‘Back in Our Capitals, We Have to Walk the Talk,’ Population Commission Chairman Says, Following Hard-Won Adoption of Key Resolution, Closure of Session

27 April 2012

‘Back in Our Capitals, We Have to Walk the Talk,’ Population Commission Chairman Says, Following Hard-Won Adoption of Key Resolution, Closure of Session

27 April 2012
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on Population and Development

Forty-fifth Session

9th Meeting (PM)

‘Back in Our Capitals, We Have to Walk the Talk,’ Population Commission Chairman


Says, Following Hard-Won Adoption of Key Resolution, Closure of Session


Members Agree, Despite Reservations, to Give Full Attention to Meeting

Reproductive Health Service, Information, Education Needs of Young People

Many youth delegates had spoken candidly about their experiences and expectations throughout the week-long session, said Population Commission Chairman late Friday following adoption of a key draft resolution, reminding members that “what really matters is what happens outside this room, when we are back in our capitals,” where, “we have to walk the talk, to move from paper to people.”

The consensus adoption of the 10-page Chairman’s text on adolescents and youth came after protracted consultations.  Hasan Kleib of Indonesia had pressed the 47-member Commission to “make a last effort to bridge differences”.  Unless delegations had a “violent” reaction to the text, “let it go”, he had said; “the perfect is the enemy of good.”  His text was not completely satisfactory to all, however, he had said it was balanced and he had reminded delegates that what was at stake were the pressing needs of the millions of youths and adolescents worldwide.

“Consensus is the basis for our work,” Vice-Chair Pio Wennubst of Switzerland had said, similarly urging the text’s adoption.  Having served as facilitator for its passage, he stressed that it was critical that the needs of adolescents and youth be answered “now”, and not “in 10 years”.

Broadly speaking, the resolution recognized that the ways in which the largest generation of adolescents and youth ever in history was able to address its aspirations and challenges and fulfil its potential would influence current social and economic conditions and the well-being and livelihood of future generations.

Among its specific provisions, Member States were urged to increase efforts to improve the quality of education and to promote universal access to it, without discrimination on any basis, to ensure that adolescents and youth acquired the necessary knowledge, capacities, skills and ethical values.

Further to the text, Governments were called on to give full attention to meeting the reproductive health service, information and education needs of young people, and to provide them with evidence-based comprehensive education on human sexuality, on sexual and reproductive health, human rights and gender equality, to enable them to deal in a positive and responsible way with their sexuality.

At the same time, the Commission recognized the rights, duties and responsibilities of parents and legal guardians to provide to the adolescent appropriate direction and guidance on sexual and reproductive matters.

In a related provision, the resolution said countries must ensure that health-care providers did not restrict the access of adolescents to appropriate services and the information they need, including on sexually transmitted infections and sexual abuse, and in order to, among other things, address sexual abuse, those services must safeguard the right of adolescents to privacy, confidentiality, respect and informed consent, respecting cultural values and religious beliefs.

Further, the Commission reiterated the need for Governments to ensure that all women and men had comprehensive information about, and access to, a choice of the widest possible range of safe, effective, affordable and acceptable modern methods of family planning, including long-acting methods and male and female condoms, to be able to exercise free and informed reproductive choices.

To improve maternal health, reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality, and prevent and respond to HIV/AIDS, Governments and development partners were urged to, among others, ensure that health systems prioritized universal access to sexual and reproductive information and health-care services, including quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion, as well as reducing the recourse to abortion through improved family planning services.

The Commission urged all States to develop, adopt and fully implement laws and take other measures, such as policies and educational programmes, as appropriate, to eradicate harmful practices, including, among others, female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage.

It further urged States to enact and strictly enforce laws to ensure that marriage was entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses and, in addition, to enact and strictly enforce laws concerning the minimum legal age of consent and the minimum age for marriage, and to raise the minimum age for marriage where necessary.

Addressing the high rates of youth unemployment, States were urged to improve opportunities for young people to gain access to productive employment and decent work, including through investment in youth employment programmes.

The representative of Kenya, commending the resolution, said that millions of youths had been waiting to hear from the Commission, and now they would be able to hear “good news”.  Argentina’s delegate said that with half a million women and girls dying from unsafe abortions, it was not an issue of culture, religion, or sovereignty; that was a public health issue.

The resolution would bring change to the adolescents and youth of the world, said Indonesia’s delegation, which included youth representatives.  The collaborative efforts in achieving the final outcome document were inspiring, they said, hoping the text would be translated into action.  Algeria’s representative, on behalf of the African Group, added his voice in support of the text.

Several delegates, however, expressed reservations to a number of provisions in the text, including the representatives of Malta, Hungary, Poland, Russian Federation and Chile, mainly concerning language framing issues of reproductive rights and abortion, including in the context of education for adolescents and youth, and child and early marriage.

Among those was Uganda’s representative, who said parents reserved the right to choose the kind of education that should be given to their children, even while recognizing that children became more responsible for their actions as they became older.  She also expressed a reservation to a preambular portion of the text, saying that when that provision was read in its entirety, it was not consistent with the country’s national and development priorities.

The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See, prior to the text’s passage, had urged delegations not to accept it, singling out several operative paragraphs.  He stressed that the draft was “promoting abortion and contraception”, which was unacceptable, and that it encouraged youth to an “immoral way of life”.  Further, language was missing that charged parents with the right to educate their children as they saw fit.  He was dismayed at the reference to “comprehensive sexuality education”, and abortion, he said, was never safe, and killed unborn children and mothers.

Brazil’s delegation called for the inclusion of language that acknowledged the violence and discrimination experienced by youth with different sexual orientation.  Egypt’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, regretted the absence of a reference to the needs of youth living under foreign occupation.

Addressing her remarks to issues of human rights, the representative of the United States felt the resolution used the word “rights” for some things that were not human rights, but might be very important rights under some domestic legal systems.  Human rights, she added, generally could only be violated by State actors.  She also “strongly” disagreed with any interpretation based on the use of the word “incitement” — worried that the Commission was urging States to limit individuals’ human rights, such as the right to freedom of expression.

Also among those explaining their position on the draft were the delegates of the Philippines, Cuba, South Africa, Peru, Uruguay, Belgium (on behalf of Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Sweden), Colombia, Guatemala, Tunisia, China, Costa Rica and New Zealand.

(Several representatives commented about the meeting continuing past 6 p.m. without interpretation).

Jorge Bravo, Chief, Population and Development Section, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, speaking on behalf of Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, acknowledged considerable progress made, but highlighted remaining problems facing youths, such as barriers preventing girls and young women from completing their education; early marriage and coerced and uninformed childbearing; and the difficulty finding decent employment.

Werner Haug, Director, Technical Division of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), speaking on behalf of the Fund’s Executive Director, Babatunde Osotimehin, said he was pleased that agreement had been reached on education.  It must be ensured that the “unfinished agenda” of youth around the world was an integral part of any new development programme.  Stressing that progress would be achieved through partnership on the ground, he said young people could count on UNFPA’s support.

In other action, the Commission adopted a draft decision requesting that the consideration of the Secretary-General’s biennial report on world demographic trends be changed to even-numbered years, to ensure that the report was aligned with the most recent demographic estimates and projections (document E/CN.9/2012/L.3).  Accordingly, the Commission would next consider the report at its forty-seventh session in 2014.

Recalling General Assembly resolution 65/234, which urged Governments to recommit to the goals and objections of the Cairo Programme of Action, the Commission adopted, by consensus, a draft decision, as orally amended, recommending to the Assembly that it convene a special session during its sixty-ninth session to assess the status of implementation (document E/CN.9/2012/L L.4).

The Commission also took note of the Secretary-General’s report, “Programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2011:  Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs” (document E/CN.9/2012/7), as well as the Secretariat’s note on the draft programme of work for the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs for the biennium 2014-2015 (document E/CN.9/2012/CRP.1).

It adopted the report of its forty-fifth session (document E/CN.9/2012/L.5).  Additionally, it adopted the draft provisional agenda, as orally amended, for its forty-sixth session (document E/CN.9/2012/L.2) and, immediately following the closure of its forty-fifth session, opened its forty-sixth session.

Elected by acclamation to the Bureau of its next session was Vlad Lupan (Moldova), nominated by the Group of Eastern European States, as Chair, as well as the following Vice-Chairs:  Eduardo Jose De Vega (Philippines), from the Group of Asia-Pacific States; Juan Carlos Alfonso (Cuba), from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States; Matthias Schikorski (Germany), from the Group of Western European and other States.  The election of the Vice-Chair from the Group of African States was deferred to the next session.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.