NEW YORK- In 1994, the United Nations met in Cairo, Egypt for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). More than 170 countries signed the 20-year Program of Action, also known as the Cairo Consensus. This program recognized that “equal rights and universal access to sexual and reproductive health services were essential for sustainable development.”
Population control methods included family planning policies, and increased access to contraception and education. However, in broader terms, women’s empowerment and the right to control their own bodies and lives would have the largest impact on their individual wellbeing.
On February 12, 2014, the United Nations released the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report, examining the progress of 176 countries that signed the Cairo Consensus. This report is the first genuine comprehensive review of the progress and challenges that nations face worldwide. The results “strongly reinforce the Cairo Consensus, placing human rights and individual dignity at the heart of development.”
The report shows that there have been many gains in development in the past 20 years. However, this progress cannot be sustained unless governments provide support for those marginalized and living in extreme poverty, without access to education, healthcare, protection and other services.
Furthermore, although the number of people living in extreme poverty has been halved from 47% in 1990 to 22% in 2010, the gap between the richest and the poorest is still increasing. If things stay the way they are, the 1 billion individuals living in extreme poverty will remain stuck in poverty, as the rich get even richer.
The report found that there have been big gains in reducing child and maternal mortality, decreasing global fertility rates and increasing access to education. However, these improvements do have not affected women living in extreme poverty. In the poorest communities, the opportunities and inequalities revolving around women remain the same.
The report, moreover, states that 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence. In fact, a number of men in many regions openly admit to have raped females without experiencing any punishment. This is a problem that affects every nation, including the United States.
Adolescent girls, furthermore, remain the most at risk in the poorest communities. They are given less opportunities to continue to secondary education, and do not have access to sexual and reproductive health services. They are not given the equal opportunity to better their own lives and control their bodies. Child marriages, domestic abuse and sexual violence remain prevalent in many countries around the world.
Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, call on governments to pass and enforce legislation that will protect the poorest and most marginalized individuals in their society. Although many countries have created laws that will protect women’s rights, many challenges face their actual implementation.
The ICPD emphasized the right of all people to have access to developmental gains. However, increasing inequalities within and between countries demonstrate that many individuals cannot access these opportunities and services. There should not be any celebration until all people have the opportunity to experience a better life.
– Sarah Yan
Sources: UNFPA, Huffington Post, The Guardian