In the on going push by UN agencies to create a human right to abortion two side events held during the recently concluded 20th session of the Human Rights Council focused on implementation of an anti life agenda. Both events were arranged to focus on the UN Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994, which set out a controversial twenty-year programme of Action to run from 1994-2014. Controversial because of the blatant attempt at the time, to declare a human right to abortion and because of the inclusion of new terminology such as references to “reproductive rights”.
Both meetings were arranged by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The first “ICPD beyond 2014’ was held in conjunction with Finland and Mozambique. The second, “Reproductive Health and Rights: Exploring Gaps and New Paths” was held in conjunction with the NGO committee for the Commission on the Status of Women (NGO CSW).
Both events were organized for the purpose of reviewing the progress in the implementation of the “ sexual and reproductive rights” agenda, identifying what has worked and how they can progress the anti life agenda with a view to full implementation. Speakers at both meetings referred to the necessity of identifying gaps from different perspectives and strengthening advocacy in the implementation of the platform for action
Speakers at both side events lamented what they perceived as the failure of the international community to include language on reproductive rights in the outcome document for Rio +20 conference on sustainable development. The main opposition to UNFPA’s plans according to the speakers comes from conservatives, religions in general and the Holy See in particular.
The other focus of the discussion was how to overcome resistance to the reproductive rights agenda and to recapture what was described as the energy and success generated by their victories at the ICPD in 1994 and since then. So after an analysis of what led to their recent losses during the RIO + 20 process, they outlined ways to regroup and to move their agenda forward.
The world, according to the speakers, has changed significantly and dramatically over the last 17 years. A Global Review is under way to guarantee what was termed “the unfinished business of the ICPD”. Nations will be asked to respond to a comprehensive questionnaire, a Global Survey, to determine a new actionable set of recommendations for countries and communities to implement.
As the ICPD twentieth anniversary approaches, the world’s nations are being asked as a starting point to reaffirm the commitments made in 1994, with the launch of the strategy “ICPD Beyond 2014”. The ICPD Beyond 2014 review is aimed at adding to the existing agenda without opening it up and by indentifying what works best, how to respond to new challenges by making new recommendations. The review is designed to involve communities, NGOs, young people and governments.
The process will culminate in a special session of the United Nations General Assembly, which will be held in September 2014 to take action on the recommendations and survey results. These recommendations will be an important part of the discussions when world leaders meet in 2015 to adopt a new human rights and development agenda.