Remarks at the 47th UN Commission on Population and Development

Margaret Pollack
Special Advisor on Population Issues 
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration 
New York, NY
April 7, 2014


Mr. Chairman, the 1994 ICPD consensus forged by 179 member states was, and remains, truly transformative. It reframes the way we view population and development challenges, and provides a far-reaching set of goals linking global health, gender equality, human rights, population dynamics and sustainable development.

Those of us who were in Cairo in 1994 – including our exceptional colleagues – Dr. Nafis Sadik, Prof. Fred Sai, and the Honorable Mervat Telawi – and those of us who work to sustain that consensus today – such as Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin – can be proud of the direction we forged some twenty years ago

The Secretary General’s reports to this year’s Commission show that significant progress has been made and many lessons have been learned that pave the way to the future we all desire. One billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty, the average life expectancy has increased from 65 to 70, the number of maternal deaths has been reduced by nearly half, child mortality has declined by 40 percent and many more children, especially girls, now complete their primary education.

Yet, as far as we’ve come, progress has been uneven and slow in some critical respects. The Program of Action aims for nothing less than universal access to quality, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, education and services, and it promised to promote and protect reproductive rights; reduce infant, child, and maternal mortality; and achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls so that all individuals, and all nations, have the opportunity to realize their full potential.

Nonetheless, the operational review of ICPD implementation tells us that many have been excluded or left behind, because they live in poverty, or in hard to reach areas; because they face stigma or discrimination; because they face violations or abuses of their human rights; because they are marginalized; or because they are living in situations of conflict or humanitarian crises.

The operational review, particularly the outcomes of the five regional, intergovernmental assessments in 2013, also clearly shows, however, that, across great diversity, countries hold common perspectives on issues and interventions that require our urgent attention at this year’s Commission. These include: the promotion and protection of the human rights of all persons; universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, information and education, including for adolescents and youth; elimination of all forms of gender-based violence; and gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Our challenges are many, but some that will have the most impact on our shared journey toward peaceful and stable societies and sustainable development include protection of the human rights of all; ending the scourge of violence against women and girls; stopping harmful practices such as early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting; and providing equal access to comprehensive and integrated legal, health, and social services for survivors of violence. Further, we must eliminate discrimination, violence, and human rights abuses that are falsely justified on various grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity, guided by the core premise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that “all persons are born equal in dignity and human rights.”

Success in realizing our goals also requires the development of policies and allocation of human and financial resources needed to expand access to integrated, quality sexual and reproductive health services, including maternal health care; access to a broad range of safe and effective modern forms of contraception; the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDS; and access to safe abortion.

We should give special attention to the needs and the human rights of the largest-ever generation of adolescents and youth, and take the actions necessary to ensure their participation in discussions and decisions on matters that affect their lives and the future. Much more is needed to ensure that adolescents and youth, have the opportunities for education and employment they require to reach their full potential; complemented by access to information, education and skills-building to make wise and informed decisions about their health, now and in future, including through access to comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly health services that take into account the distinct and often unique needs of young men and women.

Mr. Chairman, this meeting of the Commission is an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to fulfilling the ICPD Program of Action, to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and to ensuring this agenda remains central to the next generation of development goals. We look forward to working with all of you to accomplish this shared mission.

Thank you.


PRN: 2014/074