STOCKHOLM, 23 April 2014 – More than 260 parliamentarians from 134 countries started a meeting here today to renew their commitment to the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).
The 6th International Parliamentarians’ Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (IPCI/ICPD) marks the 20th anniversary of the ICPD. The conference, from 23-25 April, is expected to reaffirm the strong consensus among global parliamentarians for the importance of positioning population and development issues at the heart of the international development agenda.
At the opening ceremony, which was attended by Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Ulrika Karlsson, Chair of the Swedish All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, expressed her hope that the parliamentarians could agree that they “are all fully committed to continue to implement the ICPD Programme of Action beyond 2014 – because we see it as a milestone document that places the human being at the core of development.” She was followed by Per Westerberg, Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, who underscored the importance of the cross-party consensus on sexual and reproductive health and rights that has long existed at the Swedish Parliament, and how seriously gender equality and children’s rights are taken in Sweden.
Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, then highlighted parliamentarians’ role in positioning the human person at the centre of development. He demonstrated this by highlighting the challenges and injustices faced by an imaginary rural 11-year-old girl, standing in for the millions of girls like her across the world. “They don’t tell her story because she is invisible – too young to appear in surveys or statistics, and perhaps, like one in three children in developing countries, her birth was never registered,” he said. “Lacking this passport to protection, exercising her rights is all but impossible. She isn’t counted; she isn’t reached,” he added.
Hillevi Engström, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation, reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the Cairo Programme of Action and her vision of how parliaments and governments can support this in the future by saying: “We can start by increasing access to sexual and reproductive health. This would save lives of both mothers and children. Effective sexual and reproductive healthcare is of enormous importance for women... And it benefits the economy.”
The opening ceremony also featured a passionate speech from Baroness Jenny Tonge, President of European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, who described the paradigm shift created by the Cairo Programme of Action as a “Copernican Revolution in international development, moving from the abstract to the individual.” She also implored the parliamentarians present to “share its principle with your governments when you return home.”
The three-day event is being organized by UNFPA and the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, together with the Swedish Parliament, the Swedish All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It will feature plenary sessions, break-out sessions and visits to Swedish establishments providing sexual and reproductive health services.
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