African government leaders attending the recent Ministerial Segment of the African Regional Conference on Population and Development, organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), voiced opposition to a well-orchestrated and coordinated effort to advance the radical agenda of “sexual and reproductive health and rights”.
The meeting in Addis Ababa from October 3-4 was intended to evaluate the implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action in Africa and plan for the future with the theme Harnessing the Demographic Dividend: The Africa we wantbut the proposed outcome document was confronted by resistance.
Ministers were especially troubled by language that promoted a human rights agenda “without distinction of any kind” fearing it was an elastic term that would be used to pressure them on the undefined and ambiguous term “sexual and reproductive rights” that conflicts with their countries’ cultural and religious values, especially in the area of homosexuality. According to an inside source, 17 countries issued reservations to three Articles of the draft Addis Ababa Declaration after much debate and refused to be lulled by inclusion of the phrase “according to national law and policies” in the contested Articles. (Such phrasing normally placates countries’ opposition during U.N. negotiations.)
Despite these concerns and reservations, the outcome declaration with reservations was adopted by consensus. At press time it was still not available online. The African meeting, along with other regional ICPD and MDG reviews, are intended to build support for highlighting “sexual and reproductive health and rights” in the Post 2015 Agenda.
In remarks to the African ministers, UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, expressed his support for the preeminence of ‘sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights’ in the new development goals stating, “Ensuring the right to make basic choices in respect of one’s sexuality and reproduction is a pre-requisite to the fulfilment of human potential, particularly for women and adolescents who are socially or economically disadvantaged.”
He continued, “I am pleased that Africa has come up with its own set of priorities that can be taken forward into the post 2015 development and African 2063 agenda.”
Pressure to advance the agenda at the meeting came from different fronts. As the meeting began, the High-Level Task Force for ICPD
issued policy recommendations to the African leaders which called on countries to adopt legal and policy reforms to ensure “all people can enjoy their sexual and reproductive rights”. Included in the suggested actions is “expanding access to safe, legal abortion services”.
The Task Force also called on African governments to follow four key recommendations, which it considers to be priority objectives in both the regional agenda for Cairo beyond 2014 and in the Post-2015 global development agenda. The Addis Ababa Declaration appears to have followed that advice and according to our source includes:
1. Respect, protect and fulfill sexual and reproductive rights for all – through legal and policy reforms and public education campaigns and community mobilization on human rights;
2. Accelerate universal access to quality, comprehensive and integrated sexual and reproductive health information, education and services;
3. Guarantee universal access to comprehensive sexuality education for all young people, in and out of school; and,
4. Eliminate violence against women and girls and secure universal access to critical services for all victims and survivors of gender-based violence.
Prior to the start of the meeting, IPPF had organized two related gatherings–one for youth and one for civil society— which also issued statements to the ministers’ meeting promoting access to abortion and the broad radical agenda.
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ICPD Beyond 2014 highlighted the importance of the outcome document stating, After days of intense discussions, informed by preparatory meetings of technical experts, civil society and youth organizations from across the region, delegates adopted the declaration which will be the region’s input to next year’s UN General Assembly review of the ICPD. This will, in turn, inform global consultations on development priorities succeeding the Millennium Development Goals.
Clearly, the next development goals are being hijacked for promotion of a contentious agenda which has little to do with development.
PNCI strongly advises close monitoring of any and all national actions associated with Beyond 2014 and the Post 2015 development agenda.
LifeNews.com Note: Marie Smith is the director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues.