Hope and dignity is at ICPD core

UN premises

New York, 23 September, United Nations, IPPF Director General Tewodros Melesse threw down the gauntlet to world leaders this week in a speech at the UN when he challenged them to find the courage to stand together for sustainable development.

Twenty years after the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo – when 179 governments committed to a two decade Programme of Action to deliver human rights-based development -  Mr Melesse used a speech to the United Nations General Assembly to urge the inclusion of the ideals of Cairo in the next set of development goals.

One of five civil society speakers at the session, Mr Melesse spoke of the progress made since the Programme of Action was introduced.

“At its core, the ICPD is about hope and people’s basic right to dignity. It’s about a father being able to see his daughter grow up safe and free. It’s about supporting women to start their families if and when they choose. It is about young people being able to choose who and when to marry, and how to protect themselves. The ICPD is about futures. It is about your future and my future, and the future of our children.

“For the first time, when the Programme of Action was introduced, we saw the world come together and make a commitment to protect the dignity of individuals and families all over the world. It showed that we have more in common than differences. We may look diverse and varied, but we have come together, in one shared humanity. It is humanity that is at the centre of our international framework. It’s not finance or business that links us, it is our humanity.”

Mr Melesse went on to explain how the commitments made two decades ago in Cairo drove change.

“20 years ago, this Assembly made a commitment to ICPD and built on it. Young people are now recognised as active stakeholders. The legal definitions of sexual and reproductive health and rights have advanced. Comprehensive sexuality education is seen as making meaningful change and promoting gender equality. After 20 years, it is time to develop further; 2014 is not the time to go backwards! We need to come together, in our shared humanity, for the 222 million women in the developing world want to control their fertility but can’t. For the 14 million girls who are married before they turn 18.

“This is what equality and rights is about. It is not about meetings or empty words, it is about the lives of women and girls; their ability to stay in school; their ability to bear healthy children; their ability to play a part in their communities. When I talk to women in my region, women in every region, it is clear that the future we want is not yet here. But today, we have the chance to change humanity.”

Mr Melesse concluded his statement with his vision for the future of ICPD:

“The ICPD Regional Review highlights where we need to go, and the post-2015 framework is on the horizon. It is essential that the Review, including the Index Report, are integrated into the next development framework and into the UN Secretary- General’s Synthesis Report on post- 2015. When we do this, the strength of the ICPD will support the goal of sustainable development and women and girls will be at the centre. Now is the time to go forward, and to be brave enough to stand up for every member of our global community, together.”