Although delegates agree that the Cairo Conference was a success, the Conference did not succeed in meeting all of its objectives. Several important issues, including the relationship between population and development, the relationship between population and environmental issues, patterns of production and consumption, the role of the individual, the needs of specific sectors of society, and implementation and follow-up did not receive sufficient attention. Although the Programme of Action does reference each of these issues, the protracted debate on abortion and reproductive health issues served to detract attention from these important concepts.
POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT: As the title to this Conference indicates, this was supposed to be a conference on population ��and ��development. Yet, if a conference is to be judged by media attention and the number of minutes spent discussing certain issues, the Cairo Conference could have been called the Abortion Conference. So many hours were spent on paragraph 8.25, that it became almost synonmous with "abortion." Many delegates from developing countries commented that the Conference's lack of an emphasis on development will hurt them in the long run. Others complained that one issue should never have been allowed to monopolize the discussion. Nevertheless, the Programme of Action does reaffirm the right to development and there is a greater sense of awareness that the solution to population-related problems involves sustained economic growth within the context of sustainable development.
POPULATION AND ENVIRONMENT: Along similar lines, numerous delegates and NGOs complained that the Conference did not sufficiently address the relationship between population and environmental issues. During PrepCom III, the Indian delegation argued that the UN Conference on Environment and Development already addressed environmental issues and that the ICPD should focus only on population and development. Despite their objections, there is a section in Chapter III on the relationship between population and environment. Many continue to argue, however, that the treatment of issues such as excessive consumption and wasteful production patterns and the need to integrate population, environment and development issues in policies, plans and programmes, did not receive the emphasis or attention that they deserved.
LACK OF EMPHASIS ON THE NEEDS OF THE ELDERLY AND ADOLESCENTS: Delegates and NGOs alike commented that although there are sections on both the needs of the elderly and adolescents in the text, there was insufficient recognition of the fact that these are two growing segments of society. The populations of many developed countries are getting progressively older while the populations of many developing countries are getting younger. As Sweden pointed out in the closing Plenary, it would have been useful to focus on adoloscents as there will be over one billion of them in the near future.
THE RIGHTS OF THE INDIVIDUAL: During the 48th General Assembly, delegates gave their initial comments on the first draft of the Programme of Action. During that two-day debate, many delegates commented that the rights of the individual must be central to the document. In spite of this advice, the "individual" was subject to much scrutiny in Cairo. Numerous Latin American and Islamic countries tried to remove reference to the right of individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and the right of individuals to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence. Yet, one finds it hard to disagree with the right of a woman or a man to say "no." As Zimbabwe rightly pointed out, Catholic priests as individuals choose to remain celibate. Girls and women should have the right as individuals to say "no" if they want to avoid the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancy. Many participants and observers commented that the questions on the rights of individuals in the document were largely the results of religious and cultural homophobia. However, now not only does the document fail to respect the full rights of homosexual women and men, it also erodes the rights of heterosexual women and men.
IMPLEMENTATION AND FOLLOW-UP: Although there was lengthy debate on the chapters on national action, international cooperation, partnership with the non-governmental sector and follow-up to the Conference at PrepCom III, issues relating to implementation and follow-up received scant attention in Cairo. Several participants and observers commented that this was the first Conference they could remember where issues related to financial resources and means of implementation did not dominate the discussion during the final days. The Programme of Action does include reference to the need for new and additional financial resources, the target of 0.7% of GNP for ODA and the fact that countries are expected to finance up to two-thirds of the costs themselves. There are also detailed recommendations for follow-up to the Conference within the UN system. However, at the Conference, there was little dialogue on how to translate the words into action. There were no pledges of additional financial support for population and development programmes and no firm agreement on how bilateral and multilateral aid flows will be readjusted to meet the objectives of the Programme of Action.
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