Moving the Agenda Forward: The 49th Commission on Population and Development
Earlier this month, the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) convened for its 49th session to negotiate resolutions on strengthening the demographic evidence base for the post-2015 development agenda and the future methods of work of the Commission. The Commission closed on a high note with two fully-negotiated resolutions. This is a positive step forward given that the 48th session closed with no resolution. These resolutions provide direction for how CPD can contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, while continuing to advance the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action (PoA).
This year’s resolutions included language affirming the key role of young people, the need to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and direction on data collection and disaggregation. While the language is strong, it still does not put forward a plan to wholly fulfill sexual and reproductive health and rights:
Youth and Adolescents
In recognition of how integral young people are to the ICPD PoA, this year’s resolution calls for young people of various backgrounds to contribute to the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of strategies and policies that affect young people. Involving and engaging young people in policy development leads to policies that not only reflect the actual needs of young people but builds their capacity to be empowered and engaged citizens. Unfortunately, the resolution did not include language on the importance of investing in young people. We know that if governments invest in both policies on young people, and in youth-led organizations and individuals that young people will be able to more meaningfully contribute to strategies and policies.
As part of the resolution, governments are encouraged to collect data on girls aged 10-14. When the indicators for the 2030 Agenda were initially proposed, girls in this age range were included in the indicators for SRH&RR. However, as negotiations continued, they were dropped. Including a specific mention of them as part of this CPD resolution encourages governments to go beyond what is included in the 2030 Agenda and include information on 10-14-year-old girls in their data collection. Capturing this data will help to make clear the unique needs and experiences of girls in this age group and will ultimately lead to better and more effective policies and programming.
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Reproductive Rights
Many women in humanitarian settings want to delay pregnancy, and to do so, they need access to comprehensive reproductive health care. The resolution includes a reference to the challenges women and girls in humanitarian settings face, including reduced access to SRH services. While more action must be taken to address these challenges, it is encouraging that member states were able to agree that more attention must be paid to accessing SRH services in humanitarian settings.
The importance of advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights was recognized by many member states at CPD this year. However, like in previous CPDs, sexual rights was not included, which leaves a gap in respecting, protecting, and fulfilling all human rights.
With the theme of CPD focused on strengthening the demographic evidence base, it was important that the resolution included a reference to the collection of disaggregated qualitative data to be used for policy development. Qualitative data gets at the reasons something is happening. For example, quantitative data can tell us the number of women who want to access family planning but are not, while qualitative data can help tell us why women cannot access services. High quality, disaggregated qualitative data will be essential to reaching the target in the sustainable development goals of ensuring universal access to reproductive rights.
The resolution also includes guidance on how data should be disaggregated including by age and sex among others. Missing from the list was marital status. Disaggregating data by marital status will capture the differing needs of both married and unmarried sexually active women and will help in the creation of evidence-based policies.
The resolutions that came out of the 49th CPD provide governments with a starting point as they begin to create national implementation plans for the 2030 Agenda. While there are still key issues missing like sexual rights, the resolutions provide civil society advocates with the ammunition they need to push their governments to create and implement strong policies and programs. Ultimately, the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the advancement of the ICPD PoA are dependent on governments and civil society working together to meet the needs of citizens.