I recently attended my first Commission on Population and Development (CPD) at the United Nations in New York City, not knowing what to expect. After hearing about the way events unfolded just a month and a half earlier at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), where for the first time in CSW history no “Agreed Conclusions” document was produced, I was feeling nervous. The issues of most contention were related to women’s access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, including family planning, control over their sexuality and protection of their reproductive rights, comprehensive sexuality education, and eliminating harmful practices such as early and forced marriage (including child marriage). With the theme for this year’s CPD being “Adolescents and Youth” I was worried that the CPD would be just as contentious as the CSW.
When I got to the UN I was excited to see not only all of the youth in attendance, but the number of youth who were part of official delegations. It was great to look around the room and see so many youth engaged in the CPD process to ensure their rights would be protected. Beyond all of the youth were the “retired youth” (my favorite new term from the CPD), including myself, who were determined that the CPD would not be a repeat of the CSW.
After a week of intense lobbying and negotiations the delegates agreed to a strong resolution in support of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and human rights. The key points from the final resolution include:
- The right of young people to decide on all matters related to their sexuality;
- Access to sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortion where legal, that respect confidentiality and do not discriminate;
- The right of youth to comprehensive sexuality education;
- Protection and promotion of young people’s right to control their sexuality free from violence, discrimination and coercion.
While the document wasn’t perfect (it didn’t, for example, include sexual rights as opposed to reproductive rights, there was no mention of sexual orientation or gender identity, and it didn’t include global access to safe abortion) it was clearly a victory for youth and adolescents around the world.
In the next couple of years there is the twenty year review of global sustainable development goals (Rio +20), the twenty-year review of progress towards achieving the Cairo Programme of Action (ICPD+20), and the review of the Millennium Development Goals. All of these processes will likely have a major impact on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Let’s take this strong statement on young people’s sexual and reproductive health and human rights and use it as a stepping stone in these upcoming processes.
Posted by Jennie Wetter, Director of Public Policy