Dispatches From CPD 2012: Final Successes, Limitations, and a Call for Accountability

Dave is a volunteer youth delegate to the Commission on Population and Development, working with the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

To see all our coverage of the 2012 Commission on Population and Development, click here.

Friday, April 27th, 2012 marked the fifth and final day of this year’s United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD), the time when the member states of the UN come together to discuss sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) globally. Delegates were meeting to negotiate an outcome document, or resolution, that would help highlight how SRHR services could best be delivered in the future, particularly aiming it at the subject of this year’s commission, Adolescents and Youth.

After months of preparation and one week of very intense negotiations, lobbying, and events, delegates agreed to a resolution was at 8pm on Friday that is relatively progressive when compared to previous years, a sign that we have been pretty successful in our efforts to mitigate the potential harm that opposing organisations were trying to inflict.

So, what’s good about the outcome document?

  • It highlights the importance of ‘comprehensive education about human sexuality;’
  • Underscores the importance of safe abortion care: In “circumstances where abortion is not against the law, training and equipping health-service providers and other measures to ensure that such abortion is safe and accessible;’’
  • States that young people should be considered and addressed according to their evolving capacities, and that parental consent for accessing services and information is not always appropriate;
  • Preserves language concerning discrimination – “Human rights include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”

This is really important language to which young people can hold their countries accountable to ensure they can exercise some of their sexual and reproductive rights. All of these pieces of the document, considered to be victories for SRHR advocates, were neatly listed by the Holy See, the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations, when it heavily criticised the document in a statement preceded by an overwhelming sigh by the majority of those in the room, and followed by a regimental clap from anti-SRHR (anti-choice) delegates. Given that there was a strong amount of opposition there were a lot of compromises in this process. Some of the vital aspects of SRHR that did not make it into the document are:

  • Sexual rights – although reproductive rights are acknowledged, there is no mention of sexual rights which encompass all elements of sexuality that are aside from reproduction. This is a massive omission.
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) is not mentioned at all;
  • Global access to safe abortion – a paragraph about sovereignty and passages about safe abortion only in the context of where it is legal illustrates some of the limitations of this document

All things considered, given how previous resolutions have looked, this year has seen some very positive steps in the right direction. What is vital now, however, is that each country sticks to their commitments to ensure that all people are able to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.

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