Each year there is a different theme for the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) meeting, and the outcome document that advises countries on their strategies for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) service provision is tailored to this theme. This year the theme is “Adolescents and Youth.”
Historically, lots of decisions surrounding SRHR have been made by adults and older people, despite the fact that these decisions have a huge impact upon young people. It’s great that this year we are focusing on how SRHR services can be more tailored to young people. Even more impressive is the number of young advocates who are attending this year’s CPD.
Oftentimes there are criticisms of youth involvement in these high-level decision making processes: it can feel that we are just there in a tokenistic sense. So, it’s great to see young people facilitating sessions, contributing to discussions, and ensuring that our voices are not only heard, but also acted upon.
The morning the CPD officially began, delegates from around the globe entered the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to discuss the future of SRHR and how countries can best implement the Programme of Action (POA) that was formulated in Cairo in 1994. For the first time in recent memory, CPD was attended by the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, whose speech opened the proceedings by applauding the large number of youth delegates in attendance this year.
Given that there is clearly a great deal of work left to do in this extremely important field, there is a large amount of talk about a new stage in SRHR and development known as “ICPD+20 and beyond.” The United Nations and its member countries need to evaluate the successes and shortcomings of the POA and decide on a future direction. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is conducting a global survey to help determine what the CPD process will look like after 2014. This survey aims to find out what countries are doing to implement the POA and look at how their efforts could be improved in order to ensure all people are able to attain their sexual and reproductive health.
All of this talk is wonderful and it shows that the community is still committed to implementing the POA. However, young people want some assurance that the CPD process will not just continue for another 20 years. We want action and a sense of urgency from member states and civil society. We want real, concrete movements that will ensure that the POA is met sooner rather than later.
What is also very timely about this year’s CPD convening is that other big development programs, such as the Millennium Development Goals, are coming to the end of their term. Consequently, there is a whole new global development agenda being formulated. At this extremely important time for our world, we need to ensure that the outcome documents of this year’s CPD, and CPDs to come, are strong and will guarantee an increased focus on young people and their sexual and reproductive health and rights.