Guttmacher Statement at the 57th Session of the UN Commission on Population and Development

Delivered by Irum Taqi, Director of Global Policy, at the United Nations, New York

The Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) globally, welcomes the focus of the 57th session of the Commission on Population and Development on assessing the status of implementation of the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development) Programme of Action.

In this landmark review year, we reiterate the centrality of a comprehensive approach to sexual and reproductive health and rights, as set out by the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission, in achieving the full vision articulated by the ICPD Programme of Action. This relates not only to matters of reproductive health and population growth, but also to the empowerment of women and girls, their education, addressing poverty, and shaping the future of economic and sustainable development.

Since the 1994 Cairo conference, we have seen remarkable gains on certain components of sexual and reproductive health and rights such as contraception, maternal and newborn health, and HIV/AIDS.  Yet coverage and quality remain uneven both within and across countries, and progress on many other critical interventions such as adolescent sexuality, gender-based violence, abortion, and infertility remains challenging.

Accelerating progress on the ICPD Programme of Action requires adopting a more holistic view of SRHR and committing to fully tackle these neglected issues. We urge all member states to support a comprehensive definition of sexual and reproductive health and rights, grounded in human rights principles, recognizing every person’s right to:

  • have their bodily integrity, privacy, and personal autonomy respected;
  • freely define their own sexuality, including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression;
  • decide whether and when to be sexually active;
  • choose their sexual partners;
  • have safe and pleasurable sexual experiences;
  • decide whether, when, and whom to marry;
  • decide whether, when, and by what means to have a child or children, and how many children to have;
  • have access over their lifetimes to the information, resources, services, and support necessary to achieve all the above, free from discrimination, coercion, exploitation, and violence.

In recent years we have witnessed mobilization worldwide to advance a comprehensive SRHR agenda, including the Green Wave movement across Latin America to decriminalize abortion; and efforts to expand access to self-managed medication abortion across several regions. At the same time, we have encountered significant challenges to progress due to weak political commitment, inadequate resources, persistent discrimination against women and girls, and an unwillingness to address issues related to sexuality openly and comprehensively. In order to fulfill this comprehensive approach to SRHR, states should ensure that regional protocols and national laws and policies support and ensure these rights, as well as address social, cultural, economic and gender barriers that prevent their full achievement.

Achieving this requires renewed commitment from governments at the global, regional, national and subnational levels. We welcome the Political Declaration adopted at this 57th session of the Commission on Population and Development as a positive step in this direction, and its recognition of the interlinkages between the ICPD and relevant multilateral processes. As we look ahead to the Summit of the Future, we call on Member States to ensure that the importance of the ICPD is recognized and reaffirmed in the Summit and its outcome documents.