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A petition to United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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CSBR joined ARROW and over 194 organisations to send a petition to the UNESCAP calling on governments to fulfil their committments to the ICPD as key to achiving the SDGs in Asia Pacific.

Text of the petition below, and PDF with full list of signatories here: Fulfilling commitments to ICPD – a key to achieving SGDs in the Asia Pacific

* * * *

January 2018

Fulfilling commitments to ICPD – a key to achieving SGDs in the Asia Pacific

We, the undersigned,[i] strongly feel that the principles and objectives of the ICPD (Cairo International Conference on Population & Development, 1994) and outcomes of sixth Asian and Pacific Population Conference (APPC)[ii] are critical to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Asia-Pacific region. The ICPD reaffirmed the importance of gender equality, equity and empowerment,sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as cornerstones to a sustainable development. [iii]

ICPD beyond 2014iv and its assessment in 2017 reiterate the continued need to fulfil the agenda especially in the Asia- Pacific Region where over 132 million women aged 15-49 years in the region still do not have adequate access to modern contraceptive methods [v] and 9.8 million young women have an unmet need for contraception [vi]. Adolescent birth rates continue to be a challenge in Oceania (62%), South Asia Region (46%) and South-East Asia Region (44%). Unsafe abortion continues to be a major factor in maternal deaths in the region; mortality due to unsafe abortion for South East Asia is estimated as 14% of all maternal deaths, and 13% for South Asia. About 2.3 million women
in the region are hospitalised annually for treatment of complications from unsafe abortion. Also, cancers of the sexual and reproductive system are a major threat for women[vii] as prevention, screening, treatment and palliative care are not implemented adequately. The ICPD beyond 2014 [viii] report also highlighted that lack of information concerning sexual and reproductive health and limited access to related services are contributing to unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions in some parts of the region.

The incidence of child marriage as well as early and forced marriage continues to persist in the region. South Asia has the highest number of child marriages because of countries such as Bangladesh (66%),
India (47%) and Nepal (41%) having high numbers of women between the ages of 20-24 years, who were married before the age of 18 years.ix There is a high out-of- pocket expenditure, unregulated privatisation of health, including unaffordable health insurance resulting in denial of health services specially to the most marginalised groups including women and young people. The region is also known for its inefficient and under-resourced (financial, human and infrastructure) health systems at
national and subnational levels that do not prioritise acceptable, available, accessible and quality SRHR.

These grim realities are a result of the lack of political commitment for gender equality, especially when it comes to women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), largely owing to the existing structural barriers including the systemic nature of patriarchy. This has led to legal frameworks in many countries that are limiting and do not ensure SRHR. In many countries plural legal systems also discriminate the access to existing SRHR provisions and further marginalise women and girls. The lack of cohesive policies across national and sub-national levels creates barriers in implementing international and regional commitments.

Women’s human rights in the region is further threatened by the rise of extremists and fundamentalists. This is in addition to already existing religious and cultural practices that are used to perpetuate harmful traditional practices such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Right to health and SRHR policies and interventions continue to have marginalised groups [x] fall through the cracks. Their marginalisation manifests through the lack of participation, decision-making, access to services including information and communication that lead to the denial of rights.

The Call

Recalling the unanimous commitments of the governments in the Asia- Pacific region to the full implementation, backed by adequate budget allocation and programme, of the ICPD PoA and the outcomes of Asian and Pacific Population conference (APPC), Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) and Sustainable Development Goals,

Realising that the development agenda of SDGs and beyond, of leaving no one behind, remains unfulfilled until the fulfilment of SRHR for all the marginalised groups including women and girls,

Acknowledging the imperativeness of UN General Assembly resolution 65/243 on the follow-up to the International Conference on Population and Development beyond 2014xi, adopted in December 2010 in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the region in their entirety,

Recognising the crucial role of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), as the regional development arm of United Nation for the Asia-Pacific Region, in
reaffirming the commitments of the Asia- Pacific UN members states and decision makers towards the implementation of ICPD PoA,

We call on the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to:

  • Lead and facilitate a robust process to create and implement a regional monitoring framework to review progress towards and persisting gaps in the implementation of ICPD beyond 2015 in the
    Asia pacific region. The review should raise issues of human rights including sexual and reproductive health and rights through an in-depth technical analysis in the region and make concrete recommendations to the member states in order to fulfil their obligations to uphold human rights including SRHR of all citizens.
  • UNESCAP Secretariat should facilitate the review process by proposing a timeline for the review process that is practical and enables adequate collection and reporting on data and other relevant information as well as for national consultative
  • Facilitate a process to ensure that the members states implement, monitor and report on SRHR holistically within the mechanisms of implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, which in this region are the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) and the Asia-Pacific Population Conferences (APPC)
  • Work with champions, including those from rights-based civil society groups, including community and progressive media organisations that can ensure the advancement of the ICPD
    agenda in a holistic manner.
  • Urge the member states to utilise constitutional and other legislative provisions to provide opportunities for women’s participation on all decision-making structures at all levels to realise and fulfil women’s human rights.
  • Provide technical support to the members states in collaboration with other UN entities such as UNFPA to ensure adequate financial, human and infrastructural resources towards implementing health policies, which ensures highest attainable standard of physical and mental health for all
    including their SRHR.
  • In order to achieve the above, regulation of the private health sector to provide acceptable, affordable, accessible, quality health services and ensure dignity and respect, privacy and
  • Ensure that marginalised groups and their access to health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights is at the centre of UNESCAP facilitated dialogues ad processes so that No One
    is Left Behind.



[i] Civil Society Organisations, thought leaders and human rights defenders and activists from the Asia and the Pacific and Globally


[iii] Principles 1, 4 and 8 within the Programme of Action of the ICPD

[iv] Resolution 65/243 adopted by the General Assembly in December 2010

[v] Facts and trends in sexual and reproductive health in Asia and the Pacific, UNESCAP, November 2013.

[vi] Darroch JE et al., Adding it Up: Costs and Benefits of Meeting the Contraceptive Needs of Adolescents, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2016.



[ix] Laoiza, Edilberto, and Sylvia Wong. Marrying too Young: End Child Marriage. New York: United Nations Population Fund, 2012. Accessed September 13, 2016.

[x] Including young people, poor and rural women, female migrants, refugees and internally displaced, LGBTIQ, women with disabilities, indigenous women, religious and ethnic minorities and elderly women


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