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NGO Forum in Berlin Marks 15th Anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), hosted “Global Partners in Action: NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development.” The forum, held on September 2–4,  marked the 15th anniversary of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). Participants from around the world gathered in Berlin to take stock of the progress made in advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) since the ICPD in 1994; most were representatives from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), while others came on behalf of the UNFPA, the United Nations Development Programme and other international organizations. Forum organizers sought to highlight and encourage participation by representatives of the global South as well as youth populations.[i] 

Those in attendance evaluated progress made in attaining the goals outlined in the groundbreaking 1994 ICPD. Representatives from 179 nations reached the “Cairo Consensus,” at the ICPD, the first international agreement to recognize SRHR as both fundamental components to realizing human rights and interconnected to sustainable economic and environmental development. The ICPD produced an extensive 20 year Programme of Action documenting specific objectives to be achieved by 2015.[ii]  
 
Despite the many hopes which emerged at the ICPD, fifteen years later the prevailing assessment was dismal. Helen Clark, UN Under Secretary, remarked that while there have been some achievements, progress has been “slow and hard.”[iii] One setback noted during the conference was the U.S. response to the international HIV/AIDS epidemic, which promoted failed abstinence-until-marriage approaches over more comprehensive and evidence-based policies and programs.[iv]
 
In addition to policy and programmatic challenges, securing adequate funding has proven to be a significant hurdle to achieving the critical SRHR related goals. Gil Greer, director general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, reported that “between 1994 and 2008, funding for reproductive health as a proportion of [total] health aid has dropped from 30 to 12 percent.”[v] Meanwhile, the UNFPA reports that increasingly funds designated for SRHR are being directed specifically toward addressing HIV/AIDS, and away from other sexual and reproductive health needs, such as family planning.[vi]
 
Attendees in Berlin also discussed progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which built on much of what was accomplished at ICPD. The MDGs include a reduction of maternal mortality through universal access to reproductive health by 2015.[vii]   
 
With just six years remaining until the projected target date for the goals outlined in the Programme of Action as well as the Millennium Development Goals, speakers at the conference urged more aggressive action on the part of advocates. In concluding remarks, speakers called for “public demonstrations to command attention, to promote open discussion of sexual behaviour, and to insist upon scaling up successful programmes of voluntary family planning, comprehensive sex education and maternal and newborn health care.”[viii] Participants also called for increased funding to support the realization of these objectives.
 
The Forum concluded with the ‘Berlin Clarion Call,’ appealing to “representatives of governments from both the North and the South, and to representatives of the United Nations, the World Bank and regional development banks, religious communities, parliaments, non-governmental organizations, businesses and trade unions” to take the steps necessary to overcome the challenges related to SRHR.[ix]

A Final Report from the organizers of the Forum should be available before the year’s end.[x]

 

Click here to view all October 2009 Policy Updates

 


[i] “ICPD at 15 Forum: ‘Global Partners in Action: NGO Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development,’” UNFPA, accessed 7 October 2009, <http://www.unfpa.org/public/site/global/lang/en/pid/2094>.
[ii] “From the Cairo Consensus to the Berlin Call,” DAWN Media Group, (4 September 2009), accessed 7 October 2009, <http://www.dawnnews.net/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/02-from-cairo-consensus-to-berlin-call-01>.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] “NGO Forum Closing Promises New Action on Women's Health and Rights,” UNFPA, (9 September 2009), accessed 7 October 2009, <http://www.unfpa.org/public/cache/offonce/News/pid/3701>.
[v] ”From the Cairo Consensus.”
[vi] “NGO Forum Closing Promises New Action on Women's Health and Rights,” UNFPA, (9 September 2009), accessed 7 October 2009, <http://www.unfpa.org/public/cache/offonce/News/pid/3701>.
[vii] Programme,” Global Partners in Action: NGO Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development, (1 September 2009), accessed 11 November 2009, <http://www.globalngoforum.de/fileadmin/templates/downloads_conference_programme/Programme_english.pdf>.
[viii] “Forum promises new action on women’s health and rights,” afrol News, (4 September 2009), accessed 4 November 2009, < http://www.afrol.com/articles/34087>
[ix] “Berlin Clarion Call: The Spirit of Cairo Lives On,” German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development,” (2 September 2009), accessed 7 October 2009, <http://www.germanyandafrica.diplo.de/Vertretung/pretoria__dz/en/__PR/2009__PR/09/Berlin__Call,property=Daten.pdf>.
[x] “Home- Global Partners in Action: NGO Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development,” UNFPA and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, accessed 13 October 13, 2009, <http://www.globalngoforum.de/home/>. 
 

 

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