Check against Delivery
rd3 International Parliamentarians’ Conference
on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of
Thoraya Ahmed Obaid
United Nations Population Fund
21 November 2006
Honorable Parliamentarians, NGO Representatives rd International Parliamentarians’ Ladies and Gentlemen,
Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action. Friends,
I would like to thank the Conference’s organizers, especially the Asian Forum Good Morning and welcome to the 3
of Parliamentarians on Population and Development and my own colleagues at UNFPA, who worked so hard to bring all of us together.
Special thanks go to the European, African and Arab, and Inter-American Parliamentary groups on Population and Development, and Parliamentarians for Global Action, the Parliament of Thailand, and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, for co-hosting this Conference.
My gratitude goes to the Governments of Australia, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and Thailand for their generous support in making this conference possible.
I would like especially to thank the Honorable Parliamentarians from all regions of the world, more than 180 in total, as well as their Excellencies the Ministers and other Government officials as well as NGO representatives who have joined us for this important conference.
We are gathered here in Bangkok to advance the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development. We are gathered to take stock of the progress we have made in carrying out the actions to which we committed ourselves in the Ottawa Statement of Commitment of November 2002 and the Strasbourg Statement of
Commitment of October 2004.
We are here to ensure that greater progress is made to advance human rights, including the right to sexual and reproductive health. We are here to strengthen action to defend and advance gender equality and equity and women’s empowerment. And we are here to ensure that comprehensive
reproductive health services, including family planning and reproductive health commodities, are given high priority in national budgets, sector-wide approaches and poverty-reduction strategies.
We are here to galvanize greater commitment to reducing maternal mortality and morbidity and unsafe abortion and to strengthening safe motherhood services, through greater access to family planning, assured presence of skilled attendants during childbirth and the availability of and access to emergency obstetric care.
We have less than a decade to go before reaching the deadline of 2015 to achieve the ICPD and Millennium Development Goals. And we are confronted
with clear opportunities and challenges and we have to take rapid action to
meet the MDGs deadline.
2006 Global Survey
These opportunities and challenges are made clear in the survey prepared
especially for this Conference, and to which my colleague Safiye Cagar had
referred I would like to congratulate each delegation for responding and
providing the requested information.
The survey findings show the increased personal involvement of
Parliamentarians in reviewing and adopting legislation in line with the ICPD
Programme of Action in every region. But the findings also reveal the need for
stronger follow-up action in oversight and leadership to ensure effective
implementation so that laws and policies are implemented, with direct impact
on the quality of live of people.
Overall, there are five key points I would like to stress today. These are the
1) Increase investments in sexual and reproductive health, including
2) Make full use of the new target on universal access to reproductive
health within the MDG framework to mainstream reproductive health
into all development and poverty reduction plans;
3) More fully link policies and interventions for sexual and reproductive
health with those for HIV and AIDS;
4) Take stronger action to prevent and respond to violence against
5) Build a bridge with women, youth and other civil society partners to
promote better understanding of ICPD Programme of Action, to counter
opposition and to promote accountability and greater progress in
reaching the Millennium Development Goals, with their direct link to
Investing in reproductive health
We now have a mountain of evidence to show the many benefits of investing
in reproductive health.
The need to increase investment in reproductive health was articulated in the
Stockholm Call to Action, which was endorsed by Ministers, Parliamentarians
and non-governmental organizations in April 2005.
Greater investment in reproductive health was also endorsed at the highest
level at the 2005 World Summit, where Heads of State and Government
committed themselves to achieving universal access to reproductive health by
2015 and requested the integration of this goal in strategies to attain the
internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGS, aimed at
improving maternal health, reducing child mortality, promoting gender equality, combating HIV/AIDS and eradicating poverty.
Reproductive Health Target in MDG Monitoring Framework
Reproductive health has successfully and strategically been placed on the international development agenda. And just last month, United Nations Member States in the General Assembly took note of the Report of the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, on the Work of the Organization, which included adding a new target on universal access to reproductive health by 2015 within the monitoring framework of the Millennium Development Goals, under MDG 5 to improve maternal health.
This is a big step forward that will make our advocacy policy-making easier and will make accountability well positioned in national action.
In every region, let us make sure that the new target on universal access to reproductive health, with its relevant indicators, is immediately and fully integrated into national development strategies and is given highest priority in the work plans of the relevant government ministries, so that they can implement it within their own programmes. This is a concrete way to make the right to reproductive health a reality.
Let us scale up our activities to reach all people, especially the poorest and the most marginalized segments of the populations that you represent. Guaranteeing the right to reproductive health is essential to women?s empowerment and equality.
I am heartened by a meeting I attended in September in Maputo of the African Union Ministers of Health to ensure Universal Access to Comprehensive Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in Africa.
The Maputo meeting was a real success, with African Ministers of Health reaffirming political support for sexual and reproductive health and commodities, and adopting a plan of action with clear outcomes, targets, indicators, timeline and costing, as well as peer review. My congratulation goes to the African Union for its leadership in convening the meeting and to the Ministers of Health for demonstrating their political will to take necessary action and allocate necessary resources for this challenging commitment.
The Maputo Plan of Action provides momentum and can be a model for other regions. I encourage all of you to review it with an eye on how it can be emulated in other regions.
Linking Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS
Honorable Parliamentarians, Excellencies
As representatives of the people in your communities, you know what HIV and AIDS mean to them. Therefore, it is essential to mobilize urgent action to link HIV efforts with sexual and reproductive health, as called for in "The New York Call to Commitment: Linking HIV/AIDS and Sexual and Reproductive Health" that was adopted in 2004 by Ministers, Parliamentarians and other stakeholders. Stronger integration is certainly not only cost effective, but it is an institutional requirement for the health sector in order to save lives and expand women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health services.
With no cure in sight for AIDS, the first line of defense must remain HIV prevention within the quest for universal access to prevention, treatment, support and care. Prevention is particularly important for women and young people.
Building Bridges with Women and Youth
At this juncture, I would like to encourage you to work closely with women and youth, to support their participation in policy debates. They possess the ideas, energy, and ambition to accelerate effective action to reduce poverty and combat HIV/AIDS.
Parliaments in every region would benefit from having a youth perspective on the various issues that they examine because decisions made today impact on the lives of young people now and in the future. I encourage you to establish mechanisms for intergenerational dialogue between you and young people who can help us adopt policies and legislations that reflect their needs. By supporting youth leadership and participation and by mentoring youth parliamentarians elected in your national assemblies at different levels, we will be able to promote greater social and economic progress, and ensure solidarity between generations.
Reproductive Health Commodities
At a recent seminar organized in Brussels by NGOs and the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, UNFPA launched the Global Programme for Reproductive Health Commodity Security.
Progress on reproductive health commodities, such as contraceptives, is being made in many countries. Efforts are focused on establishing national coordinating bodies, instituting national budget lines for commodities, and making sure these commodities are included in essential drugs lists. We know that reproductive health commodities are just as important to reproductive and maternal health as vaccines are to child survival.
It is very sad for me to say that of all the Millennium Development Goals, improving maternal health is lagging the farthest behind. Stronger efforts are needed to ensure women’s access to life-saving health services. And one of
the issues that must be addressed is unsafe abortion, which is one of the three highest causes of death for women globally, claiming too many lives and making poverty eradication more difficult.
Addressing Unsafe Abortion
We need to work within the spirit and words of paragraph 8.25 of the ICPD Programme of Action, in which 179 Governments meeting in Cairo in 1994 asserted that abortion should never be a form of family planning and that expanding family planning services allows women to plan their pregnancies and to reduce abortion. The agreement also states that where abortion is legal (and in all but four countries in the world abortion is legal under certain conditions), it should be safe and that is the responsibility of each Government. As Parliamentarians, I call on you to lead the way in saving women’s lives by
ensuring that the Governments of your countries are carrying out the commitments made in Cairo and implement the laws you have put in place to promote women’s health, to safe women lives and thus reach the set MDG on
Ending violence against women
Another area where we need stronger action is violence against women, including in conflict situations. This area might have been neglected throughout history, but we are living in the 21st century where principles of human rights are leading us forward. Violence not only hurts women but hurts the family, the community and the nation. No country can claim to be an advocate for human rights when women face violence at home, in the streets and throughout conflicts.
We should all be energized by the outcome of the International Symposium on Sexual Violence in Conflict and Beyond that UNFPA, in collaboration with the European Commission and the Government of Belgium, organized in Brussels in June.
The Brussels Call to Action articulates a number of very operational recommendations to strengthen prevention, provide appropriate responses to sexual violence and develop national plans of action. I encourage all of you to carry the recommendations of the Call to Action forward.
We all know that without a firm commitment to population, reproductive health and gender equality, and adequate allocation of financial resources to these areas, it is unlikely that the ICPD goals will be achieved.
Yet, despite growing needs, and despite the fact that the world population has grown by about a billion since the Cairo Conference in 1994, and we have the largest ever young peoples’ generation in history, funding for the ICPD
Programme of Action has been consistently below target. While funding for the treatment of AIDS has grown exponentially, funds for family planning
remain limited, as well as for HIV prevention. Funding for family planning, the first line of defense against maternal death, has declined by 100 million dollars in the last decade, dropping from 55 per cent of total population funding in 1995 to 9 percent today. And funds for reproductive health commodities remain in short supply.
As we go through difficult and challenging times, continued advocacy on the part of both donors and developing countries is essential to ensure that family planning and reproductive health services receive the attention they deserve.
Advancing the ICPD agenda
Concrete achievements in many areas speak to the progress that we have made collectively since the Cairo Conference in 1994. Your role as parliamentary leaders has been critical. Today every region has a parliamentary group on population and development, joined by parliamentary groups at the global and national levels. Your commitment to the principles and goals of the ICPD Programme of Action paves the way for further progress. Your defense of human rights including the right to reproductive health, gender equality, public participation and democratic principles is vital at all times.
Let us say loud and clear that the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger cannot be achieved if questions of population and reproductive health are not squarely addressed and if we do not invest more in education and health, including reproductive health.
As the survey said, let us make sure that when laws and policies are adopted, the relevant Ministries have the necessary human, financial, and institutional capacities for implementation. Let us also ensure that there is a provision for reporting to the parliament on the progress made.
Let us build expanding networks to promote better understanding of the right to reproductive health, to strengthen the existing political will and to generate more mass support that is needed to overcome opposition and clarify misconceptions.
Let us spread the truth that access to reproductive health services means fewer abortions not more abortions; that life skills education, including principles of gender equality and information about sexual issues, increases responsible behaviour and delays the onset of sexual activity not the opposite.
As Parliamentarians, you can transform the voices of the people into action by Governments. You have the power to make a real difference and I would like to assure you that UNFPA stands with you. Let us use this gathering to chart the way forward and make greater progress together.
I wish you luck and Thank you very much for listening