No Agreement on “Reproductive Rights”: CPD Resolution Fails

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Last Friday, the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD) failed to adopt a resolution after nearly two weeks of protracted negotiations during which Member States played tug of war over reproductive rights and comprehensive sexual education, among other terms.

Many Member States opposed the inclusion of the problem terms as controversial and against their national laws and sovereignty. However, despite some concessions, those countries supporting these terms insisted on inserting more references. Dozens of countries’ requests for removal notwithstanding, drafts released by the CPD facilitator consistently retained the objected-to terms. WYA supported friendly delegations throughout with recommendations for changes to the text.

By Friday, April 17, the last day of the Commission, there was negotiation fatigue. The final meeting was centered on the latest, and last, draft: the Chair’s text. The Chair, from Belgium, presented it as the best possible compromise, reflecting some of all countries’ views. WYA encouraged delegations to continue to seek changes so that the resolution would reflect only shared values and concerns, rather than the divisive policies of only some Member States.

One representative, speaking on behalf of a large group of Member States, took the floor in response to the text to request additional discussion time, particularly on the problematic terms. The Chair responded that she considered it the best compromise possible and was unwilling to alter it, but, in light of so many States’ continued objections, was withdrawing it.

The atmosphere in the meeting was one of shock. Both the Commission leadership and the heads of UN agencies present expressed their disappointment. Two States also expressed their support for the now-defunct document. However, two more took the floor to express their disappointment that UN agencies had taken up lobbying for policies related to reproductive rights and comprehensive sexual education that go beyond the consensus of the States. As agencies exist to consult on request with Member States in their areas of expertise, and are supposed to be non-partisan on unsettled issues such as reproductive rights, any such lobbying exceeds their mandate and is inappropriate.

WYA appreciates the courageous and principled stands of Member States on behalf of human dignity. We will continue to monitor events at the United Nations and provide support to delegations who agree with our mission.