Unheard Voices: UN Commission on Population and Development 2011

Unheard Voices Janet Shih 4/11/2011

The 44th session of Commission on Population and Development (CPD) started on Monday, April 11. Compared to the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the CPD is relatively small and has less participation from NGOs, but the shocks I experienced during the first day of the CPD were no less than the shocks I had at the CSW.

The main theme of CPD this year is “Fertility, reproductive health and development.” In the morning, I heard several speakers from the United Nations Population Fund, Bureau of the Commission, and Population Council. They spoke about the current fertility trends, and their implications to development. Though I already knew about Anna’s battle at the ICPD conference in Cairo by reading Track A, I was still shocked to hear these statements for myself in the Commission, because they assume that high fertility rates and population growth will necessarily lead to high levels of poverty, and that family planning through contraception is the only way to reduce poverty caused by population growth. Another thing that surprised me were the statements made by a group of young people in a side event called “Sharing Our Voices: Youth& CPD”. Andrea Gomez Serrano, a Mexican intern at WYA, and I attended together. There were youth representatives from Nigeria, the Netherlands, and India speaking about their perspectives and advocacy work on increasing youth engagement in sexual reproductive health and rights. Those youth delegates all claimed that young people should have full control of their sexuality and have access to contraceptives and family planning services. Such ideas, that human beings are extra burdens instead of the centers of development prevailed at the Commission.

However, there were still some enlightening speeches I heard during the General Discussion. The delegate of Uruguay stated that “education for women” could be a more effective way to slow fertility rate and reduce maternal mortality. The delegate from Russia also pointed out the problem of aging as a result of lower fertility in the developing world, but was ignored in the report.

After the first day of CPD, I felt that it is necessary for different voices to be heard, as the United Nations is a place where a variety of perspectives and cultures should be presented. I believe that WYA’s view that human capital and creativity are essential drivers of development, and poverty reduction could be achieved by better investments in education, healthcare, and infrastructure would be a unique voice of young people who advocate for human dignity.