Report of the Council of Europe on the Occasion of the 15th Anniversary of the ICPD Program of Action contains serious errors

September 30th, 2009

Regarding the report Fifteen years since the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (Doc. 11992)

drafted by Ms Christine McCafferty 

The World Youth Alliance, a global coalition of young people promoting the dignity of the human person in policy and culture, welcomes the draft Parliamentary Assembly’s Report on the occasion of the 15th Anniversary of the ICPD Programme of Action. Person-centered, authentic development, which can be achieved through a reduction in maternal mortality, an increase in maternal and newborn health and access to primary health care, is a goal of the international community and especially the European community.

Achievement of the goals of the ICPD Programme of Action require concerted efforts by every Member of the Council of Europe, but this cannot occur if the Programme of Action is reinterpreted outside of the agreed goals of the international community. The current Report contains many errors, including the use of rights language that has not been agreed upon by the international community. These errors must be corrected before the Report is adopted by the Council of Europe. In addition to these errors, the World Youth Alliance observes that the Report gives insufficient attention to the real reproductive health needs of women, especially emergency obstetric care, pre- and post-natal care, and access to skilled birth attendants. When fertility reduction and overall population reduction are made the primary aims of development policy, the dignity of the human person is not respected and the common good cannot be achieved.

In light of these observations, the World Youth Alliance makes the following recommendations:

1. Every reference to "sexual and reproductive health and rights" should be replaced with "sexual health and reproductive health and rights." The phrase "sexual and reproductive health and rights" is never used in the ICPD Programme of Action, and this phrase was explicitly rejected at the 2009 Commission on Population and Development. "Sexual rights" do not exist in international law, and are not contained in any international legal document.

2. Any reference to abortion as a method of family planning should be removed, including in the summary of the Report, on the first page. Paragraph 8.25 of the ICPD Programme of Action states, "In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning." In fact, no internationally-agreed upon document or consensus document contains a "right" to abortion.

3. All references to "sexual and reproductive health services" should be removed and replaced with the correct language from the Programme of Action, which includes the following: "reproductive health care", "sexual health", "reproductive health services", and "sexual health care."

4. Paragraph 9.1 of the Draft Recommendation should be changed to, "with a particular emphasis on increasing access to skilled birth attendants", since it has been acknowledged that this is essential to reducing maternal mortality. The UNFPA has also acknowledged that access to SBAs could decrease maternal mortality by up to 75%.

Your browser may not support display of this image.

5. In keeping with the agreed-upon language of the ICPD Programme of Action, Paragraph 36 should be amended to read, "By keeping young adults healthy and productive, by allowing parents to freely and responsibly determine the number and spacing of their children…"

6. Paragraph 41 should be amended to read, "10-12% of Europeans experience infertility in part due to undiagnosed STIs and in part due to an increase in women postponing motherhood to later years. Fertility decline with age and the risk of miscarriage also increases with age, and this information should be included in reproductive health education programs…"

Yours sincerely,

                                    François JACOB, Regional Director
                                    World Youth Alliance – Europe
                                    +32 486 656 011


Download the file here.