- The UN General Assembly yesterday marked the fifteenth anniversary of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which adopted a 20-year plan to provide access to reproductive health, reduce maternal deaths, promote women's rights and help reduce poverty. During the all-day event, speakers from around the world voiced their support for the ICPD consensus and shared experiences on how it has helped their countries, communities and families.
"The 1994 Cairo Conference marked a major shift in the international mindset on population issues," said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his address to the Assembly. "Countries from around the world affirmed that population, far from being about numbers, is about people - and that women's health, education, employment and empowerment are the keys to a sustainable future."
"Fifteen years ago in Cairo, for the first time, governments acknowledged that every person has the right to sexual and reproductive health," said Mr Ban. "Today, we meet to hail the progress that has been achieved... to acknowledge the many problems that remain... and to strengthen our resolve to overcome them."
"The international community has worked hard for this progress. I especially want to pay tribute to the United Nations Population Fund for its tireless advocacy and invaluable activities," added Mr Ban. "But as we all know, despite these efforts, for far too many people the Cairo consensus remains more a goal than a reality."
This may be a time of global financial turmoil and economic downturn, said Mr Ban, "but it is not a time to renege on our promises to protect and invest in women - for their sake and for the sake of our collective future."
The Cairo consensus "puts people at the centre of development," said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund ( UNFPA), which was the secretariat of the Cairo Conference. "It positions reproductive health, including family planning, and the healthy relationships and well-being of individuals as a right. It makes clear that, when women are empowered and supported to determine the number and spacing of their children--a decision that is seemingly simple yet so complex - this improves their own lives and the well-being of their families, their communities and their countries."
The General Assembly's commemoration is scheduled to be followed by the opening of an exhibition on violence against women. The exhibition includes Congo/Women Portraits of War: The Democratic Republic of Congo, a critically acclaimed photography collection that has been touring several American cities, and Women on the Frontline, a seven-part television series that documents the different kinds of violence against women and girls.
The Cairo consensus was reached by 179 governments, which agreed on actions to alleviate poverty and promote development by reducing maternal and infant deaths; promoting women's rights and education; preventing HIV/AIDS; and ensuring universal access to reproductive health, including voluntary family planning.
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