UN-backed meeting in Asia forges commitment to reproductive health

2 November 2007 – Experts, advocates and activists meeting at a United Nations-backed meeting in Asia have called for efforts to reduce maternal deaths, enable young people to avoid HIV and make family planning more accessible on the continent.

“Too many governments remain shackled by external pressures, outmoded laws and regulatory structures undermining reproductive health,” said participants in an Open Letter to Governments adopted at the end of the three-day conference in Hyderabad, India on Wednesday.

Participants also vowed to push for more resources, and to hold themselves accountable for their effective use.

Some 1,300 people from civil society and governments in 42 countries joined the Fourth Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights, one in an ongoing review series since governments pledged in 1994 to make reproductive health services accessible to everyone by 2005.

The United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) was part of the international steering committee and provided partial support for the meeting.

In an opening session subtitled, “An unfinished agenda,” UNFPA Deputy Executive Director Purnima Mane noted that Asia continues to have “high rates of unintended pregnancies, high rates of maternal death and disability, increasing numbers of new HIV infections, and persistent and widespread violence against women and girls,” despite the region's progress in reducing poverty.

The agency also presented a set of reports and led a discussion on the causes and likely consequences of and potential remedies for son preference and prenatal sex selection in China, India, Viet Nam and Nepal.

The next regional review will be held in China in 2009.

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