Cairo and Beyond: Reproductive Rights and Culture

9 March 2004
Author: UNFPA

Statement by Agnes van Ardenne - van der Hoeven, Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation, and Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA

Today, 9 March 2004, at the conclusion of the two-day meeting, “Cairo and Beyond: Reproductive Rights and Culture”, organized by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and the Netherlands Government, we reaffirm our commitment and cooperation to implement the Programme of Action that was adopted at the International Conference of Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994.

We acknowledge that much progress has been achieved during the past decade to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality. However, challenges remain. In the next 10 years, we must speed-up the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action in order to fulfil the aspirations of women, men and adolescents worldwide for better health, education and quality of life. The Millennium Development Goals, particularly the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, cannot be achieved if sexual and reproductive health and rights are not addressed. We regard this conference as a turning point.

We pledge to break the silence and taboos on culture and religion and their relation to reproductive and sexual health and rights, and establish a permanent dialogue on these vital issues. This conference was a first start in this regard.

Reproductive and sexual health and rights should be everybody’s business. Therefore, we commit ourselves to further expand inclusive partnerships with religious and political leaders, traditional leaders, health system workers, the business community, civil society, and others, to identify and strengthen leadership on these critical global issues.

Formal and informal institutions have a key role to play in fostering dialogue among all stakeholders on reproductive rights and culture. The fulfilment of reproductive rights requires mutual understanding and commitment of both women and men.

We call on governments worldwide to redouble their political and financial commitment to reproductive and sexual health and rights, and to combating the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Education for all is needed to reduce poverty, and to empower women and girls to make their own choices. We urge all governments to ensure the widest and earliest possible access to quality basic education.

No culture can accept any form of violence against women and girls, such as female genital cutting, that denies them their human rights and dignity. We call on all governments to eradicate all gender-based violence as soon as possible.

We support the right of young people to information, including sexual education, and reproductive health services. We call upon governments to enable families, civil society and national and local institutions to provide them with these services, and to fully involve young people in the decision-making and implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action.

The promotion of reproductive and sexual health and rights and the fight against HIV/AIDS will be a priority during the Netherlands Presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2004.

Today, we announce the establishment of a virtual working place to enable us to keep on building on our efforts and to continue our conversations on reproductive rights and culture on the World Wide Web, facilitated by support of the Netherlands Government. This virtual working place will provide an open forum for the permanent exchange of practices, good and bad, and the wide variety of existing views. The report of this meeting will be posted on the web site, as will be other relevant documents by – as we hope and expect – an expanding virtual community.

On 8 March, 2005, the Netherlands Government will follow-up on this conference by organizing an international gathering focussing on the meeting of generations. Youth will be fully involved from the beginning.

The 10 actions mentioned above underline the joint commitment of the Netherlands Government and UNFPA. Both will take them into account in carrying out their respective policies and programmes

Population : 17.1 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 93%
Girls 94%