ICPD+15: Advancing Human Rights Worldwide

Commemorating Advances, Calling for Greater Accountability

This September, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) celebrated its 15th anniversary. The Center applauds this momentous occasion and is proud that Nancy Northup, President, was selected to participate in the NGO Forum to commemorate the anniversary. Nancy joined advocates from around the world to design strategies to confront challenges to meeting the ICPD objectives in the years ahead.

The event concluded with a call to action to review global progress in meeting sexual and reproductive health and rights goals. Nancy issued the following statement in response to the event:

"Fifteen years ago, world leaders recognized that reproductive rights are human rights and promised to take real steps to address the reproductive health needs of women. Some progress has certainly been made. Today, more countries include access to reproductive healthcare and the reduction of maternal mortality in their national policy agendas.

"Still-progress has been slow. Women around the world are robbed daily of their ability to make healthy decisions about their reproductive lives and to obtain safe reproductive services. Unacceptable numbers still die during childbirth and pregnancy-although almost all of these deaths are preventable. Unsafe abortion kills nearly 70,000 women every year-even in countries where the medical service is legal. And millions of people have no access to contraception-exposing countless numbers to disease and driving already struggling families further into poverty.

"ICPD's key priorities are premised upon fundamental human rights and are thus not up for negotiation. Governments must be held accountable. Governments made a promise to women around the world -- it's past time that they kept it."

Read Nancy's full statement and the calls to action >


In 1994, governments from around the world came together for the ICPD in Cairo and taking a groundbreaking step, they explicitly recognized sexual and reproductive health and decision making as human rights. At the Conference, 179 countries agreed to the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA) setting priorities for the realization of sexual and reproductive rights.

Since then, the PoA has helped transform the international legal framework, as well as national laws, on reproductive rights worldwide. Nevertheless, as statistics reveal, women's reproductive rights have yet to be fully realized. Advocates for reproductive rights face significant challenges as they seek implementation and enforcement of protective laws and work toward reform of discriminatory laws.

Over the past 15 years, the Center has sought to ensure that the principles and actions articulated in the ICPD PoA are understood to create legal obligations for governments. Through its litigation, research, and advocacy, the Center has strengthened laws and policies in more than 50 countries, thus contributing to the implementation of the ICPD PoA.


In the ICPD plan, governments committed to make reproductive health services accessible to all women including: access to family planning, maternal healthcare, sex education, and safe abortion services. Fifteen years later, it’s all too clear that the world—and the United States— have fallen short in fulfilling its promises.

Send a message to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to reestablish the U.S. as a champion of women's rights by publicly endorsing the ICPD plan and implementing its priorities at home and abroad TODAY!

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