Twenty-five years ago, in 1994, 179 countries adopted a landmark Programme of Action during the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo, Egypt. The ICPD Programme of Action transformed the way in which the linkages between population, poverty reduction and sustainable development were addressed – by putting the rights, needs and aspirations of individual human beings at the centre of sustainable development. The 179 countries promised to strive for achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health, for all, by no later than 2015; to achieve infant mortality rates below 35 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality rates below 45 per 1,000 live births by 2015; and a 75 per cent reduction of the maternal mortality rate by 2015. In 2010, the UN General Assembly extended this promise beyond the 20-year timeframe given in the ICPD Programme of Action in order to “fully meet its goals and objectives". In 2014, the UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD) took note of the outcome documents of the regional conferences on population and development, stating that each outcome provided region-specific guidance on population and development beyond 2014 for each region that adopted the particular outcome document. In 2015, the international community also reaffirmed the commitment of putting “people, planet and prosperity” at the centre of sustainable development and leaving no one behind, when it adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And, on 1 April 2019, the UN member states adopted a Declaration during the 52nd session of the UN Commission on Population and Development that reaffirmed the importance of the ICPD Programme of Action for guiding population and development policies and programmes, within the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and pledged to undertake further actions to ensure its “full, effective and accelerated implementation”.
The future of sustainable development is directly linked to fulfilling the aspirations of adolescents and youth. Empowering the world’s 1.8 billion young people and unleashing their full potential to contribute to economic and social progress will be instrumental for bringing the vision and the promise the ICPD Programme of Action and of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to life.
Moreover, the achievement of sustainable, just and inclusive development must be based on actions that meet the needs and aspirations of all. Consequently, governments, that embraced the ICPD Programme of Action 25 years ago, and reaffirmed it in subsequent intergovernmental fora and reviews, should continue to invest in its full and accelerated implementation, and support concrete actions to that effect, within the overall context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Furthermore, to fulfil the unfinished business of the ICPD Programme of Action and enable the guarantee and respect for human rights everywhere around the world, strengthening civil society organizations and movements who have defended it and worked for its implementation is necessary and crucial. This means that those organizations, movements, institutions and individuals must be able to work freely in a safe environment, including through the active protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and human rights defenders.