Nikzad Zangeneh, the ASAP Youth Champion from Iran reports her experience at the UNESCAP APPC.
Ministers and senior officials from 47 countries were among nearly 500 country delegates and civil society representatives attending the Sixth Asian and Pacific Population Conference (APPC) in Bangkok from 16-20 September. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) organized the Conference in cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
First of all, they reviewed progress and gaps, and identified priority actions in addressing a broad set of population-related challenges, with a view to advancing people’s rights and well-being through inclusive and equitable development.
Then after days of intense discussions, they adopted a comprehensive Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development.
The document will be the region’s input to next year’s UN General Assembly review of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which in turn will inform global consultations on development priorities succeeding the Millennium Development Goals.
The Declaration reasserts key principles of the ICPD Programme of Action, stressing States’ responsibility to protect human rights for all without distinction and to address the root causes of poverty. It calls for universal and equitable access to sexual and reproductive health services, to further reduce maternal deaths, ensure access to family planning and prevent the spread of HIV. There is a strong emphasis on promoting gender equality, including calls to end violence against women and girls and early and forced marriage.
A central focus is on the rights of young people and their needs, including comprehensive sexuality education, access to contraception including for the unmarried, education and employment opportunities.
The Asia-Pacific’s changing demographics are addressed with recommendations on countries’ need for rights-based policies that effectively respond to population aging, urbanization and migration. In the region with the most rapid pace of population aging worldwide, the Declaration calls for strengthening health and social protection systems that address the vulnerability to poverty and social isolation of older persons.
Governments adopted the Declaration by an overwhelming 38-3 vote with one abstention. Some governments recorded reservations on references in the agreement to “sexual rights” and “sexual orientation and gender identity”.
Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan were the tree countries who said no to sexual education, sexual rights and abortion. The delegates of these countries especially Iran insisted that cultural and religious attitudes and approaches of all countries have to be considered. Iranian delegates told that the term “at appropriate age” must be added to sexual education part. They also were opposed to abortion policies and the term “sexual rights”. Iranian delegates suggested the term “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” since IRI government does not recognized the term “sexual rights”.
Despite of these oppositions and the serious efforts of opponents countries to persuade other delegates, 38 countries voted yes to adopt an outcome document that recognizes Comprehensive Sexuality Education, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Sexual Rights at the 6th APPC ESCAP negotiations, for the first time in Asia Pacific History.
It is a brilliant achievement for civil society representatives, NGOs, women rights and human rights activists and all young people across the Asia.
You can read the entire set of documents used and produced in the conference here: http://www.unescapsdd.org/appc