14 April 2014
For Immediate Release
NEW YORK – Over 100 young people from across the globe came together during the 47th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) to let governments know that their sexual and reproductive rights are non-negotiable.
The weeklong Commission, which ended early Saturday morning, was convened at the UN headquarters in New York to assess 20 years of progress since the groundbreaking agreements made at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994. At Cairo, 179 governments agreed that women’s health and rights—specifically sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights—must be central to global development policies, programs, and funding, and are the key to reducing the social and economic inequalities that exist worldwide.
Throughout the week, young people representing civil society from all regions and diversities spoke up on sexual and reproductive rights issues ranging from comprehensive sexuality education to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services; access to safe and legal abortion; and recognition of the human rights of all people, including young people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.
There was a strong presence online and offline, with young people participating in and leading side events on youth participation, advancing youth sexual and reproductive health, and acknowledging young people’s sexual and reproductive rights in the post-2015 development framework as well as presenting eight oral statements to the Commission.
“20 years beyond Cairo, it’s unacceptable for young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights to be deemed ‘too controversial.’ It is deeply disappointing to hear calls from governments for a procedural resolution instead of one that fully elaborates on key issues relevant to our lives,” said Nur Hidayati Handayani representing the Youth Caucus during an oral statement presented on the opening day of the CPD.
Young people are claiming their sexual and reproductive health and rights, and demanding that governments guarantee these rights, without exception. They also spoke up against the misappropriation of culture as a justification for discrimination and the denial of rights.
It is “unacceptable to use culture as a justification to deny young people our rights, specifically our sexual and reproductive health and rights” said Dareen Abu Lail from the Arab Youth Network. “The right to health is a fundamental human right, and it is my right, too.” added a young representative of Myanmar Youth Stars and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.
Many governments expressed strong support for young people and advancing their sexual and reproductive rights; 59 governments explicitly called for action to end discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The calls came from countries as diverse as the Philippines, South Africa, the Pacific Islands, Viet Nam, Nepal, Mongolia, Suriname, the United States, Australia, Norway, the European Union, and most Latin American countries. These calls build on similar agreements made during regional reviews of ICPD in Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia and the Pacific in 2013.
However, a striking lack of transparency and due process during the negotiations allowed a small group of conservative countries and the Holy See to block language on sexual rights in the final agreement. These same governments also made several attacks on the role of civil society in a clear attempt to silence progressive voices.
The 11th hour move to block sexual rights elicited strong rebukes from many government delegations during the closing plenary: “Our governments will not be pushed backward for fear of accepting reality,” said the Philippines, while South Africa called for more “inclusive societies” and Norway stated that “discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity should not be tolerated in any society.”
The support for sexual rights expressed in the room as well as the strong representation from young people was clear and marks a historical moment in the ongoing struggle for universal human rights. “It is time for governments to acknowledge what we all know to be true: our lives are not negotiable” Joel Mark Barredo representing the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Caucus.
Governments will reconvene in September at the UN General Assembly to renew political support for the actions required to achieve the goals of the ICPD Programme of Action. Until then, “young people will continue to oversee and take part in global and national processes to be sure that rights and needs are properly addressed” said Rachel Arinii Judhistari, Executive Coordinator from the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights.
For a complete overview of youth participation at the 47th Session of the CPD, please read the Youth Caucus Media Kit
Program and Communications Officer
Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights
Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights