The high-Level Task Force for ICPD is urging governments and the international community to take much bolder action to meet and build on commitments they made at the International Conference on Population Development (ICPD) in Cairo nineteen years ago in 1994. As the 20-year review of progress towards ICPD goals gets underway, the Task Force released its position paper with their recommendations in New York on April 25th.
Former President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, is a co-chair of the High-Level Task Force for ICPD. “While we are encouraged by the achievements of ICPD implementation, the challenge is that too many people around the world are still denied their sexual and reproductive health and rights. These fundamental freedoms and human rights lie at the very core of human dignity”, she said.
The Task Force proposes specific steps that must be taken to ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women, adolescents and youth become central components of ICPD Beyond 2014, as well as the post-2015 and Sustainable Development Goals agenda. “All really means all”, President Halonen reminded emphasizing that all ages and minority groups should have the same sexual and reproductive rights. The Task Force is also calling for increased accountability mechanisms to ensure concerted action by governments to achieve these goals.
President Halonen highlighted main recommendations of the Task Force for government action. Firstly, respecting, protecting and fulfilling sexual and reproductive rights for all through public education and legal and policy reforms is recommended. President as the co-chair of the Task Force emphasized that achieving universal access to quality, comprehensive and integrated sexual and reproductive health information, education and services is needed. Task Force recommends ensuring universal access to comprehensive sexuality education for all young people. Violence against women is a huge problem and the Task Force urges governments to take action to eliminate violence against women and girls and secure universal access to critical services for all victims or survivors of gender-based violence.
Every day 800 women die due to avoidable pregnancy and child-birth-related complications. 222 million women who would like to prevent pregnancy are not using modern contraception – contributing to 80 million unplanned pregnancies and 20 million unsafe abortion that occur each year. As many as one in three girls under 18 will be married without their consent in low and middle-income countries. Physical and sexual violence is a familiar phenomenon in every part of the world: seven in ten women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetimes.
The other co-chair of the Task Force, Former President of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano welcomed men to take part in the work:”These are not problems of women. These are problems of humanity.”President Chissano stated that “investments in sexual and reproductive health are proven, cost-effective, measures. What the High-Level Task Force for ICPD proposes is not only the right thing to do; it is also common sense. We urge countries to build and on what has already been accomplished through the ICPD Programme of Action, to reinvigorate those commitments and to translate them into concrete benchmarks for the global development agenda.”
Expanding on the Task Force call for universal access to comprehensive sexuality education for all young people, both in and out of school, Ishita Chaudhry, Task Force member and Founder of The YP Foundation in India, stated: ”Increasingly, young people, especially young women and girls are articulating their right to access Comprehensive Education so that they can live just and healthy lives.” She reminded that decision-making requires knowledge and that individual empowerment is necessary.
The High-Level Task Force for ICPD in an independent body created in 2012, comprosed of internationally respected government ministers, parliamentarians and civil society leaders and chaired by former Presidents Tarja Halonen of Finland and Joaquim Alberto Chissano of Mozambique. It is the only high-level group in the world dedicated to the ICPD review process. The Task Force recommendation released today reflect the demands of key constituencies from every region of the world.
The Task Force recommendations are designed to guide government delegates as they prepare their official positions for upcoming regional and global UN deliberations on the ICPD Beyond 2014 agenda.