations in Rio will take up sexual and reproductive health and rights as they contribute to community development and sustainability. The recent announcement that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – a champion for women’s health and rights – will be leading the US delegation is a positive sign, but does not mean the necessary attention will be given to these important human rights connections. Yet regardless of formal inclusion, the efforts of health, conservation, population, and youth organizations will ensure that SRHR issues are elevated as essential to developing a plan for a more sustainable planet in the future. If they don’t dance well, we will.

Analysis Law and Policy

Dispatches From CPD 2012: Final Successes, Limitations, and a Call for Accountability

Friday, April 27th, 2012 marked the fifth and final day of this year's United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD), the time when the member states of the UN come together to discuss sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) globally. 

Dave is a volunteer youth delegate to the Commission on Population and Development, working with the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

To see all our coverage of the 2012 Commission on Population and Development, click here.

Friday, April 27th, 2012 marked the fifth and final day of this year’s United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD), the time when the member states of the UN come together to discuss sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) globally. Delegates were meeting to negotiate an outcome document, or resolution, that would help highlight how SRHR services could best be delivered in the future, particularly aiming it at the subject of this year’s commission, Adolescents and Youth.

After months of preparation and one week of very intense negotiations, lobbying, and events, delegates agreed to a resolution was at 8pm on Friday that is relatively progressive when compared to previous years, a sign that we have been pretty successful in our efforts to mitigate the potential harm that opposing organisations were trying to inflict.

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So, what’s good about the outcome document?

  • It highlights the importance of ‘comprehensive education about human sexuality;’
  • Underscores the importance of safe abortion care: In “circumstances where abortion is not against the law, training and equipping health-service providers and other measures to ensure that such abortion is safe and accessible;’’
  • States that young people should be considered and addressed according to their evolving capacities, and that parental consent for accessing services and information is not always appropriate;
  • Preserves language concerning discrimination – “Human rights include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”

This is really important language to which young people can hold their countries accountable to ensure they can exercise some of their sexual and reproductive rights. All of these pieces of the document, considered to be victories for SRHR advocates, were neatly listed by the Holy See, the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations, when it heavily criticised the document in a statement preceded by an overwhelming sigh by the majority of those in the room, and followed by a regimental clap from anti-SRHR (anti-choice) delegates. Given that there was a strong amount of opposition there were a lot of compromises in this process. Some of the vital aspects of SRHR that did not make it into the document are:

  • Sexual rights – although reproductive rights are acknowledged, there is no mention of sexual rights which encompass all elements of sexuality that are aside from reproduction. This is a massive omission.
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) is not mentioned at all;
  • Global access to safe abortion – a paragraph about sovereignty and passages about safe abortion only in the context of where it is legal illustrates some of the limitations of this document

All things considered, given how previous resolutions have looked, this year has seen some very positive steps in the right direction. What is vital now, however, is that each country sticks to their commitments to ensure that all people are able to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.