CPD: Renewed Support for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Gender Equality, and Youth Participation

The week-long 47th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) ended on Saturday with governments calling for the promotion of gender equality, young people’s participation, and sexual and reproductive health in the next set of development goals. The Commission emphasized the need to advance these issues to achieve sustainable development.

The Commission, which met at UN headquarters in New York, assessed what progress has been made in the 20 years since the groundbreaking International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994. There, 179 governments agreed that women’s health and rights must be central to global development policies, programs, and funding.

To continue what was started in Cairo, the Commission called on governments to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of girls and women, including their reproductive health and rights, and underscored the negative impact of pervasive gender-based violence on the ability of women and girls to benefit from development. The Commission also encouraged governments to promote “gender equality and the empowerment of girls and young women” and address persistent inequalities and “discrimination on any grounds,” including the existence of unfair and discriminatory laws like anti-homosexuality laws and policies that victimize marginalized populations.

Additionally, the Commission encouraged governments to train and equip healthcare providers to guarantee that abortion is safe and accessible, where legal, and strengthen efforts to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support without stigma and discrimination.

Throughout the week, advocates, including over 100 young people, from all regions of the world worked for the inclusion of a variety of sexual and reproductive rights issues, encouraging their governments to guarantee these rights without exception and speaking up against the misappropriation of culture as a defense for the denial of rights. Young people, in particular, pushed for comprehensive sexuality education, youth inclusion and meaningful participation, access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, as well as human rights for all, including sexual rights. Several of the Women Deliver 100 Leaders were part of the country delegations.

Many governments voiced support for advancing the full sexual and reproductive health and rights agenda and 59 governments decidedly called for action to end discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. These strong calls came from a diverse selection of countries, including the Philippines, South Africa, the Pacific Islands, Vietnam, Nepal, Mongolia, Suriname, the United States, Australia, Norway, the European Union, and most Latin American countries.

Despite these promising voices, a small but vocal group of conservative countries and the Holy See blocked language on sexual rights from inclusion in the final agreement. The move provoked strong rebukes from many delegations at the closing plenary. “Our governments will not be pushed backward for fear of accepting reality,” said the Philippines. South Africa called for more “inclusive societies” and Norway asserted that “discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity should not be tolerated in any society.”

Although it was disappointing that the full SRHR did not make it into the final agreement, Women Deliver and other advocates and activists applaud the support expressed by many governments and are encouraged by the strong representation from young people, which marked extraordinary moments during the CPD.

Governments will convene again in September at the UN General Assembly to deliberate on actions needed to accomplish the goals of the ICPD Programme of Action and priorities for the post-2015 development agenda.

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Photo credit: Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights / Ani Colekessian

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