Published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development
Vol. 06 No. 60
Friday, 2 July 1999
THURSDAY, 1 JULY 1999
ICPD+5 delegates heard statements by 54 high-level government officials on the review
and appraisal of implementation of the ICPD POA in morning, afternoon and evening Plenary
sessions. Representatives of UN agencies, non-governmental and intergovernmental
organizations addressed the Committee of the Whole (COW) in the morning. Delegates
conducted informal consultations and reached consensus on the remaining bracketed text
containing proposals for key actions for further POA implementation, and reconvened in the
COW to adopt a decision to submit its report to the Plenary.
Participants heard statements on the overall review and appraisal of POA implementation
by 54 high-level government officials, including one Vice-President, one Deputy Prime
Minister, 34 Ministers or Deputy Ministers, and 18 other high-level officials. Plenary
statements can be found on the Internet at:
BACKGROUND: Delegates resumed informal consultations on paragraph 1 (summary
of ICPD outcomes) and reached consensus on an amended working text, which drew from the
G-77/CHINAs formulation and incorporated proposals by the US.
The agreed text replaced the original 1 with four paragraphs, which: outline ICPD POA
objectives; stress the need for greater investment in health and education services for
all people, particularly women; emphasize gender equality and equity and address
reproductive rights; and underscore the ICPDs need to be seen as closely related to
the outcome and follow-up to other major UN conferences. Delegates agreed to amend the
text to state that ICPD objectives include, inter alia, promotion of "human
development by recognizing the interrelationships between" population and development
policies (G-77/CHINA), and to add "food security" to the list of population and
development policies and programmes (JAPAN).
On the need for greater investment in health and education services for all people,
particularly women, delegates accepted the US proposal stating that enabling "the
full and equal participation of women in civil, cultural, economic, political and social
life" is essential. On gender equality and equity and reproductive rights, they
deleted reference to the POA affirming that women should be able to control their
fertility "with methods which are not against the law." The agreed text inserts
language from POA paragraph 7.3 delineating reproductive rights. It also affirms that
"the human rights of women and the girl-child are an inalienable, integral and
indivisible part of universal human rights."
REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: Reducing Maternal Mortality and
Morbidity: On 45(e) (abortion), delegates considered a text proposed by BRAZIL on Tuesday.
Based on the G-77/CHINAs formulation, which drew from POA paragraph 8.25,
Brazils proposal: stressed that in no case should abortion be promoted as a method
of family planning; urged governments and relevant organizations to deal with the health
impact of unsafe abortion as a major health concern and reduce recourse to abortion
through expanded and improved family planning services; urged every attempt to eliminate
the need for abortion; called for provision of ready access to reliable information and
compassionate counseling; stated that any measures or changes related to abortion within
the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the
national legislative process; stressed that, in all cases, women should have access to
quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion; and called for
the prompt provision of post-abortion counseling, education and family planning services.
The Brazilian proposal also included elements of a US formulation, calling for review of
laws containing punitive measures against women who have undergone illegal abortion, and
urging health systems to train and equip health service providers and take other measures
to seek to ensure that abortion is safe and accessible in circumstances where abortion is
not against the law.
Consultations focused mainly on these two latter issues, in particular their
compatibility with the mandate given by the General Assembly in Resolution 52/188 on the
review and appraisal of POA implementation, which emphasized that existing agreements
contained in the POA should not be renegotiated. A number of delegations objected to
Brazils proposal, including EGYPT, SUDAN, SENEGAL, NICARAGUA, MOROCCO, LIBYA, QATAR,
GUATEMALA, MALTA, MALAYSIA, PAKISTAN and the HOLY SEE. They called for strict adherence to
POA paragraph 8.25 and felt that Brazils proposal contradicted the Cairo consensus
and constituted a renegotiation of POA language. MOROCCO and ARGENTINA said the proposal
constituted promotion of abortion. IRAN, POLAND, the HOLY SEE and ARGENTINA stated that it
contravened the principle of respecting countries sovereignty over their national
legislation. SENEGAL said the text was contradictory in that it respected national
legislation but called for review of national laws. He noted that the sentiment of some
people that abortion is against their religious beliefs and laws has not changed in the
five years since Cairo, and said there are means other than review of such laws, including
education and awareness, by which abortion can be eradicated. The HOLY SEE said agreed
Cairo language did not require any country to change its laws, whereas Brazils
proposal directs countries to change their existing national legislation where abortion is
illegal. He reiterated that POA implementation is the sovereign right of each country,
with full respect for their religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds.
Numerous delegations supported Brazils text, including BULGARIA, LATVIA, NAMIBIA,
SOUTH AFRICA, the EU, the US, SWITZERLAND, NORWAY, PERU, CUBA, INDIA, ZAMBIA, the RUSSIAN
FEDERATION, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, TURKEY, SRI LANKA, NEPAL, VENEZUELA, ARMENIA, ANTIGUA AND
BARBUDA, PARAGUAY and KAZAKHSTAN. Several speakers said the text furthered operational
implementation of the POA by identifying means to fulfill the objective of protecting
womens health. MEXICO argued that the text was in line with the spirit of Cairo and
Beijing, both of which respect the sovereign right of each country and consistency with
national laws and development priorities. NEW ZEALAND noted that all delegates joined an
international consensus both in Cairo and Beijing and urged that this be reflected, as the
Cairo goals cannot be implemented in isolation from other agreements. BRAZIL observed that
its proposal seemed to enjoy the support of delegates. She underscored that the text was
not re-opening POA paragraph 8.25 and said its aim was to advance POA implementation by
learning from the experiences and new findings since Cairo. She stressed that the text
should encourage countries to change punitive measures while respecting national
Chair Chowdhury suspended the meeting to conduct informal informal consultations in an
effort to find an acceptable compromise. The resulting text replaced 45(e) with three new
paragraphs. The first and second paragraphs were a reproduction of, respectively, POA
paragraphs 8.25 and 7.24. The third stated that health systems should train and equip
health service providers and take other measures to ensure that such abortion is safe, and
additional measures should be taken to safeguard womens health. Following LIBYA and
SUDANs objection to elements in the third paragraph, Chair Chowdhury once again
suspended the meeting for further informal informal consultations. PAKISTAN then presented
a new proposal of the third paragraph, which specifies that training and equipping health
service providers should be "in circumstances where abortion is not against the
law" and that the objective was to ensure that abortion is safe "and
accessible." Consensus emerged around this proposal, and the entire text was accepted
as amended. Reservations were expressed on the inclusion of "accessible"
(ARGENTINA, NICARAGUA and the HOLY SEE) and on the absence of provision for the right of
conscience of health service providers (the HOLY SEE).
With several minor amendments, delegates agreed on Thursdays "package"
text containing compromise language for 13(a) (plans to meet young peoples needs),
23(a)bis (education on population and health issues) and paragraphs 52(a), (e) and (f)
(adolescent SRH). On 33 (removing gender gaps and inequalities in the labor market)
delegates agreed to add text on instituting and enforcing legislation ensuring equal pay
for equal work "or work of equal value." Delegates also agreed to amend 51bis to
provide that UNAIDS, "in accordance with its mandate," should be "provided
with financial resources" to ensure a well-coordinated response from the UN system to
HIV/AIDS and provide support to national programmes "particularly in developing
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
The Committee of the Whole (COW) heard statements in the morning from two senior
representatives and three heads of UN specialized agencies, six NGOs and one
intergovernmental organization on the overall review and appraisal of the ICPD POA.
The COW reconvened in the evening to consider and adopt for transmission to the GA
Plenary the agreed proposals for key actions for further POA implementation
(A/S-21/2/Add.2) and the report of its work (A/S-21/AC.1/L.1).
ARGENTINA entered its reservations on, inter alia, the limited attention given in the
report to comprehensive health and investments in education, and absence of reference to
strengthening the family. He did not accept including abortion in the concept of
"reproductive health" as a service or as a method of regulating fertility.
NICARAGUA expressed its reservations to, inter alia, under-utilized methods of family
planning if they include abortion or interruption of pregnancy. With ARGENTINA, he said
gender as a term was acceptable if used in relation to both men and women and stressed
that sex education is a parental right, role and responsibility, and said this must be
Delegates decided to recommend to the Special Session the adoption of the proposals for
key actions for further POA implementation, noting the reservations expressed by Argentina
and Nicaragua, and adopted the COWs report.
UNFPA Executive Director Nafis Sadik stated that the POA was and continues to be a
historic document and added that what has been achieved in the ICPD+5 process surpasses
that. She added that she was "elated" at being able to leave this meeting with
the tools to help "fulfill our promises and goals."
Joseph Chamie, Director of the DESA Population Division, noted that, based on the
manner of the past weeks negotiations, he had changed his speech to state that,
"with due respect to the rights, duties and responsibilities of delegates and
consistent with their evolving capacities, where applicable, in matters which are not
against the law, and with new and additional resources, according to internationally
recognized standards, we in the UN agencies will do our best to serve."
The G-77/CHINA, the EU, NICARAGUA, the HOLY SEE, LIBYA and the US thanked Chair
Chowdhury for his successful stewardship of the PrepCom and the COW. Chair Chowdhury
thanked delegates, noting that the outcome had only been possible because of their
dedication and hard work, with the support of the Bureau and the Secretariat, and brought
the COW to a close at 10:30 pm.
IN THE CORRIDORS
A sense of relief and satisfaction swept through the corridors late Thursday night
following eleventh-hour agreement on the paragraph on abortion after a day of lengthy and
difficult negotiations. Earlier in the days negotiations, the hopes of many were
quashed after attempts to introduce language from the Beijing Platform for Action and the
consensus reverted to reproduction of POA language for most of the paragraph. But with
consensus on additional language calling for measures to ensure safe "and
accessible" abortion, delegates felt they had finally achieved an outcome which gave
meaningful recognition to the shift in thinking on this critical issue since Cairo.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
PLENARY: Delegates will convene at 10:00 am in the General Assembly Hall to
hear statements from 61 high-level officials on the overall review and appraisal of POA
implementation. The Plenary will also consider the reports of the Credentials Committee
and the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole, and adopt the final document of the Special