Passion for Progress

August 13, 2013

A passion for progress

The ICPD Beyond 2014 Regional Population Conference for Latin America was inaugurated last night in a room packed to capacity and resounding with cheers for the progress and commitment that has been made on moving towards gender equality and ending discrimination in the region.

The audience, which was several times moved to standing applause, was Presided over by the Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, his Foreign Affairs Minister Luis Almagro, Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA and Enrique V Iglesias, Secretary General of the Ibero-American Association.  

The 800 delegates representing government, civil society and youth organisations are gathered to assess regional progress towards the goals of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. In 1994 the ICPD Programme of Action fundamentally changed the framework for discussion of population and development concerns by insisting that individual rights and choices were placed at the heart of policies on population and development.  Principal among these rights was the right of individuals to freely and responsibly decide the timing and size of their family.

Consistent with the commitment of UN member states to roll forward the Programme of Action - based on an informed by a comprehensive review of progress, challenges and emerging issues - each of the speakers set out a clear commitment to the principles of equality and human rights in the context of a new time.

In a characteristically philosophical speech, President Mujica set the agenda for the following three days ‘The subjects we are facing are not new.  They are like an old wind that keeps blowing. But our times are different. We are living amidst a technical and scientific explosion with a major accumulation of capital and constant pressures on demand. Ours is a volatile and tumultuous time.’

The President continued ‘There are now brutal globalizing forces and a kind of weak governance of civilization, of which we are victims and perpetrators. In this context, we have to ask ourselves: will our children be happier? And what is happiness? I do not have a clear answer, but I know it is close to freedom.’ He then went on to linking the fundamental human need for freedom, to the need for equality and non-discrimination, because he argued ‘freedom predisposes a fundamental respect for human diversity.’

Alicia Barcera, stated that the conference was a culmination of a long process to integrate the human rights approach into development policies. While making the purpose of the conference clear, ‘We are here to consolidate the rights to women and to make the voice of Latin America and the Caribbean heard loud and clear in New York.’  The head of the Regional Economic Commission highlighted the universality of human rights in the context of development, “Our agenda is based on equality, citizenship, deepening democracy, rights for all citizens, an agenda for everyone including women - all leading to a society of well-being and happiness”.

Dr Babatunde Osotimehin as the Executive Director of UNFPA, the agency whose mandate derives from the ICPD and is tasked with leading the ICPD review, drew attention to the historic moment in which this conference is taking place and the opportunity delegates have to influence the ICPD Review and to ensure that the rights of women and young people feature in the future global development agenda.

“Promoting gender equality in a post-2015 world includes finishing the work of the Millennium Declaration.” “Unfortunately,” he stressed, “the MDGs that are most off-track are those directly linked to achieving gender equality, such as reducing maternal death and ensuring universal reproductive health and rights. This is despite overwhelming evidence that gender inequality significantly slows economic growth in both rich and poor countries.” 

He went on to urge delegates to seize the opportunity to link the ICPD review to the UN’s Post 2015 processes which he said would ‘ensure that we are truly able to put people and rights at the centre of the development agenda beyond 2015 - an essential precondition for meaningful development outcomes.’

Enrique V. Iglesias, highlighted the United Nations commitment to human rights and the common goods of humanity and the population. He said “I am proud to believe in the UN, and particularly this UN meeting.’ He continued, ‘This small planet in the universe is fragile. Who but an international organisation such as the UN could take task this on?’

Lastly, in a speech which was widely cheered Uruguay’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Luis Almagro, reaffirmed the commitment of his country with the population agenda and highlighted the range of laws that Uruguay has put in place to assure equality and tackle discrimination based on gender, sexuality and race, including recently approved law that guarantees legal, safe and free abortion.





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