DAWN at CPD 49: Meeting the SRHR of all people: Advancing the Montevideo Consensus agenda

Source: DAWN

Chair: Kumudini Samuel, DAWN (Sri Lanka)

• Cecilia Stapff, Representative of the Uruguayan Delegation for CPD (Uruguay)
• Julia Terborg, Center for People’s Devt (Suriname)
• Oriana Lopez, RESURJ (Mexico)
• Cai Yiping, DAWN (China)

The Permanent Mission of Uruguay and DAWN co-sponsored a side event at the 49th session of UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD49) on the 14th of April 2016.  The event was held in Conference Room 9 at the UN Headquarters and discussed “Meeting the SRHR of all people: Advancing the Montevideo Consensus Agenda”.  It addressed the implementation challenges raised during discussions at the CPD, and explored how advances can be made to respect, protect and fulfill sexual and reproductive rights as a core component of human rights with reference to the Montevideo Consensus adopted by the governments of the Latin America and Caribbean region at the First Regional Conference on Population in August 2013 in Montevideo Uruguay.  The panelists also discussed the Operational guide to facilitate the implementation and monitoring of the Montevideo Consensus which was developed in October 2015, at the Second Regional Conference held in Mexico City.
In her opening comments Kumudini Samuel noted that the Montevideo Consensus is recognized as the most progressive agreement on advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all peoples since the ICPD Programme of Action of 1994.  She noted some of the ambitious commitments of the Montevideo Consensus related to the interdependence of development and human rights; the progressive definition of sexual rights; the recognition of the right to safe abortion and the reproductive rights of adolescents and youth, including their right to access comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services.  She hoped that the political will expressed around the Montevideo Consensus and its operational guide by countries in Latin America and the Caribbean will be an encouragement to all other regions to progress the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA) to the highest possible goals more ambitiously.
Cecilia Stapff from the Uruguay official delegation at CPD reflected on the process of arriving at the Montevideo Consensus speaking from her experience of participating at the first meeting of the Regional Conference on Population and Development in Montevideo as a Technical Advisor who has accompanied the process into the second regional meeting in Mexico City in 2015.  As an active participant from Uruguay in the entire process she presented an overview of the Montevideo Consensus and its Operational Guide.
Oriana Lopez, deputy director of “Balance” and member of RESURJ, currently on the Mexican delegation to CPD 49, is a feminist advocate for sexual and reproductive rights of young people and women at the national, regional and international levels. She reflected on her experience of active participation in all the stages of the ICPD review beyond 2014 and her work towards the Montevideo Consensus.  Oriana stressed that the Montevideo Consensus and its Operative Guidelines were not merely technical instruments but were political frameworks crafted with input from feminists and civil society representatives from across the region.  She argued strongly that the Consensus was more ambitious than the 2030 Agenda and that it must be a critical basis for the commitments made by Latin American and Caribbean states in relation to all aspects of the 2030 Agenda.  Speaking specifically on SRHR concerns she reiterated strongly that SRHR is an issue of social justice and focused on the Montevideo Consensus definition of sexual rights and in particular its commitment to safe abortion services.  She called for a review of laws relating to abortion and discussed the need for review and revision where laws were restrictive with regard to abortion.  She also spoke critically of challenges in implementation, dwelling particularly on the lack of sufficient funding for operationalizing the Montevideo Consensus.  Looking ahead she asked that States in the region further elaborate and articulate the Consensus and think of creative ways to ensure its implementation.
Julia Terborg, an official delegate from the Suriname delegation at CPD, a sociologist and a SRHR activist in particular in the area of monitoring the ICPD PoA  and a longstanding member of the Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network reflected on her experience at country level.  She spoke on the work done with regard to the implementation of the ICPD PoA in Suriname and the engagement with Latin American colleagues on the Montevideo Consensus.  She shared her thoughts on the challenges and advances with respect to the implementation of this consensus. She began by reflecting on the experiences of civil society with the monitoring of the ICPD PoA and how this impacted positively on Suriname’s position on the Montevideo consensus as one of the countries in the Caribbean which has been most progressive on it.  She spoke of the close collaboration with the women’s health movement in the region, and the production of country reports which were the basis of educating and raising awareness among both government and the general public on the comprehensive issue of SRHR, and strengthening linkages with other activists working in the areas of gender equality and human rights. She noted this created opportunities for civil society to be included in national delegations to the high level UN and other intergovernmental regional meetings, in particular to CPD and CSW (Commission on Status of Women).
She focused on new challenges in the monitoring of the Montevideo Consensus that dealt with the lack of national structures and mechanisms for effective monitoring hamstrung by a weak government that is constantly faced with increasing economic challenges.  She spoke of the rise of conservative forces and the spread of disinformation on the Montevideo Consensus; emerging challenges for monitoring sexual trafficking and sex work in the gold mines and less visible forms of sexual exploitation of women and girls through internet, social media and modern cellphone and video technology.  As in Latin America she reiterated the challenge posed by declining financial resources which had significant consequences and repercussions for their work.
Cai Yiping, from the DAWN Executive Committee member from China shared her reflection on why this document is important, not only for LAC region, but also for other regions and globally, and what we can learn from the Montevideo Consensus and its process. She stressed that this document set up a comprehensive, human rights-based framework to achieve gender equality and women’s human rights with the focus on the action and implementation, linking the ICPD PoA, The Beijing Platform for Action at Fourth World Conference on Women, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The only way to close the gap in implementation of ICPD PoA is to take action with a clear roadmap, from laws and policies to national action plans and adequate investment – monitored and reviewed with appropriate indicators and with strong institutional support. Agenda 2030, as well as the ICPD PoA agreed more than twenty years ago, are a common minimum floor. Governments should be free to implement higher and more ambitious targets. In this context, achievements and commitments made in the previous review process and regional level should be not undermined. Therefore, there is a need to strongly reaffirm these commitments and build future actions and policies on this foundation in order to move forward.
The panel generated a rich discussion on how to strengthen the Montevideo Consensus in the region and how to continue to develop the Operative Guidelines, particularly indicators.  Participating in the discussion were activists and advocates as well as State officials from Brazil, Columbia, Uruguay, Mexico, Jamaica and Suriname.  There was a strong plea to ensure that States align commitments to the ICPD and Agenda 2030 with the Montevideo Consensus as well as with treaty related obligations. There was a reiteration that the Montevideo commitments and indicators were far more progressive than those articulated in the 2030 Agenda and that the region must strive to ensure that these commitments were progressed.  There was also a call for the continued strong engagement of feminists and CSOs in the rebates around the Operative Guidelines and indicators and a strong commitment from CSOs and feminists to continue to work together in the region to further the implementation of the Montevideo Consensus.

CPD 49 Calls for Data Improvements to Strengthen the Implementation of the Cairo POA and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development