Making Universal Access to Reproductive Health a Reality

Making Universal Access to Reproductive Health a Reality

Last week, the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD) met in their 44th session to negotiate next steps on a resolution for fertility, reproductive health, and development.  The Commission helps inform the United Nations (UN) on their global efforts and provides crucial recommendations to form UN Resolutions.

MSH, with over 80 partners and advocacy organizations, sent an open letter to the delegates of the 44th session. Together, we called on the Commission on Population and Development to:

  • Reaffirm the General Assembly decision to extend the International Conference on Population and Development’s Programme of Action and the key actions for its further implementation beyond 2014, to reinvigorate efforts to meet the original principles, goals and objectives.
  • Agree on actionable and operational steps for ensuring protection of sexual and reproductive rights and access to a full range of integrated sexual and reproductive health services especially at the primary health care level: contraception and family planning; maternity care including pre-and post-natal care, emergency obstetric care, skilled birth attendance; prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV; safe legal abortion services and quality services for the management of complications arising from unsafe abortions and miscarriages.
  • Determine actionable steps to provide adolescents and young people with comprehensive sexuality education in- and out of schools and sexual and reproductive health services that respect their rights including to privacy and confidentiality, and to involve them in policy and program design.
  • Ensure gender equality and fulfillment of human rights as a necessary condition for achieving the ICPD Programme of Action and Millennium Development Goals, and actionable and operational steps for governments to make progress on achieving gender equality and on fulfilling human rights.
  • Protect individuals’ rights to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on all matters related to their sexuality and reproduction free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.
  • Insist on financial commitments from all countries to increase resources to implement these action steps.

I was able to attend some of the events and was inspired by the commitment of not only the activists and NGO implementers, but of the delegates -- they were interested in creating sustainable change.  

At the opening of the CPD session, Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), said, "We need to keep pushing to make universal access to reproductive health a reality. Investing in the health and rights of women and young people is not an expenditure; it is an investment in our future."

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the U.N. Population Fund speaking at an evening event. Photo Credit: Claudio G. Fernandes

Dr. Osotimehin echoed these thoughts in a side event “Putting Girls First” hosted by UNFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation. He said that if we put girls first there will be a transformational change. 

This change can only happen if the United Nations ensures that family planning and reproductive health issues are brought to the forefront. “Education is the basis for moving efforts further. Empowerment through education is the best investment for young girls,” said Dr. Osotimehin.

We must educate policy makers, governments, ministries of health, service providers, parents, communities, families, and beneficiaries about the critical need for family planning and reproductive health services at all levels.

MSH started as a family planning organization 40 years ago, as we celebrate our fortieth anniversary this year, we were honored to participate in this event.

Margaret Hartley is the Online Communications Associate at MSH.