|United Nations General Assembly,
Special Session 30 June-2 July 1999
: Re-affirming the Commitment
(Left to Right) Joseph Chamie, Director, Population
Division, UN DESA; Dr. Nafis Sadik, Executive Director, UNFPA; Ambassador Anwarul
Chowdhury, Ad Hoc Committee Chairperson; and Stirling Scruggs, Director of Information and
External Relations, UNFPA, at the Press Conference on the conclusions of the work of the
Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole on 1 July 1999.
After three days of sometimes passionate debate, delegates
from nearly 180 countries attending the 21st Special Session of the United Nations General
Assembly agreed, on 2 July, to key actions for the further implementation of the Programme
of Action (PoA) of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). This
was a great achievement reaffirming the pathfinding commitment made by the governments at
the ICPD held in Cairo in 1994.
An elated Dr. Nafis Sadik,
Executive Director, UNFPA (the U.N. agency responsible for the leading role in promoting
the implementation of the ICPD PoA), said that the key future actions adopted "go
much further than what was agreed to by about 180 States in Cairo".
Five years ago, at the historic Cairo conference, delegations adopted a
Programme of Action which signalled a shift in the way we would tackle population
problems, from focusing on demographic targets to empha-sizing peoples reproductive
health and development needs. In particular, the PoAs visionary approach is
reflected in key recommendations which recognize reproductive rights as human rights;
empowering women in the economic, political and social arenas; and removing gender
disparities in education, among other key actions to be implemented to achieve the 20-year
goals of population and development.
ICPD + 5 Process
The General Assembly Special Session on 30 June-2 July was the culmination
of a year-long review process initiated by UNFPA in 1998 referred to as "ICPD+5"
Youth played a prominent role in the ICPD+5 process
In 1999, the operational review and appraisal of
the implementation of the ICPD PoA was kicked off at The Hague, Netherlands, with the
convening of the International Forum on 8-12 February. During the previous months before
the Hague Forum, integral activities of the five-year review of the implementation of the
ICPD PoA have included three round-table meetings and four technical workshops organized
by UNFPA between April and November 1998, and a series of five-year regional reviews by
the United Nations Regional Commissions. The Hague Forum assessed country-level
operational and programme experience in implementing the ICPD PoA. The outcome of the
Forum was a draft report summarizing the findings and proposed actions, which was
submitted to the ICPD+5 Preparatory Committee (PrepCom).
The PrepCom for the Special Session of the UN
General Assembly for the review and appraisal of implementation of the ICPD PoA convened
on 24 March to 1 April, 1999, at UN Headquarters in New York. The PrepComs task was
to negotiate proposals for key actions for the further implementation of the PoA in
preparation for the Special Session during 30 June-2 July. There was some concern among
observers and stakeholders when the PrepCom could not complete negotiations on the
document for the Special Session in its first meeting and had to resume informal
consultations on 5-7 May and then for four days during 24-25 June and 28-29 June, on the
eve of the Special Session, for continued negotiations.
The 21st Special Session:
The 21st Special Session opened with agreement still to be
reached on some paragraphs of the document, "Key Actions for the Further
Implementation of the ICPD PoA". These were addressed by an Ad Hoc Committee of the
Whole, established by the Plenary of the Special Session. With the help of many
"informal-informal" consultations, the Ad Hoc Committee succeeded in reaching
consensus on the remaining proposals by the penultimate night of the Special Session.
After nearly four months of strenuous negotiations up to
the Special Session, delegates felt a great sense of relief and satisfaction with the
outcome of the ICPD+5 review process. As described by Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, the
chair of the PrepCom and the Ad Hoc Committee of the Special Session, the outcome was a
Dr. Nafis Sadik, UNFPAs Executive Director,
noted that the review process has revealed that many countries, particularly developing
countries, have made substantial progress in implementing the Cairo agenda on the ground
and that the key actions adopted by the Special Session have moved forward the ICPD PoA.
There are particular areas where key future actions have
moved forward, far beyond what was agreed to in the Cairo conference:
Specific benchmarks were set, among others to reduce illiteracy of
women and girls, maternal mortality and young peoples vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, to
guide countries in reaching the ambitious goals of the ICPD PoA.
- Approved key future actions address the consequences of illegal or unsafe
abortion on the health of women, and urge that, "where abortion is not against the
law, health systems should train and equip health-service providers and should take other
measures to ensure that such abortion is safe and accessible".
A strength of the key actions was the emphasis on means to address
the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
- Delegates also reaffirmed their financial commitments, emphasizing the
urgent need for donor countries to intensify their efforts to significantly increase their
contribution towards implementation of the PoA
The consensus on key future actions reached at the 21st
Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly will hopefully re-energize the
momentum and dedication needed to spur further implementation of the ICPD PoA.
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