Post-2015 goals must prioritise sexual and reproductive health rights, and gender equality, UNDP Chief says

May 30, 2013

UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark spoke at the Women Deliver conference today on the importance of a renewed global development agenda giving priority to sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality, and women's empowerment.

Life has changed for the better for many girls and women since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were launched in 2001 and a 20-year action plan on sexual and reproductive health rights was agreed on in Cairo in 1994, but not for all, she said.

Progress on MDGs related to achieving gender equality and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and on reducing maternal mortality is lagging.

Some 800 women are still dying every day from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, with the poorest and the youngest women at greatest risk. Some 222 million women in developing countries want to prevent pregnancy but are not using a modern method of contraception—resulting in an estimated 80 million unplanned pregnancies a year and 20 million unsafe abortions.

“We need—in governments, legislatures, and public administrations—more people who will lead on these issues. Fundamentally, we need many more women in positions of power—and women who are prepared to use that power to advance the human development and rights of other women,” Helen Clark said.

“I’m sure that all of us here share a burning sense of injustice that many girls and women do not enjoy fundamental human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent treaties, declarations, and UN conference outcomes.”

“It is sobering indeed to see the highest death rates among the youngest mothers—among girls who did not get the chance to make other choices. Building a world where the girl child has her human rights upheld and the chance to complete her education and determine her own destiny is vital for reducing maternal mortality and for achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

“By denying that most basic sexual and reproductive right, the right to control one’s fertility, societies disempower girls and women,” she said, and this impedes development. “Countries where women have rights and opportunity denied cannot maximize their development potential—that can’t happen if half the population is not equally empowered.”

Momentum for development with equity

Global consultations on renewed development agenda beyond the 2015 MDG target date indicate strong momentum for achieving development with equity, eradicating gender inequality, and empowering women and girls, Helen Clark said.

A UN-led post-2015 consultation in Copenhagen this year on the theme of inequalities concluded that gender-based discrimination, including denial of the rights of women and girls, remains the single most widespread driver of inequality, which slows growth, worsens fragility, and weakens security for all.

“Girls and women have a right to equality under the law, to equal status and equal opportunity, and to live free from fear of violence and want. But for those who do not find the rights-based case compelling, perhaps the economic case will carry greater weight. As Hillary Clinton once said, investing in women is ‘not only the right thing to do…’s clearly the smart thing as well,’” Helen Clark said.

The High-Level Taskforce for the International Conference on Population and Development recently made detailed recommendations aimed at galvanizing political will for full implementation of the 1994 Cairo Programme of Action.

These include respecting and fulfilling sexual and reproductive rights; achieving universal access to quality sexual and reproductive health information, education, and services; ensuring universal access to comprehensive sexuality education for all young people, in and out of school; eliminating violence against girls and women; and securing universal access to critical services for all victims/survivors of gender-based violence.

Women Deliver is a global organization advocating for improved health and wellbeing for girls and women, with a focus on reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health. Its third conference drew thousands of leaders and activists to the Malaysian capital this week.

Contact information

Boaz Paldi, Tel: +1 212 991 8910

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