UNITED NATIONS, New York, 22 September 2014 — More than 140 presidents, heads of government, ministers and high officials from around the world today reaffirmed their countries’ strong political support to the historic International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).
During the ICPD, held in Cairo in 1994, 179 governments agreed on a 20-year Programme of Action that included a bold new vision of the relationships between population, development and individual well-being. It recognized that population was not about numbers, but about people, and that social, economic and political equality, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, was the basis for individual well-being, slower population growth and sustainable development.
Addressing today’s United Nations General Assembly special session on the follow-up to the ICPD beyond 2014, world leaders agreed that the ICPD was as relevant today as in 1994. They also noted the considerable progress in achieving its goal over the past two decades, particularly in reducing poverty, improving maternal health and enforcing girls’ education. However, they added, much must still be done to improve the quality of life of all people.
The Cairo conference was “a global turning point,” said Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, in his opening statement of the special session. “Its Programme of Action was built on fundamental principles affirming that development should centre on people. It also emphasized the value of investing in women and girls. And it affirmed the importance of sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.”
“The world agreed in Cairo that when women and girls get the education they deserve, societies are more productive,” added Mr. Ban. “When their rights are protected, societies are more just. And when they are empowered to determine their own future, societies become stronger.”
The UN Secretary-General also applauded UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, “for leading our global push to translate the Cairo Programme of Action into a meaningful change for so many people.”
The Cairo mandate defined the principle of people-centred development in real terms, and “forever changed how we perceive population and development,” said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “It shifted the focus from human numbers to human lives, human well-being and human rights. Cairo ensured that a bedrock principle of development would be to realize dignity and human rights for all people as a means of achieving our collective goals.”
Over the past 20 years, said Dr. Osotimehin, “we have seen the rise of hundreds of millions out of poverty, gender parity in primary education, fewer women dying giving life and more women in the workforce. These advances show how powerful development founded on dignity and human rights can be.” However, he added, “we still have a long way to go. Our world is growing increasingly unequal, and, all too often, women and girls get the short end of the stick.”
“We cannot talk about sustainable development without ensuring that young people’s needs are met, that we give voice to their aspirations, that we include them in decision-making,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “We cannot talk about sustainable development without addressing women’s empowerment, gender inequality, and discrimination and violence. We cannot talk about sustainable development without ensuring that the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all are met.”
These issues, added Dr. Osotimehin, “must be at the heart of the post-2015 agenda to ensure that current and future generations are made up of resilient, adaptive, innovative, creative people capable of building resilient societies. If we can do that, we will be able to address any challenge that our world faces, today and tomorrow.”
The special session was held to renew political support for the Cairo mandate. It also highlighted achievements and gaps in implementing the ICPD Programme of Action, as well priorities for future action, based on a recent global review of the agenda.