NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands—The ICPD International Conference on Human Rights ended here today with recommendations on how to ensure equality and protect the rights of every person. The recommendations were developed over three days by representatives of government, parliaments and civil society groups. A summary was presented at today’s closing ceremony by Marijke Wijnroks, the conference chair and Dutch Ambassador for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
Ms. Wijnroks presented the following as the chair’s reflections on the conference:
- Gender equality is a prerequisite for advancing women’s and girls’ human rights.
Rights linked to sexuality and reproduction are universal human rights, meaning:
- They are the right of every human being, irrespective of race, sex, ethnicity, religion, political or other opinion or any other status;
- All States have obligations to ensure these rights;
- All duty-bearers must respect individuals’ inherent dignity and rights – putting this into practice is not just about money, but about political will.
Conferees overwhelmingly affirmed that ensuring 'sexual and reproductive rights' requires an enabling environment where people can exercise autonomy and choice. This, she said, means:
- All individuals, particularly women, adolescents and youth, must be empowered to claim their rights.
- All individuals have the right to information, education and participation, free from discrimination, coercion and violence.
- Men and boys must be champions and meet their responsibility to eliminate discrimination and violence against women and girls.
- Human rights violations cannot be justified in the name of culture, religion or tradition. Systems of beliefs and values should uphold the dignity of people. Moreover, religious and community leaders have positive roles to play in promoting rights.
“We have been on a long journey in just three days to accelerate progress towards equality, quality of care and accountability,” said Ambassador Wijnroks, who then addressed each of these elements and explained how they could be attained.
On equality, Ambassador Wijnroks said women and girls living in poverty lack access to sexual and reproductive services, information and education. Moreover, many of these women and girls, including those with higher incomes, face multiple forms of discrimination.
Participants at the conference further underlined the fact that adolescents, particularly girls, nearly everywhere face serious barriers in exercising their rights to comprehensive sexuality education and to sexual and reproductive health services.
“Grave concerns were voiced about discrimination, violence and human rights violations against LGBTI individuals,” said Ms. Wijnroks. “Calls were raised to treat all human beings with dignity and respect” adding, “redressing all of these profound inequalities, affecting billions of the world’s population, must be an urgent priority.”
Summarizing views on quality of care, the chair said conferees had agreed that the right to health required that education, information and services must be available, accessible, affordable, acceptable and of good quality, without discrimination, coercion or violence. She then said that participants recommended these could be attained by:
- Removing legal and other barriers to sexual and reproductive health services;
- Providing comprehensive sexuality education for all adolescents and young people;
- Enabling choices among the widest possible range of contraceptives, including emergency contraception, and other sexual and reproductive health services;
- Ensuring the availability of quality and integrated sexual and reproductive health facilities, services and goods.
This includes services such as counselling, emergency obstetric care, safe abortion services and HIV prevention and treatment, as well as services addressing gender-based violence,” added Ambassador Wijnroks.
Regarding accountability, the chair said conferees felt it required national leadership and an enabling environment for civil society. They had also said that States must enact policies and programmes with clear goals and budget allocations that can be monitored. States must also prevent human rights violations and ensure all victims’ right to effective remedy and reparations.
Looking to the future and beyond 2014, Ambassador Wijnroks concluded: “The unfulfilled ICPD commitments to provide universal access to sexual and reproductive health, and to protect and fulfill the human rights of all, with special attention to disadvantaged and marginalized groups, must be at the heart of global agendas. This should result in enhancing the autonomy and dignity of individuals.”
In the closing remarks, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, said that the best practices identified at the forum for a world in which everyone counts equally and in which every individual life was valued equally “define a renewed agenda for change, of which we can all be proud.”
His remarks were read by Kate Gilmore, UNFPA Deputy Executive Director (Programme), who said: “The direction forward lies in ensuring that we address and tackle the issues of persistent inequalities still experienced by so many women, girls and marginalized and excluded groups. Around the world, it is their freedom of expression; their right to information, to participation; their right to be free from discrimination and violence and their right to the highest attainable standard of health, including their sexual and reproductive health, that we must respect, protect and fulfill, and it is our accountability to them from which we must not waver.”
The ICPD human rights conference was co-convened by the Government of the Netherlands, UNFPA and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Findings of the discussions by the more than 300 participants from around the world will inform the UN Secretary-General’s report to the 47th Commission on Population and Development in April 2014 and a General Assembly special session later that year.
For further information, please contact:
Abubakar Dungus, UNFPA +1 646 226 2160, dungus[at]unfpa.org
Omar Gharzeddine, UNFPA +1 917 815 7823, gharzeddine[at]unfpa.org
Anita Wiseman, UNFPA/ICPD Secretariat, wiseman[at]unfpa.org