UN to hold special session in 2014 on population

21 February 2013

Source: Associated Press / The Washington Post

The U.N. General Assembly has decided to hold a special session next year to assess implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, adopted by world leaders nearly two decades ago to slow population growth and advance reproductive health and rights. 

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Credit: UN Photo/John Isaac

Marking the 20th anniversary of ICPD

The 193-member General Assembly adopted a resolution by consensus summoning heads of state and government to the Sept. 22, 2014 meeting. It will mark the 20th anniversary of the UN International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo when some 180 nations adopted a plan that focused on sexual and reproductive health, development and women’s empowerment.

Since the Cairo conference in 1994, the world’s population has grown from 5.7 billion to about 7 billion. Last month, the UN’s top population official, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, said the world will add a billion people within a decade, creating further challenges for sustainable development

ICPD remains as critical as ever

Kenya's deputy UN ambassador Koki Muli, whose country spearheaded approval of the resolution, said the "forward-looking" action plan adopted in Cairo in 1994 set the stage for the UN women’s conference in Beijing in 1995 and remains relevant today. She said there will be no final document from the 2014 session, a move that will avoid contentious negotiations on issues such as reproductive rights for women, sex education, abortion and family planning.

The Cairo conference shifted international focus on population from numerical targets to promoting choices for individual women and men, and supporting economic development and education for girls. One factor underlying the shift was research showing that educated women have smaller families.

Osotimehin of the UNFPA, called last month for governments to do more to ensure that women have access to family planning and for girls to receive “comprehensive sexuality education.”

A comprehensive approach

The Cairo conference recognized for the first time the need for a comprehensive approach to addressing rapid population growth and broke the taboo on discussing sexuality, adolescent sexual behaviour and the real concerns of women and families.

At the heart of the 1994 action plan is a demand for equality of women through education, access to modern contraceptives as part of comprehensive rights-based sexual and reproductive health services, and the right to choose if and when to become pregnant. The only reservation added at the conference was that this should be in accordance with national laws, religion and culture.

The document established the right to reproductive health and access to family planning, and stressed the need to raise the status of women and give girls equal education. It also recognized that abortion is practiced around the world and should be treated as a major public health issue and indicated that affordable and acceptable family planning is central to achieving safe motherhood.

Read more from the UN resolution committing to the special session in 2014.

This article, published by the Washington Post, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.  

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