On April 7-11, World Youth Alliance Europe participated in the 47th session of the Commission on Population and Development at the United Nations in New York. The theme of the commission was the “Assessment of the Status of Implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development,” which was adopted in Cairo in 1994. The ultimate outcome document was negotiated during the night of Friday, April 11 until the early hours of Saturday, April 12.
What is the Commission on Population and Development about?
The Commission on Population and Development featured official representatives from the UN Member States and NGOs working on human rights issues. The session aimed to review the successes and shortcomings of how countries fulfilled the Programme of Action objectives and the Millennium Development Goals. The first day, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson delivered the opening remarks, stating, “The ICPD marked a major turning point in our historic push for people-centered development.” In plenary sessions from Monday afternoon through Friday evening, representatives of the Member States cited their improvements and needs in the ICPD appraisal.
What happened: which countries stood out against sexual and reproductive rights?
Many Member States concentrated only on the implementation of sexual and reproductive health and rights, such as access to safe abortion, family planning, and comprehensive sexual education for children and adolescents. Only 4 countries stood out: Belarus supported strong families as the fundamental unit of society; Malta reaffirmed that life must be recognized from life to natural death; Russia asserted that sexual education should be given by parents and not forced by a government; and the Holy See stressed that there was “a disconcerting trend, namely, the desire on the part of some to downplay the role of parents in the upbringing of their children, as if to suggest somehow that it is not the role of parents, but that of the State being processed.” A few side events took place at the beginning of the afternoon dealing with themes such as “Advancing Family Planning beyond Cairo,” “Eliminating Unsafe Abortion 20 Years After Cairo,” “The Role of Professional Midwives in Promoting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights,” “Migration and the Post-2015 Agenda,” and “the Bulgarian Experience and Good practices in Sexual and Reproductive Health.” Many side events were about sexual and reproductive rights. One of the speakers from the Mission of South Africa asserted during a side event that religion and culture should not be used to restrict access to sexual and reproductive rights: “Culture is dynamic…We must not allow countries to quote culture selectively when it suits them to hold women back.”
What WYA achieved at the CPD
WYA worked hard to raise the voices of all the young people it represents. WYA met with delegates and distributed flyers to ask for development that respects human dignity and is rooted in the essential resources that developing and developed populations need: employment, nutrition, access to good health services, sanitation, empowerment of young people, and education. WYA maintained that there is no right to abortion. WYA tried to change flawed perspectives regarding population and development during CPD.
Watch WYA’s statement at the 47th Commission on Population and Development here.
By Priscille Pialoux, an intern at the WYA Europe office