At the 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, 179 governments agreed to a 20-year action plan that made the health and rights of women and young people central to the global struggle to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development. Since the ICPD, the United Nations, civil society, and governments have been working to protect human rights and access to reproductive health.
This afternoon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton commemorated the 15th anniversary of the ICPD, characterizing access to reproductive health care as a “basic right.” Secretary Clinton stated that, “If we believe that human rights are women’s rights, then we cannot accept the marginalization of half the world’s population.” She went on to say that “Women’s health is essential to the prosperity and health of all people,” and that, “Investing in the health of women, adolescents and girls is not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.”
However, concrete action by the U.S., other donors, multilateral institutions, and other key actors is still needed to realize the ICPD goals, which include advancing gender equality; ensuring access to education; and providing universal access to reproductive health care including voluntary contraception, safe abortion services where legal, maternity care and sex education programs that prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS—by 2015.
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