April 15, 2016
NEW YORK—WYA is disappointed that language related to reproductive rights and sexual and reproductive healthcare services was included in the final document adopted tonight at the Commission on Population and Development (CPD). These terms include abortion, which is not agreed in international law. Nothing in any non-binding resolution adopted during the Commission can change or create international law, and, as a key paragraph notes, outside of settled, universally recognized human rights norms, sovereign states have the right to implement agreements in line with their national laws and priorities.
The Commission on Population and Development annually reviews the implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Platform for Action since its adoption in 1994. That document, which is not binding, recognized that abortion is a matter for national law. Unfortunately, in the intervening years, the limitations of the ICPD have been stretched, and the term “reproductive rights” is now widely understood to refer to abortion. For that reason, WYA works with Member States and other allies to oppose its inclusion in documents adopted at the UN. (Read more about ICPD, reproductive rights and other terms in WYA’s Reproductive Health White Paper.)
WYA maintained an active presence at the Commission throughout its sessions. A number of Member States took the opportunity during their statements to state their objections to the use of the Commission to promote controversial policies that go against their national laws and are not agreed in national law. Micronesia, Nauru, Samoa and the Soloman Islands noted that data are “not always neutral” and asked the United Nations to “refrain from imposing any controversial agendas through the guise of collecting data for and monitoring the progress” of the Sustainable Development Goals. A number of Member States, including Malawi, Jamaica, and Malaysia, stayed true to the Commission’s goal by focusing on key demographic data challenges, such as birth registrations and records of vital statistics.
Other States, unfortunately, gave statements assuming that controversial policies they favor are already settled in law. Norway, for example, stated that women and girls can only participate fully if they have access to “sexual and reproductive health services, modern methods of contraception, safe abortion and comprehensive sexuality education.” Similarly, the United States suggested “advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights” is necessary for women’s empowerment and leaving no one behind in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
While many of the official Commission meetings stayed on the technical side of demographic evidence, the negotiations clearly went beyond this, including through the incorporation of references to abortion.
The Commission was attended by the WYA advocacy team, which included intern Briac Cherel of France, and Youth Voices contest winners Margaux Inocando of the Philippines and Ines Lobo of Spain. Briac has attended all three functional commissions this year that WYA monitors. Margaux, as a former WYA HQ intern and graphic designer, has attended some events before. Ines, a medical student, attended her first UN official meetings and experienced WYA’s work first hand for the first time.
WYA thanks all the Member States who worked hard to negotiate the text. While we did not achieve the result we hoped for, we are grateful for those areas where good language and ideas reflecting the dignity of the human person were included.