UN debates SDGs related to SRHR

Image and text from UN.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the role of the family in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, came under the spotlight today as delegates to the Commission on Population and Development continued to reflect on the progress the world has made in the 25 years since the landmark International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo and the adoption of its Programme of Action.

“When women do better, families do better.  When families do better, communities do better,” said the representative of the United States on the third day of the Commission’s fifty-second session at Headquarters.  Sharing that view, her counterpart from Poland affirmed that support for families is an investment in social capital that leads to higher social well-being.

Iceland’s speaker urged Member States to focus more on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls, eliminating all harmful practices and violence against women, and speeding up progress towards universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, including safe and legal abortion.

Relating her own experiences, the representative of the Danish Family Planning Association said it is unacceptable, 25 years after the adoption of the Programme of Action, that a woman’s chances of surviving childbirth or cervical cancer remains a matter of luck of where she was born.  “Bodily autonomy, the right to decide over your sexuality and control your fertility, is crucial for people’s well-being, for their ability to realize their potential and for sustainable development as such,” she said.

Nauru’s delegate said international development assistance must not be contingent on ideological colonization or the imposition of ideas that run contrary to core societal values.  Nauru does not view the promotion of abortion as a means of achieving sustainable development, she said, adding that developed countries must acknowledge their responsibility in pursuing sustainable development.

The representative of India, the world’s second most populous nation after China, said her country is among the first to launch a comprehensive programme for its adolescent population of 250 million, focusing on reproductive and menstrual health management, nutrition, mental health and substance abuse.  As a step towards universal health coverage, India launched the world’s largest public health-care programme in 2018, covering nearly 500 million people, she added.

While some speakers highlighted the untapped potential of Africa’s predominantly youthful populations, others underscored the challenges posed by a growing number of older citizens.  Chile’s delegate, for one, said his Government has introduced the concept of “positive ageing”, focusing on the rights of older persons and changing the way they are perceived in society.  The representative of Trinidad and Tobago, meanwhile, noted the economic and social costs associated with an ageing population, such as less tax revenue for public investments.

The representative of Ghana, among other speakers from Africa, set out the practical steps being taken in her country, including increased access to secondary education and the expansion of technical and vocational training.  The country has also established national guidelines for comprehensive sexuality education.  Funding, however, remains a big constraint, she added, highlighting the importance of strong partnerships among Government, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, academic and development partners.

Emphasizing the need to breathe new life into efforts to achieve sustainability for all, Nicaragua’s representative said solidarity with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is not fully reflected, with wealth concentrated in the hands of a minority and inequality on the rise.  Affirming that strengthening families is the most effective social protection policy of all, she called on developed countries to commit 0.7 per cent of their gross national income to official development assistance.

The Permanent Observer of the Holy See said the International Conference recognized the family, based on marriage, as the fundamental unity of society, entitled to support and protection.  Suggesting that reproductive rights include a right to abortion violates the language of the Cairo conference, defies moral and legal standards within domestic legislations and runs contrary to efforts to address the real needs of mothers and children, especially the unborn, he added.

In the afternoon, the Commission held an interactive dialogue on the theme “On the Road to 2030:  The continuing relevance of the International Conference on Population and Development.”  Panellists discussed, among other things, the impact of population growth on the environment, gender-based violence, the role of faith-based organizations and the next steps that need to be taken.

Also speaking today were senior officials and representatives of Luxembourg, Sudan, Brazil, Italy, Tunisia, Libya, Seychelles, Kyrgyzstan, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Burkina Faso, Albania, Colombia, Togo, Zambia, Gambia, Azerbaijan, Madagascar, Pakistan, Chad, Mauritius, Senegal and Liberia.

Representatives of the International Labour Organization, World Food Programme, International Organization for Migration, League of Arab States, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Partners in Population and Development, Economic Commission for Europe, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia and the Economic Commission for Africa also spoke.

The Commission on Population and Development will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 4 April to consider the Secretariat’s programme of work in the field of population.