May 14, 2013

New York–Several women’s human rights, youth, and gender justice advocates have called on the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda to prioritize the human rights of women and young people in its recommendations on a new global framework for sustainable development. 

Without fully addressing the human rights of half the world’s population and the largest generation ever of young people, sustainable development will be impossible, say the advocates. 

The letter, endorsed by the International Women’s Health Coalition and nearly 30 other non-governmental organizations, comes as the High Level Panel prepares its report of recommendations to the UN Secretary General. The report is expected at the end of May.  

In order to tackle the structural causes of economic, gender, racial, and social inequalities, as well as poverty and injustice, the new development framework must fully realize women’s and girls’ human rights and aim to achieve gender equality and environmental sustainability. This requires prioritizing women’s economic rights, including their rights to equitable access to and control over resources, land and property, decent work, and to social protection including access to quality care services; their right to be free from all forms of violence; their sexual and reproductive rights and access to quality sexual and reproductive health care; their right to non-discrimination on all grounds; and their right to participation and leadership.

Specific attention must also be given to fulfilling the rights of adolescent girls. Ending early and forced marriages; universal completion of secondary education; universal access to comprehensive sexuality education that addresses gender equality and human rights; access to sexual and reproductive health services and other health services that meet the needs of adolescent girls; and creating safe spaces with adult mentors to support girls to build their economic and social capabilities and capacities, among others, are all strategies that will guarantee girls’ rights, empower them to take control over their lives, and lay the groundwork for girls to reach their full potential. 

In the joint letter, the advocates note that women bear the brunt of social, economic, and environmental crises. Ignoring women’s particular needs risks creating a framework that is ineffective at best.