Press Release

The Americas Reaffirm Reproductive Health Consensus

11 March 2004
Author: UNFPA

SANTIAGO, Chile -- By a nearly unanimous decision, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean today reaffirmed support for the population and reproductive health action plan adopted at Cairo ten years ago.

The United States was the only country to disagree with a declaration linking poverty eradication to greater access to services for family planning, safe motherhood and HIV/AIDS prevention.

More than 300 delegates from 40 countries in the region and their development partners gathered here for a two-day review of progress in carrying out the 20-year Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). The meeting of presiding officers of the region’s Ad Hoc Committee on Population and Development was held at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The declaration urges countries to intensify efforts to ensure that their plans to eradicate poverty include reproductive health services. It affirms that implementing the Cairo Programme is essential for the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration of September 2000.

The United States disassociated itself from the declaration, citing differences related to HIV/AIDS, adolescents and abortion. Its delegate specifically expressed regret that the declaration did not refer to abstinence. She added that the text ignores Cairo language linking adolescents’ rights to the role and responsibilities of parents.

The U.S. delegate said her Government agreed with reservations expressed by some of the region’s delegations when the Cairo Programme was adopted or at its fifth-year review in 1999, emphasizing that nothing in United Nations conference documents should be seen as promoting or supporting abortion.

However, each of the nine countries that had expressed reservations in 1994 and 1999 joined the consensus adopting today’s declaration and made a statement supporting its recommendations. For example, Nicaragua’s representative said the country “recognizes the Programme of Action as an instrument of special relevance, fruit of international consensus, that has served our country as a reference for the design of policies and laws whose principal objectives are economic growth and reduction of poverty”.

Ecuador’s delegate said his country “recognizes the rights of boys, girls and adolescents to protect their physical, psychological, cultural, personal and sexual integrity”.

Overall, about 50 speeches were made in support of today’s declaration by governments, non-governmental organizations and youth groups. Adolescents’ rights, and their access to life-saving information and services, was a major topic of discussion.

“Jamaica feels strongly about its adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health and rights and has worked assiduously to re-orient services to accommodate them,” said the country’s representative.

A 19 year-old member of a youth group representing 26 countries spoke of unfulfilled promises. “While adults, men and women, decided [in Cairo] that young people should have access to sexual and reproductive health services, many of us still don’t know that the condom could save our lives,” she said. “We demand that the governments present here do not make us wait 10 more years until we can sit in your places and make the right decision. Reaffirm and advance Cairo now!”

The declaration calls on Latin American and Caribbean countries to redouble their efforts to reduce maternal and infant deaths and illnesses by providing basic services and comprehensive reproductive health care.

Nations are urged to expand efforts to prevent and treat sexually transmitted infections, particularly HIV/AIDS, within the context of sexual and reproductive health. They should guarantee that young men and women have access to information, education and services required to develop skills to prevent HIV infection. Where possible, the text adds, nations should provide free treatments to persons with HIV/AIDS, while respecting their privacy and confidentiality.

Delegates also agreed that countries should ensure universal access to the widest possible range of family planning methods, particularly for the poorest sectors, indigenous peoples and marginalized social and ethnic groups.

Efforts to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls, especially sexual violence and abuse, should be intensified, according to the text.

The Santiago meeting is one of a series of regional reviews being held mid-way through the ICPD implementation period. Its conclusions will serve as input for the 22-26 March session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development. They will also be presented to a 29-30 June meeting of the region’s Ad Hoc Committee on Population and Development in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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UNFPA is the world’s largest multilateral source of population assistance, providing support to developing countries, at their request, to meet reproductive health needs, collect and analyse population data and to integrate population and development strategies into national, regional and global planning.

Contact Information:

Abubakar Dungus
Cell Phone: +1 (646) 226-6120

Micol Zarb

Population : 19.1 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 87%
Girls 90%

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