by Holly Walker
I know you’re all dying to know the outcome of the Fifth International Parliamentarians Conference on the Implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action that I blogged about last week.
Actually one of the big issues for the conference was how to more effectively communicate about these issues and connect with young people, which I think is vital and pretty apparently needed when you look at what a mouthful even the name of the conference is!
Let me see if I can translate it into better language: how are we doing at ensuring that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person can grow up to fulfil their potential all over the world? What does it mean for our planet that the human population has passed 7 billion and what do we want to do about that? When all the evidence suggests that the single best thing you can do for development and ending poverty is to education and empower young women and girls, how are we doing at that?
That’s what I was in Istanbul talking about last week. The answer to those questions really is “not enough”, especially when the conference that set this progressive programme of action in 1994 set a deadline of 2014. That’s two years away and while some progress has been made, it seems clear that the goals will not be achieved. The focus has now shifted to “IPCD beyond 2014“. The issues are no less pressing now than they were 20 years ago, but now a new generation will need to address them.
In that spirit, the conference produced a “Statement of Commitment” from the 300 or-so MPs from all around the world who were there, stating what we as Parliamentarians will do to advance this agenda. My co-delegate from New Zealand Maryan Street was on the drafting committee and did a great job of making sure the statement was as progressive as possible, staying up till the wee small hours haggling over the text.
I think it’s a pretty good statement, and I’m pleased that it talks about the need for “universal access to post abortion care, and access to safe abortion where not against the law”, “health systems that prioritize the provision of [...] modern methods of contraception, including emergency contraception”, and reaffirms the right of individuals to determine their family sizes (Paula Bennett listen up).
I left the conference having met some amazing people (especially young MPs from other countries), feeling reinvigorated about international development (which I studied in Oxford for my Master’s but haven’t worked actively on since), and hopeful that MPs from all around the world can agree and commit to such a progressive programme of action.
Nevertheless, it did leave me thinking, like so many other international agreements, where is the action? It’s one thing to bring MPs from around the world together (at no small expense) to discuss and debate these issues, but the real test is what they, and more importantly, their Governments, do about it afterwards.
This conference will feed into the process for the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development next month, and this morning we got New Zealand’s report card on how we have done at meeting our commitments to the environment in the past 20 years. The answer is, we haven’t.
17-year-old New Zealander Brittany Trilford is off to Rio to address world leaders next month (an amazing achievement which should be all over the New Zealand media). Let’s hope she can represent our generation and inspire our leaders to take real action, now, to build a better, sustainable, world. Because soon we will have run out of time for conferences and summits and programmes of action that get ignored.
Tags: Abortion, contraception, Holly Walker, ICPD, International Development, IPCI, Istanbul, maryan street, population, Reproductive health, sexual health, sustainable development, Turkey, United Nations, womens rights