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Forty-seventh Session,
10th & 11th Meetings* (AM & PM)

Need to Address Gaps in Sexual, Reproductive Health Recurrent Theme as Population Commission Adopts Resolution by Consensus

After all-night negotiations, the Commission on Population and Development capped its forty-seventh session in the early hours of 12 April with the adoption of a consensus resolution, urging Governments to address gaps in implementing the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action, notably in the areas of human rights, gender equality and equitable access to health care, including for sexual and reproductive health.

“Increased political will from all Governments is urgently needed to address existing gaps in the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action and to respond to new challenges,” the Commission said by the seven-page text.  It called on Governments to recognize the links between ICPD priorities and sustainable development, encouraging them to build on progress made over the last 20 years in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda.  In that context, Governments should carry out strategies to eradicate poverty, promote inclusive growth and address the needs of children, older persons and other marginalized groups.

By other terms, the Commission recognized parental duties to provide guidance on sexual and reproductive matters to adolescents, and further, that countries must ensure that health-care providers did not restrict access to such services and information.  Where appropriate, they should remove legal, regulatory and social barriers to reproductive health care for adolescents.

In a similar vein, the Commission urged all stakeholders to pay attention to “areas of shortfall” in the implementation of the Programme of Action, including the elimination of preventable maternal morbidity through strengthening health systems and universal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.  In urging Governments and their partners to prioritize such access, it recognized that abortion should not be promoted as a method of family planning or in the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

The Commission reiterated the need to intensify efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, as well as harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.  It was essential to increase investment in women and youth as it would yield a high return on investment for the growing working-age population.  Governments were also encouraged to ensure that the social integration of older persons was an integral part of development policies at all levels.

As participants wrapped up the general debate of the session, representatives of United Nations agencies and civil society joined senior Government officials in outlining progress made and areas requiring more attention.  Srinivas Tata of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) presented findings from the Sixth Asian and Pacific Population Conference, saying that a growing ageing population, gaps in sexual and reproductive health programmes, and unacceptably high maternal mortality were among the new regional challenges.

Karima El Korri of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) said the need to protect those most vulnerable, notably young people and those affected by conflict, was among the observations from the ICPD review by 22 Arab States.  The 2013 Cairo Declaration for the Arab States provided a road map for the work ahead. 

Daniela Simioni of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said recent discussions at a conference in Uruguay, on progress made in ICPD implementation, as well as on actions to consider in formulating the post-2014 agenda for the region, should guide poverty eradication policies.

In other business, the Commission adopted the draft provisional agenda for its forty-eighth session (document E/CN.9/2014/L.2).  It took note of the Secretary-General’s report on “Programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2013:  Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs” (document E/CN.9/2014/5); and the “Proposed strategic framework for the period 2016-2017:  Subprogramme 5, Population, of programme 7, Economic and Social Affairs”.  It also adopted a draft decision on the special theme for its forty-ninth session, contained in draft report of its forty-seventh session (document E/CN.9/2014/L.4).

Immediately following the closure of its forty-seventh session, the Commission opened its forty-eighth session, electing by acclamation as Chair Bénédicte Frankinet (Belgium) and Mesbah Ansari Dogaheh (Iran) as Vice-Chair.  The Commission deferred the election of Lidija Bubanja (Serbia) as Vice-Chair until a time after Serbia’s election as a member of the Commission.

Representatives of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), International Organization on Migration (IOM), International Labour Organization (ILO), and the World Health Organization (WHO) also addressed the Commission.

Also speaking today were ministers and senior officials of Yemen, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Vanuatu, Nepal, Ukraine, Comoros, South Sudan, Uzbekistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Representatives of Rwanda, Palau, Solomon Islands, Venezuela, Turkey, Armenia, Gabon, Gambia, Liberia, Bulgaria, Federated States of Micronesia, Lebanon, Viet Nam and Syria also spoke.

Also participating were observers for the State of Palestine and the League of Arab States.

Representatives of the following organizations also addressed the Commission:  Partners in Population and Development, Comité de America Latina Y el Caribe Para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (CLADEM), Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Education Fund, International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere, Global Helping to Advance Women and Children, Family Research Council, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, Advocates for Youth, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, International Planned Parenthood Federation, and the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations.


JEANNE D’ARC BYAJE (Rwanda), associating herself with the African Group and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reaffirmed the continued relevance of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action and called for all stakeholders to mobilize resources towards addressing development challenges.  Among her country’s many endeavours being instituted towards the goal of sustainable development, the education systems had been reformed, ensuring universal enrolment, retention and progression at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, and closing the gap in gender inequities.  Further, a universal health coverage system was being established with access to family planning and other reproductive services, among others.  Rwanda’s population had doubled since 1979, posing development challenges that required systematic responses.  She noted that the contraceptive prevalence rate in her country had gone from 10 per cent in 2005 to 47 per cent in 2012, and that under-five child mortality rates had significantly declined.  Concluding, she stated that because women played a key role in economic development, her Government would continue to institute legal and institutional frameworks for the promotion of gender equality.

CALEB OTTO (Palau), associating himself with the Pacific Islands, endorsed the report of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).  In Palau, a matrilineal society, many responsibilities resided with women and girls.  For example, women appointed the community’s chief, meaning that the ICPD provisions only strengthened those rights.  Girls had the same access as boys to preschool through secondary education, and the percentage of women completing college was greater than that for men.  Moreover, the five associate justices were women, while in the area of health, Palau promoted rights-based sexual health programmes.  Despite such achievements, domestic violence persisted, the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases was still high and the earnings gap between men and women remained.  Further, women’s participation in national decision-making stood at 25 per cent, which was still low.  The aspirations expressed in the Moana Declaration of the Pacific Conference of Parliamentarians for Advocacy on ICPD Beyond 2014, and other outcome documents, were the foundations for going forward.

HELEN BECK (Solomon Islands), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed that half the global population lived in rural areas.  That ratio was 80 per cent in her country.  Rural populations must be connected with essential infrastructure, renewable energy, roads, communication, wharfs and health systems so that they could live a full and productive life, she said.  A major challenge was to deal with climate change.  Last week, more than 20 lives had been lost and 50,000 had been impacted by severe flash floods.  Sea level rise continued to disempower women and their communities as their land got swallowed up by the sea.  Her Government wished to see a new spirit of partnership in the post-2015 development agenda based on shared concern for humanity’s survival and work to stabilizing global temperature increase well below 1.5° C.  There could be no sustainable development without a goal on climate change.

WILMER ALFONZO MÉNDEZ GRATEROL (Venezuela) said his Government had implemented social initiatives in the areas of food, health, housing and education, underscoring that his country had been declared free of illiteracy, a significant achievement.  In the area of health, the Government carried out programmes to provide eye operations and dental treatment for people with disabilities.  Other programmes had brought about significant progress in sexual and reproductive health education, he said, as 90 per cent of all deliveries now took place in hospitals.  Noting Venezuela’s commitment to social inclusion and participation, he said his country prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and promoted equal rights.  Progress also had been made in the area of housing with the implementation of the “Venezuela Housing” mission.  Finally, the President was promoting dialogue and understanding among various sectors of society in order to achieve the goals of the International Conference and Montevideo Consensus.

YAVUZ SELIM ÇUBUKCU (Turkey) said current challenges required systematic participation and partnerships of all stakeholders through the United Nations, with the Programme of Action being critical to achieving national development priorities.  While the ICPD had inspired principles, policies and programmes in several countries and had touched many lives, critical gaps in implementation remained.  He said that the ICPD “spirit” should be maintained to, among other things, ensure that women’s issues gained visibility, family planning was recognized as a human right and that harmful traditional practices and customs were addressed.  For its part, Turkey had made strides in ICPD-related issues, including adopting policies and programmes such as providing incentives for female employment and education.  However, to fully achieve the post-2014 agenda, he emphasized that it was essential to establish better national and international collaboration as well as monitoring and follow-up mechanisms that were based on realistic goals and indicators.

AHMAD BOURJI, General Secretary for National Population Council, Yemen, endorsed the follow-up and continuation of the Cairo action plan.  It had submitted a proposal on behalf of Group of 77 and China in that regard.  The current session was important.  He endorsed the recommendations aimed at achieving the Programme of Action and in formulating strategies in the post-2015 period.  He stressed the need for programmes related to human rights, poverty alleviation, women’s empowerment, literacy, combating violence against women, aid to those most vulnerable, universal health care, and family planning.  He reiterated the importance of good governance, accountability and transparency.  He called upon developed nations to increase aid to developing countries.

TSHERING JAMTSHO, Bhutan, said that while Bhutan’s population had increased, its population growth rate had declined.  Bhutan had met the Millennium target of reducing maternal mortality and of halving extreme poverty.  It had made significant progress in improving education services and performance.  Still, youth unemployment remained high and the country faced a myriad of challenges affecting small mountainous developing countries.  Non-communicable diseases were on the rise.  Fertility rates were declining, leading to an ageing population.  Challenges existed for reaching children in remote areas.  Much more must be done to assist those most vulnerable.  He reaffirmed Bhutan’s commitment to the Cairo Programme of Action.

KASSOUM BIKIENGA, Director for Population Policy, Minister of Finance of Burkina Faso, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, underscored progress in reaching the ICPD goals.  In that context, he cited increased access to education, especially for girls; financing for reproductive health; adoption of a law on female genital mutilation; and the legal authorization of abortion under certain conditions.  Issues to address included forced marriages and girls’ school drop-out rate.  Noting that the population was increasing at 3.1 per cent annually, he said such challenges were shared by many developing countries, where gender equality and women’s equality faced difficulties.  Redoubled efforts were needed to halt female genital mutilation and carry out services for family planning and legal, safe abortion.

GAREN NAZARIAN (Armenia) cited various legislative acts carried out to tackle the Cairo agenda issues, including a strategy for addressing the impacts of population ageing and providing social protection for the elderly.  Armenia had been among the first countries within the Commonwealth of Independent States to adopt a law outlining social protections for persons with disabilities.  A series of regulatory documents for children also had been introduced, including the law on social assistance for children left without parental care.  On the health front, HIV/AIDS legislation had been revised with a view to protecting the rights of people living with HIV.  As a result, “sharp” decreases had been seen in maternal and child mortality rates, while modern contraceptive use had increased.  More broadly, areas requiring further attention included sexual and reproductive health rights, combating HIV/AIDS, gender equality and the needs of young people.

JEAN RENE CAMARA, General Secretary in the Ministry of Planning of Guinea, noted an increasing awareness of population issues in his country since the adoption of the Cairo Programme of Action.  Despite progress in some areas, the country lagged behind in others.  Forty per cent of its population was under the age 15.  Youth issues of unemployment, education and health care were a concern.  The country faced major migration issues.  Urbanization was rapidly increasing due to an exodus from rural areas.  Demographic pressures had caused environmental degradation and societal pressure.  He stressed the need for an equitable distribution of income and access to sexual and reproductive rights and services.  He urged population partners to step up efforts to help improve people’s quality of life.

MARIANNE ODETTE BIBALOU (Gabon) said her Government focused on a human-centred approach to development in its 2012-2016 national plan.  Gabon’s Constitution guaranteed equal rights and protection before the law.   Education, health care, the fights against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and maternal mortality were priorities of the Government, as were poverty eradication and food security.  The Government ensured free non-discriminatory education.  It was focused on integrating older persons and on ensuring quality health care for young people and adolescents.  The legal age for consent to marriage was set at 18 to protect young girls from forced early marriage.  The Government had launched awareness campaigns on sexual and reproductive health and rights.  It had an open, welcoming policy in terms of migration.  It supported the Women’s Convention and the Beijing Platform for Action.

RIALUTH SERGE VOHOR, Minister for Health of Vanuatu, said many countries faced challenges in addressing the ICPD goals and his country would continue to express concern over any activities that contravened the dignity and human rights of the individual.  More than 70 per cent of the population lived in rural areas and his Government shared common concerns with other Pacific island nations in that regard.  Vanuatu was party to regional forums and organizations, where it had addressed diverse population needs.  It recognized its partners as key drivers of rights-based sexual and reproductive health services and information.  Health reform was being carried out through a “door to door” approach to primary health care.  Vanuatu was committed to gender equality, with a multisectoral approach to advancing women’s rights.  A youth symposium sought to introduce young people to judicial systems, while comprehensive sex education was taught in schools.

BADRI POKHREL, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Population of Nepal, associating himself with the Group of 77, stressed that gender equality could not be achieved without guaranteeing economic, social, and political participation of women and girls.  His Government was committed to ensuring universal access to comprehensive, easily accessible, quality, gender-responsive health services, including safe abortion and sexuality education.  Out of the 26 million Nepalese nationals, more than 3 million worked in foreign countries.  Nepal was committed to cooperating with the countries of their destination, including the private sector and civil society, to provide migrants with social protection, such as health-care services and low-cost money transfer options.

IRYNA KUSHNIR, Representative of the Commissioner for Human Rights in Ukraine, cited significant progress in guaranteeing equality before the law, noting that her country had been the second State in the former Soviet Union to adopt a gender law, and the first in Eastern Europe to adopt a law on preventing domestic violence.  In the last decade, the salary gap between women and men had dropped from 35 per cent to 22 per cent, while, in the area of education, a project had been designed to familiarize older people with new knowledge.  On the health front, a number of projects aimed to reduce HIV transmission from mother to child, as well as among people who injected drugs.  She supported comprehensive gender education for young people as a way to promote tolerance and mutual respect, a lack of which led to human rights violations and violence.

SAID MOHAMED ALI SAID, Secretary General of the Government of Comoros, said reforms to decentralize health structures and strengthen primary health care had paved the way for better preventive care for children and adolescents.  The 2009 poverty reduction strategy was in line with the ICPD Programme of Action, providing access to drinking water and promoting gender equality.  In the area of health, he said the under-five child mortality rate had dropped, as had maternal mortality, between 1990 and 2012.  Comoros had exceeded the Millennium Development Goal related to malaria.  Assisted deliveries, under 60 per cent in 2003, had increased to 85 per cent in 2012, and free caesarean care was now provided.  As for family planning, free health care for women was provided, yet contraceptive use remained “stagnant”.  In the area of poverty eradication, microcredit use had increased slightly between 1995 and 2004.

ALIER DENG, Director General for Multilateral Relations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Sudan, endorsed the Addis Ababa Declaration and other relevant population and development instruments such as the Common Africa Position on the post-2015 development agenda adopted by the recent African Union Summit.  His Government had made education, particularly for girls, a top priority.  South Sudan had among the highest indicators of child mortality.  Strengthening health-care management systems to reduce child and maternal mortality was a top priority.  South Sudan had set up a HIV/AIDS Commission, and had adopted action plans to end harmful traditional practices such as early child and forced marriages.  The Government also set up a National Bureau of Statistics to create and strengthen institutions involved in population issues.

LAZIZ KARAEV, Representative in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, said his country’s gross domestic product (GDP), retail trade and agriculture had increased significantly.  Child mortality had declined.  The Government had prioritized a State policy for enhancing women’s empowerment.  Today, more than 62 per cent of women of working age were involved in different sectors of the economy.  The Deputy Prime Minister was a woman, and there were 33 female deputies in parliament and 16 senators.  The Government had enacted family medical programmes, providing quality health care to all and helping to reduce the level of hospitalization.  It also provided comprehensive medical care for women of childbearing age.  Such efforts had prevented the birth of 2,700 children with congenital defects in 2013 alone.  The Government had declared 2014 the year for child health.  In February, it decreed a child health policy.

ABDOULIE BAH, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Office of the Vice President of Gambia, said population dynamics had been integrated into national policies and development policy frameworks, which had led to the provision of free maternal health care, youth-friendly reproductive health centres in the regions and other services.  As a result of those and related efforts, indicators were showing improvements, with maternal mortality rates dropping to 433 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013 from 730 in 2001 and with more women becoming involved at decision-making levels.  Despite progress, constraints continued to derail efforts, he said.  Maternal and infant mortality remained high and contraceptive use low.  Further, due to limited resources, the issues of migration, climate change and the environment were not being fully addressed, he said.

Mr. WALLACE (Liberia) said his country’s commitment to the Programme of Action was unwavering and its efforts to carry forward the Cairo aspirations had begun in 2006.  “Our people are anxious to enjoy the dividends of peace”, he said, including access to clean water and sanitation, sexual and reproductive rights, and equal opportunities.  Liberia accepted all commitments outlined in the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development in Africa beyond 2014.  In its negotiations, Liberia would work to ensure convergence with other regional positions on a resolution on ICPD beyond 2014.  More investments must be made to promote and protect the rights of women and girls, including sexual and reproductive rights, and to scale-up economic opportunities.  It was critical to continue in the spirit of ICPD, as the vision for women to enjoy all their rights must not be rolled back.

EVGENIYA IVANOVA (Bulgaria) supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations on the operational review of ICPD implementation, calling on Governments to develop integrated and coherent national strategies to eliminate inequalities and social exclusion.  Social inclusion of marginalized groups, as well as persons with disabilities, was also critical.  She called for women’s full participation in social and economic rights, saying that the gender gap had narrowed since 1990, but women continued to be paid less for equal work and were often excluded from decision-making.  Urging that sex education and reproductive rights be promoted, she said investment in young people, health and education were prerequisites for sustainable social development.

KAMAL HASSOUNEH (State of Palestine) stressed his commitment to the Cairo Programme of Action.  He emphasized the need to provide access to sexual and reproductive health, protect women and girls from violence, ensure proper health care, education and training for young people, and amend laws and practices towards that end.  The State of Palestine would work in a positive way to achieve all of those goals, including family planning services.

JANE CHIGIYAL (Federated States of Micronesia), associating herself with the Pacific Island States, noted, among other successes in the area of reproductive health, that her Government had not recorded a maternal death since 2008.  However, because of possible unrecorded deaths in more remote locations, prenatal and basic obstetric care services were being strengthened throughout the country’s 607 islands.  As well, gender equality was a key priority, with women participating in the executive and judiciary sectors, among others.  Initiatives to include women in the national congress were being developed, along with national policies to address domestic violence.  However, she pointed out, the progress made by small island developing States towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals over the past 20 years could be undone if climate change and sea-level rise continued without serious intervention by the international community.  The Commission’s concerns for the dignity and human rights of present and future generations would then be rendered “empty rhetoric” if global action were not taken now.

MANGALU MOBHE AGBADA, National Coordinator of Cell Studies, Planning, Promotion of Women, Family and Children in the Ministry of Gender, Family and Children of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, supported an approach to sustainable development based on human rights and dignity.  The fight against unequal access to sexual and reproductive health, as well as efforts to strengthen health systems, had important implications for health policies.  As such, his Government had reviewed the family code to afford girls and women the same opportunities as boys and men.  For example, married women now did not need men’s consent to work.  Special measures had been taken to create gender equality in political institutions, while a special budget for the purchase of contraception and other commodities had been allocated.  Family planning also had been raised to the level of a national priority.

NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), associating himself with the Arab Group, said successive Governments in his country, in cooperation with civil society organizations, had carried out efforts to achieve the ICPD goals.  In that context, he cited the adoption of the national population plan for 2000, which covered basic sexual and family planning, measures to combat HIV/AIDS and other areas.  In addition, a national women’s body had outlined a 2010-2020 strategy and action plan, as well as a new law on family violence that aimed to protect women.  The main challenge impeding development efforts was the impact of refugees on host communities, he said, citing the latest Commission for Refugees report, which stated that more than 1 million Syrian refugees were now in Lebanon.  Demographic changes over the last two decades must be considered in the post-2015 agenda.

Mr. HUY DUONG (Viet Nam), speaking on behalf of 14 Pacific countries, said the Sixth Asian and Pacific Population Conference had reaffirmed the determination of those countries to ensure sexual and reproductive health rights and services and take steps to end all forms of discrimination.  He reinforced the outcome of the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development, adopted at that Conference, which included provisions for the elderly, the disabled and young women.  He stressed the need for quality maternal care, including post and prenatal care, post-abortion care, safe delivery services, and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and other non-communicable diseases, including through comprehensive sex education programmes.  He rejected all forms of violence and discrimination.  He stressed the importance of integrating the population and development agenda into the post-2015 development agenda.  He reaffirmed the important role of partnerships in the development agenda.  He called on Governments to accord high priority to sexual and reproductive rights as part of national health-care plans and budgets.

JOE THOMAS, Executive Director of Partners in Population and Development, said inclusive economic growth in the last decade resulted in impressive poverty reduction in many partner countries.  Significant advances were also made with regard to women’s opportunities and public participation.  On the health front, the maternal mortality and total fertility rates had declined, while many countries were on the road toward population stabilization.  However, despite progress, health inequality within and between countries had the potential for derailing the sustainability of development.  To address those challenges, Member States must strengthen institutions to ensure the necessary capacity for effective integration of population dynamics into development planning.  The level of violence women faced, family planning services and child marriage and adolescent fertility remained important issues on the development agenda.

Mr. JAN HAVU (Syria), associating himself with the Group of Group of 77 and China, underlined the importance of sovereignty and other principles related to cultural and moral values outlined in the Programme of Action.  Syria, in the face of huge challenges, had taken measures to ensure basic services were sustained for its citizens, while addressing the needs of women, children, older persons and persons with disabilities.  Ministries had been empowered to maintain gains achieved prior to the current situation, including for gender equality and education.  His country was working with others to empower citizens to adapt to their exceptional circumstances, formulating plans that prioritized economic and social issues.  Yet, some States had implemented unilateral economic measures against the health, energy and education sectors, which had led to catastrophic results for Syrians.  Others had turned a blind eye to the dangers faced by Syrian women, while still others had supported terrorist organizations.

ENAS ELFERGANY, Director of Population Policies, Expatriates and Migration Department of the League of Arab States, said the provisions outlined in the ICPD beyond 2014 report should be integrated into the post-2015 development agenda.  In March, a meeting had been held, at which all League members had outlined the need to interpret the Cairo Declaration in a regional context.  She discussed the effect of the demographic shift, which included forced migration resulting from war and their effects, underlining the need to respect refugees’ rights, especially of Palestinians, and adopting the principle of equality in order to narrow the gap between men and women.  She also discussed making sexual and reproductive health “part and parcel” of national health efforts, requesting that the Cairo Declaration be deposited as a basic document at the United Nations.

TAKYIWAA MANUH, Director of the Social Development Policy Division of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said that the continent was the main driver of population growth, and by 2100, one third of the world’s population would be living in Africa.  That trend would greatly influence full implementation of the population and development agenda beyond 2014 in the region.  To respond to the economic and social needs of the next generations, the continent’s extraordinary wealth must be used for well-planned inclusive development.  Investing in education, health, social protection, and data systems was vital to achieving inclusive and equitable social development.  Job creation was also essential to maximizing the rapidly growing work force.  Both the young and ageing workers must have access to a range of productive resources, including training and skill development.  Measurable gender-equity policies must be integrated in economic and social development to unlock the potential of African women and youth.

ZOBEYDA CEPEDA, Comite de America Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer, said the Latin American and Caribbean region continued to post high rates of maternal mortality.  Health-care treatment was uneven and abortion was either banned or restricted in some countries.  Seven of the nine countries in the world that banned abortion outright were in Latin America; in some of those countries foetuses had greater rights than human beings.  The imposition of dogma in public policies suffocated democracy.  Women, girls and young people, particularly those of afro-descent, migrants and the poor, were most harmed by the lack of access to quality sexual and reproductive rights and services.  The region had a high rate of adolescent pregnancies.  Many obstacles would only be overcome when women had the right to freely make decisions over their own bodies.  The United Nations must guarantee the elimination of structural inequalities to ensure everyone equal access to human rights.

SCOTT FISCHBACH, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Education Fund, cited a recent editorial in the bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO) that acknowledged that illegal abortion was not synonymous with unsafe abortion.  He said the illegality of abortion was distinct from its safety, and maternal health in general depended on the quality of maternal health care, not on the legal status or availability of abortion.  Countries such as Ireland, Chile and Malta prohibited most or all abortions and had a very low incidence of maternal mortality.  Legalizing abortion was not necessary to protect the lives and health of women.  It did nothing to address the underlying issue of poor health care.  He urged Member States to improve maternal health care in order to save women’s and babies’ lives, and to reject all efforts to legalize and promote abortions.

ESTHER CORONAO, International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere, said a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and bodily diversity required human rights protection.  All types of violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion and stigmatization were violations of human rights, and negatively impacted the well-being of individuals, families and communities.  She called on all Member States to recognize the value of sexual health and rights and to acknowledge their links to personal and social development.

AMY MUEDIN, Programme Specialist with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said with a current estimated 1 billion migrants worldwide, the post-2014 Programme of Action had aptly underscored migration as a key enabler for sustainable development.  To fully realize that human development potential, the human rights of all migrants must be respected, promoted, protected and fulfilled, including by being better reflected in national and global development policies and initiatives.  In a brief drafted by IOM and partners for the Open Working Group, migration was recognized as among the most powerful and immediate strategies for poverty reduction.  With the number of international migrants expected to rise to 300 million from 232 million over the lifetime of the post-2015 agenda, she noted that the multiplier effects of migration affected hundreds of millions of people beyond the migrants themselves.  “Migration is a reality that is here to stay,” she said.  “The question should now no longer be whether to include migration or not, but how to effectively manage migration in a safe, orderly and humane way that promotes human development and benefits for migrants and societies alike.”

SRINIVAS TATA, Chief, Social Policy and Population Section of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), presented its key findings on ICPD implementation and the outcomes of the Sixth Asian and Pacific Population Conference held in September.  Results from survey responses, which covered 51 of 58 ESCAP members and 99 per cent of the region’s population, showed many successes over the decades, including increased life expectancy, reduced fertility rates and maternal deaths and better access to reproductive health services.  Yet new challenges emerged, he said, pointing to a growing ageing population that needed to be addressed.  Other areas of concern included filling gaps in sexual and reproductive health programmes, and information and services in order to reach millions at risk of HIV exposure.  In addition, despite overall health improvements, maternal mortality remained unacceptably high in some countries.  The response to the region’s challenges must be grounded in a commitment to addressing the needs of women and all groups that remained excluded from the development process, he said.

JANE STEWART, Chair of the Global Migration Group of the International Labour Organization (ILO), speaking on behalf of its 16 member entities, said since the Cairo conference the development landscape had changed.  The 2013 Declaration on Migration and Development was an important commitment to improve migration governance.  Increasing human mobility within and across regions was among trends such as ageing populations, she said.  Links between migration and the development agenda, including poverty eradication, health and education, were real.  The current discussions on the future development agenda provided opportunities to consider some of those issues, such as reducing migration costs, eliminating human trafficking and enhancing partnerships and cooperation.

KARIMA EL KORRI, Chief, Population and Social Development Section of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), noted the many different approaches engaged with the Commission’s partners to review the past 20 years of implementing the Programme of Action in 22 Arab States.  Among the key observations emerging from their review was the consensus that several issues required urgent attention, including the protection of vulnerable populations, especially those affected by conflict and the empowerment of youth who comprised of almost one fifth the Arab region’s population.  The 2013 Cairo Declaration for the Arab States, produced by the recent conference in Cairo reviewing the Programme’s progress, was a road map for the work ahead.  The document, which had been fully endorsed by the countries, described progress made by the Commission’s member States and the support required to achieve their population and development goals.

DANIELA SIMIONI, Population Division in the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), recalled that the Government of Uruguay hosted a regional meeting on population and development, which drew representatives of States in the region and more than 260 organizations.  They discussed two working documents — one on progress achieved in the implementation of ICPD for the region and the other being on key actions to consider in formulating the post-2014 population and development agenda for the region.  The outcome of those discussions should guide public policy to achieve such objectives to eradicate poverty and create an inclusive society.

Mr. KHOSLA, World Health Organization (WHO), emphasized that improved sexual and reproductive health was a key pillar of human rights and sustainable development.  Poor sexual and reproductive health contributed significantly to poverty, limiting socioeconomic development.  Underscoring that the comprehensive sexual and reproductive agenda was enshrined in the Programme of Action, he urged that consideration of those health issues be incorporated into measured responses towards fully achieving the Programme’s objectives.  The co-sponsored Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction had recognized the “urgency” of addressing gaps in the matter, delivering an evidence base for supporting policies, programmes and health care.  He urged that efforts be expedited to turn “global strategies into reality”, particularly for women and young people.  That would, in turn, advance development.

ANNIE FRANKLIN, Global Helping to Advance Women and Children, expressed concern over aggressive attempts to pressure delegations to adopt an endorsement of the regional review documents of the Cairo Programme of Action which advanced controversial sexual rights.  Member States would not have accepted such documents had they been openly negotiated in New York by experts who fully understood their terms.  The “ICPD beyond 2014” review being aggressively promoted during the current session went too far; it had more than 500 highly controversial references, including sexual, sexual orientation, sex workers, transgender, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), comprehensive sexuality education, sexual and reproductive rights and abortion.  She expressed concern over the opposition to including Principle 1 of the 1994 Cairo Programme of Action that called for respect of national sovereignty, national laws, development priorities, religious and ethical values and cultural background.  She called on Member States and the Commission’s bureau to comply with resolution A/RES/65/234 by adopting a truly procedural text that did not reopen the Programme of Action.

WENDY WRIGHT, Family Research Council, said the world could not be deceived by those who said that changing abortion laws would improve maternal health.  Abortion was estimated to account for less than 15 per cent of maternal deaths.  Abortion-related deaths would decrease proportionately with other causes of maternal death if the right improvements to health care were made, regardless of the legal status of abortion.  Legalizing abortion did not improve maternal health.  It only made it safe for the abortionist, not for the mother and her unborn child.  Ireland and Chile were world leaders in maternal health, with lower maternal mortality rates than the United States and other wealthy countries, despite having highly restrictive abortion laws.  Legalizing abortion actually endangered the lives of women by exposing them to health risks they would not encounter if they were to carry their pregnancies to term.

PETER SMITH, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said maternal mortality declines in the United Kingdom over the past 60 years had coincided with the introduction of medicines and improved nutrition.  All developed nations had followed the same pattern, he said.  Since the Cairo conference, too much money had been spent on contraception and promoting abortion, he said, noting that better nutrition, medicines and health care were the answer, and not abortion and contraceptives.

IMANI MARKS, Advocates for Youth, pointing out that half the world’s population was under the age of 25, emphasized the importance of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights for all young people, including their “vital role” in all levels of decision-making.  Yet, too many Governments were not recognizing those inalienable human rights to access such health resources.  She called for effective sexuality education that included information about reproductive health, contraceptives, and gender-based and sexual violence, to name a few.  Further, Governments should acknowledge and respect young people’s diversity, such as sexual orientation, and disability status, among others.  To refuse to address cultural and legal barriers to accessing those health-related information and services was a violation of basic human rights.

JOEL MARK BARREDO, of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, speaking on behalf of 97 organizations from 39 countries, said the ICPD programme of Action recognized the central role of human rights in the achievements of sustainable development.  It was unacceptable for States to attempt to derail negotiations about sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual rights for political gain.  To continue to deny the recognition of universal human rights and to perpetuate hatred, violence and discrimination towards people of diverse sexualities and genders was a disservice to this Commission and the principles it represented, he said.

FELISIAH NGUI, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Europe, said that 20 years after the adoption of the Programme of Action, the full realization of young people’s sexual and reproductive rights was far from being attained, and there was a lack of political will to meaningfully address young people’s issues.  “Make no mistake”, she said, stressing that there could be no sustainable or inclusive development unless human rights were recognized, of which the sexual and reproductive rights of adolescents and young people were an indivisible part.

KELLY THOMPSON, International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations, described the consequences young people experienced when faced with barriers to sexual and reproductive rights, including deaths from unsafe abortions.  The Federation recognized a woman’s human right to have full autonomy over decisions of childbearing and to have access to a safe and legal abortion.  Further, the disproportionate incidence of HIV in those aged 15-24 years was alarming.  She urged that high quality comprehensive sexuality education include the opportunity for young people to be able to protect themselves from health risks and called upon Governments to consider, when implementing laws and policies, the dire outcomes youth face when denied access to reproductive health resources.


*     The 8th & 9th Meetings were not covered.

For information media. Not an official record.