Human Rights

Human Rights and the MDGs

The Cairo goal on reproductive health has been endorsed at the highest level and recognized as essential to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Now we need to move forward with confidence and consolidate our gains. Together, we must ensure that the commitment expressed in the agreement is communicated to partners and translated into solid plans, policies, laws and programmes.

UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya A. Obaid

The Millennium Declaration and the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) derived from it offer a framework for development based on principles of equity, empowerment, participation and accountability. This advances development work beyond meeting immediate community needs to recognizing basic human rights and having those rights respected and protected. Essentially, the MDGs offer an opportunity to realize basic human rights more broadly.

World Summit outcome

The importance of achieving the MDGs was reaffirmed at the highest level in September 2005 at the World Summit. At that meeting, the largest-ever gathering of world leaders also agreed to promote the rights of women more broadly by:

  • Eliminating gender inequalities in schools
  • Guaranteeing the free and equal right of women to own and inherit property
  • Ensuring equal access to reproductive health
  • Promoting women's equal access to work
  • Eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, in particular during and after armed conflicts
  • Promoting increased women's representation in government decision-making bodies

Leaders at the World Summit also advanced the cause of reproductive rights by endorsing the ICPD goal of universal access to reproductive health by 2015. Universal and equal access to reproductive health and the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women are now at the top of political agendas of all countries in the world.

The MDGs set out an ambitious but feasible agenda for development that has the potential to eliminate poverty, and dramatically improve the health and welfare of women and men throughout the developing world. They will also help less developed countries improve their social, economic and cultural human rights indicators.

In tandem with the UN system, UNFPA plays a role in assisting countries to meet all the MDGs. The Fund's work is directly related to the goals dealing with poverty reduction, gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and achieving universal primary education, with an emphasis on girls' education.

There is now consensus that advancing women's rights in general, and reproductive rights, in particular, is a necessary precondition for halving the number of people living in poverty and underpins success in achieving all the other goals. This subject is discussed in the State of World Population 2005: The Promise of Equality.