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For the first time since 2016 a substantial resolution at the UN Commission on Population and Development

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23 April 2021

As spring is setting in, the annual UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD) took place in New York. This year, United Nations member states came together virtually to discuss to what extent they are able to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights and the rights of women, adolescents and youth as part of the ICPD agenda. The 54th session of the CPD took place from 19 – 23 April.

Action to fight hunger and malnutrition and to promote gender equality

Each year, a specific theme is discussed at the CPD. This years’ theme was ‘population, food security, nutrition and sustainable development. After long negotiations, the 54th CPD for the first time since 2016 found consensus on a substantive resolution, which was adopted on the last day. Member States agreed to take action to fight hunger and malnutrition and to promote equal opportunities for women and girls. Special attention was given amongst others to the nutritional needs of pregnant women, adolescents and marginalized communities and to the impact of Covid-19 on access to sexual and reproductive health care services and sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.

Skilful facilitation

The negotiations on the resolution started several weeks earlier. The skilful facilitation by Lebanon and Romania moved delegations closer to each other. Constructive discussions were held on the theme, food security and nutrition, that for many countries was ever more relevant in the context of the pandemic. For the first time, the bureau consulted civil society organizations on the discussions on the methods of work of the commission and on their inputs to the zero-draft resolution.

Support for human rights, gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights

Strong statements were delivered in the plenary session. On behalf of the Netherlands, the Dutch Youth Ambassador on SRHR, Lisa de Pagter and the Director-General of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Kitty van der Heijden addressed the audience. A cross-regional statement on behalf of 81 countries was read by the Minister for Development Cooperation of Finland, showing cross-regional support for human rights, gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Civil society, amongst others, advocated for the inclusion of gender dimensions to food security and nutrition, the interlinkages between nutrition and SRHR and the impact of Covid-19 on sexual and gender based violence and harmful practices.

Rutgers’ role

Rutgers again has been strongly engaged in the advocacy around the CPD. Our colleague Evi van den Dungen, senior advisor advocacy, was part of the Dutch government delegation to the CPD. She contributed by providing inputs to the drafts of the resolution and coordinated between civil society and delegations. We co-organized a side-event by The Netherlands, South Africa, Canada and Mexico and UNFPA on the impact of Covid-19 on the ICPD agenda, SRHR and gender equality. At this side event, two youth advocates from Rutgers’ partner organizations spoke on the impact of Covid-19 on young people’s SRHR. A Rutgers research demonstrated the huge impact Covid-19 has had on young people’s health and wellbeing.

We have seen that young people pay the price when essential sexual and reproductive health services are inaccessible or discontinued in times of crisis. We need to prevent that hard fought gains are reversed. Therefore intergovernmental agreements, such as the resolution adopted, are crucial.”
Evi van der Dungen, Advocate at Rutgers

Rutgers believes that the CPD remains one of the critical places for countries and civil society to discuss and progress their commitments to sexual and reproductive health and rights – which are also part of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development (SDG 3.7 and 5.6). The Covid-19 pandemic has shown detrimental effects to the implementation of the ICPD agenda, and backdrop has to be restored quickly.

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