The Big Picture: Why this year’s CPD is special

By Sara Vida Coumans

Twenty years ago 179 UN Member States committed to the implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action (PoA) in Cairo. The Programme of Action was historical in the sense that development frameworks till that point had not been rights based. For the first time in history, the ICPD PoA shifted the development discourse into a people centered approach based on human rights and especially, women’s rights.

Within the United Nations (UN) frameworks like the ICPD PoA are not expected to be implemented by itself, they call for a wider institutionalization. The Commission on Population and Development (CPD) was established in 1994, a functional commission within the UN Economic and Social Council with the mandate to monitor, review and assess the implementation of the ICPD PoA at national, regional and global levels. This commission has met on a yearly basis at the United Nations Headquarters since.

As we moved towards the twenty year target of the ICPD PoA, the UN recognized the need to conduct an in-depth evaluation before any conclusions on the status of its implementation could be made. Mandated by the General Assembly resolution A/65/234 an extensive review process has been set up. The review included different components: four regional civil society consultations, three thematic meetings (youth, human rights and women’s health), five regional meetings and an extensive global survey that collected data on the ICPD implementation from member states. For those like me with a visual memory, this might help to understand this extensive and complicated ICPD review process.

After two years of an extensive review process the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report compiles the findings of the review and serves as a basis of this year’s session of the Commission on Population and Development. While normally CPD sessions focus on thematic areas, the theme of the CPD 2014 47th session is the “Assessment of the status of implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development”. This will be discussed by the membership of the CPD under the leadership of the Chairperson H.E. Mr. Ambassador Gonzalo Koncke from Uruguay and supported by the CPD Bureau which includes Senegal, Japan, Georgia and Denmark.

While the assessment itself is of key importance, the ongoing discussions on how the Post-2015 Development Framework will look like are adding to the momentum of this CPD session. Sexual and Reproductive Rights principles have been moved towards the margins of the Post-2015 discussions and are being overshadowed by neoliberal, demographic and quantitative approaches to development. The findings of the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report illustrate that the ICPD PoA remains an unfinished agenda in a world that has drastically changed since 1994. The ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report indicates that young adolescent girls still face a higher risk of complications from unsafe abortions (p. 122), comprehensive sexuality education remains under-resourced and incomplete in many schools throughout the world (p. 56) and human rights principles, such as non-discrimination, remain unrealized in many countries (p.18). The recent Commission on the Status of Women in March 2014, illustrated that growing conservatism and a push back on very basic human rights principles are overshadowing the discussion about the key issues I just mentioned.

Why do I feel so strongly about this? Because, while this might all seem very complicated and technical – it is actually all about rights that come very close to everyone’s reality. It is about having the right to make a decision about my own body and about being fully respected for who I am – right here, right now. Not in the future, when we as young people are ‘older’ and seen as capable to make our own decisions. No, right now as right holders – regardless of our age. Now more than ever do we need member states to recommit to the further implementation of the ICPD PoA and to Sexual and Reproductive Rights as a foundation of a Post-2015 Development framework.

So this year at the CPD 47th session, a larger issue is at stake – the integration of autonomy, respect and equality principles within a framework that moves beyond 2014 and builds a basis in which human rights are at the centre of development. During the CPD 47th session, the YCSRR delegation will build on our analysis of the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report and call on governments to commit to Sexual and Reproductive Rights principles especially for adolescents and youth.

As young people, we not only make up almost half of the world’s population, we are also rights holders and those rights cannot be ignored. It’s time for governments to guarantee our sexual and reproductive rights, today and into the post-2015 agenda.