The representative of the European Commission, Luigi Boselli addresses the UN General Assembly.
The representative of the European Commission, Luigi Boselli, addresses the UN General Assembly in New York. UN Photo/Sophie Paris

21st Special Session of the UN General Assembly, 30 June-2 July 1999, New York


A five year review

From 30 June to 2 July 1999 in New York, the UN General Assembly met in a special session devoted to the overall review and assessment of the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) agreed to in Cairo in 1994. At the end of its work, the 21st Special Session adopted a series of proposals for priority actions for the continued implementation of the Programme of Action. Among the key actions recommended: governments were called on to take strong measures to promote the human rights of women and were encouraged to strengthen the reproductive and sexual health, as well as the reproductive rights focus on population and development policies and programmes. The differential impact on women and men of globalization of the economy and the privatization of basic social services, particularly reproductive health services, should be monitored closely. Governments were also called upon to give priority to developing programmes and policies that fostered norms and attitudes of zero tolerance for harmful and discriminatory attitudes, including son preference, discrimination and violence against the girl child and all forms of violence against women, including female genital mutilation, rape, incest, trafficking, sexual violence and exploitation.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was urged to continue to strengthen its leadership role within the United Nations system in assisting countries to take the strategic action necessary to ensure availability of reproductive health services and choice of reproductive health products, including contraceptives. The final document of the Special Session stated that in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning. Governments and organizations are urged to strengthen their commitment to women's health, to deal with the health impact of unsafe abortion as a major public health concern, and to reduce the recourse to abortion through expanded and improved family planning services.

Additionally, all developed countries were urged to strengthen their commitment to the goals and objectives of the ICPD Programme of Action, in particular, its cost estimates, and to make every effort to mobilize the agreed estimated financial resources required for its implementation.

The United Nations system and donors were requested to support governments in the building of national capacity to plan, manage, implement, monitor and evaluate reproductive and sexual health services. Increased efforts were requested of the United Nations system and the international community to develop common key indicators on reproductive health programmes, including, family planning, maternal health, sexual health, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV/AIDS. The World Health Organization (WHO) was invited to take the lead role in that area, in coordination with the United Nations system.

The five-year review of progress showed that the implementation of the Cairo Conference's recommendations had positive results, with many countries taking steps to integrate population concerns into their development strategies, the document states. However, for some countries and regions, progress has been limited and, in some cases, setbacks have occurred. Women and girls continue to face discrimination, while the HIV/AIDS pandemic had increased mortality in many countries. Adolescents remain vulnerable to reproductive and sexual risks and millions of couples and individuals still lacked access to reproductive health information and services.