| Author: Yvonne Bogaarts | Function: Manager Advocacy

BLOG: Twenty years after Cairo

From 7 to 11 April, the 47th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) is held in New York. This is a yearly conference that monitors, reviews and assesses the implementation of the agreements made at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Egypt. These agreements are set out in the Programme of Action (PoA), which is a rights-based development framework.

Update may 2014

What really happened at CPD 47? 

Yvonne Bogaarts was interviewed by EuroNGOs on the outcome of this Commission on Population and Development 47th session.

"In their resolution, governments expressed renewed commitment to ICPD Programme of Action, made a link with the post 2015 processes, supported sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights and urged governments to end discrimination on all grounds", she says.

Outcome document CPD accepted by consensus

The whole week of the CPD meeting it was doubtful whether there would be an outcome of the negotiations. This question hovered over the heads of delegates and advocates alike until the very end.

Suspension of negotiations

The process of working towards the resolution can be described as ‘dubious’ at best. A suspension of the negotiations on Thursday evening gave some delegates the impression that the session was over. The delegates who had left found out the next morning that negotiations had started again that same night. During the day on Friday official comments to the resolution were made by delegations – but there were no UN note takers. It was unclear what result yet another round of general comments could possibly generate, especially since they would not be documented.

Last minute negotiations

All of this confusion culminated in the night of Friday April 11th. A night during which some advocates slept on the (7 million dollar!) carpet in the UN lounge donated by Qatar. A semi-last version of the resolution was presented at 9.30 PM, after which the session was adjourned for 15 minutes. In these 15 minutes the Ambassadors to the UN would negotiate and would have come to a conclusion. Interestingly, this process with all its civil society presence and participation was finally decided by six men in a room. 15 minutes became one hour, then two, then three….After nine hours, when all were beyond hope of any outcome, the Ambassadors presented the negotiated resolution. It was finally adopted at 5.30AM on April 12th – and the 47th CPD thus ended with a resolution. What a night!


What did we get in the resolution: A renewed commitment to the ICPD Programme of Action and to accelerate its implementation. A recognition to address persistent inequalities and discrimination on any grounds, which hamper achievements of the goals and objectives of ICPD. Recognizing also the right to development as a universal and inalienable right and an integral part of fundamental human rights.

Young people

The resolution calls upon governments to recognize the linkages between the priorities of the ICPD Programme of Action and sustainable development. It reaffirms the need to promote gender equality and the empowerment of girls and young women and reiterates the need to intensify efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. It also addresses issues related to the largest generation of adolescents and youth ever, on migration, sustainable urban development, and older persons.

Role of men

The resolution takes note of the outcome documents of the regional conferences that provide region-specific guidance as well as on the operational review of the ICPD Programme of Action. It recognizes health as a precondition for economic and social development and puts sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as central to the realization of social justice.

And finally, we are very proud of the reference to the critical role of boys and young men in ensuring gender equality, as this was advocated for by Rutgers!

Strong advocacy

Looking back, civil society can be proud. There have been very strong outcome documents at the regional UN conferences on the 20th anniversary of ICPD. Civil society pleaded for having negotiations at CPD, and no procedural resolution: this was achieved too. Civil society advocated for and achieved access for organizations without a special UN status to be able to attend. There were 60 civil society representatives included in 47 country delegations: a record to be proud of.

Strong supporters

We had strong supporters for our issues from around the globe. Some examples: Nepal supported language on abortion; Philippines, Cook Islands, Brazil and Mongolia were among the countries supporting language on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity; Lebanon dared to speak up for SRHR  and leave the Arab block; comprehensive sexuality education came up loud and clear. Things are moving, though slowly, forward!

Update 9 april

Eliminating unsafe abortion

The French government, IPPF and Equilibres & Populations (a French NGO) organised a side event on abortion during the CPD. I attended this side event and I would like to share my views on how to eliminate unsafe abortion.

Shocking figures

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) every year 85 million unintended pregnancies occur. More than half of these unintended pregnancies lead to an abortion; a quarter of which are unsafe abortions. 22 million times, all in developing countries, women risk dying or getting disabled. WHO research shows unsafe abortion results in 47,000 deaths and 5 million women are left with a disability every year.


This could have been prevented. Many unintended pregnancies would not have occurred when people, especially young people, are able to receive comprehensive sexuality education and have access to effective contraception and are able to use it. In addition, almost every abortion related death or disability can be prevented by provision of safe, legal abortion and timely care in case of complications.

Access to services

Criminalising or restricting legal access to abortion does not decrease the need for abortion. On the contrary, it is likely to increase the number of women seeking illegal and unsafe abortions, leading to increased mortality and morbidity. Legal restrictions also leads women to seek services in other countries, which is expensive and risky. It also creates social inequities, where only rich people have access to abortion services.

Recipe for success

There is a recipe to eliminate unsafe abortion, and it is easy!

  • Provide good sexuality education;
  • Provide ready access to and availability of contraceptives;
  • Provide ready access to and availability of safe, legal abortion.

5 april 2014

Twenty years after Cairo


Twenty years on, it is again time to review how far the international community has come with implementing of the Programme of Action. The review process is called the Operational review of the ICPD and consisted of a global survey,  5 regional conferences and 3 thematic conferences. 
The theme is ‘Assessment of the status of implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development’. Basically, this means not only evaluating on what happened so far, but also looking forward.

The stakes are high

Now the stakes are high: do the countries of the world move beyond sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights; will they include the full terminology sexual and reproductive health and sexual and reproductive rights (SRHR)? Can we make an explicit link between the outcomes of the Operational review of the ICPD and the Post-2015 Development agenda which is being developed in a parallel process? And last but not least, can we get recognition for young people as people with their own sexual and reproductive health needs?

Language suggestions

Civil society has worked tremendously hard in the past weeks, to make text suggestions to strengthen the first draft document. Informal negotiations have already started. The Chair of the CPD appointed four co-chairs to support him in the complicated process.

Advocates around the world

So far, Rutgers has worked with partners in Asia, the Middle-East and Africa to prepare for this years’ CPD. Partners have reached out to their ministries and country delegation, and asked attention for sexual and reproductive health and rights issues. After lengthy discussions and a lot of advocacy by Rutgers and like-minded organizations around the globe, the Commission decided only a couple of weeks ago that this years’ CPD will result in a negotiated resolution.

Currently, fifteen partner advocates, including two from Rutgers Pakistan and two from Rutgers HQ, are travelling to New York these days to work with their delegations on the most progressive outcome possible. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and wish them well!

Yvonne Bogaarts
Yvonne Bogaarts Manager Advocacy To bio