ICPD+15: Learn More

Commemorating Advances, Calling for Greater Accountability

The Center commemorates the 15 year anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), celebrating advancements for women's human rights and highlighting the ICPD's role in promoting recognition of reproductive rights as human rights.

Learn more about the Center's role in implementing the ICPD priorities, and what governments still have to do to make recognition and protection of human rights a priority.



  • ICPD+10 >
    Breaking Through: A Guide to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
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Fifteen years ago, governments came together at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo. States explicitly recognized sexual and reproductive health and decision making as human rights and set priorities for the realization of those rights.

The resulting international consensus document was agreed upon by 179 countries in 1994. Since then, the political commitments articulated within the ICPD Programme of Action (POA) have helped transform the international legal framework on reproductive rights, as well as national laws worldwide. What follows are some examples of key legal developments at both the national and international levels.


The ICPD PoA has paved the way for needed reform to advance women's reproductive rights in countries around the world.

  • In 2007, Nepal adopted an Interim Constitution that provides broad protections to women's reproductive rights by stating that women have "the right to reproductive health and other reproductive matters."
  • Reproductive health laws have been adopted in a number of countries-including Benin, Mali, and Uruguay-to ensure that sexual and reproductive health care is delivered in a manner that respects women's human rights.
  • In 2008, the Colombian Constitutional Court struck down the country's total abortion ban, citing the ICPD PoA to support its conclusion that "women's sexual and reproductive rights have finally been recognized as human rights, and, as such, they have become part of constitutional rights, which are the fundamental basis of all democratic states."


The principles of the ICPD PoA have contributed to the development of international human rights norms that protect women's reproductive rights such as:

  • Since 1995, UN treaty monitoring bodies (TMBs) have increasingly recognized that reproductive rights are firmly grounded in international human rights treaties. The TMBs have articulated protections for reproductive rights, particularly in the areas of adolescents' right to reproductive health, maternal health care, and family planning. (See CRR publication series Bringing Rights to Bear).
  • In 2003, the African Union adopted the protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) providing broad protection for African women's rights, including reproductive rights.
  • In June 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted by consensus a ground-breaking resolution on "Preventable Maternal Mortality, Morbidity and Human Rights."
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As we celebrate progress over the past 15 years, it should not be forgotten that the ICPD agenda is not negotiable; it is premised upon fundamental human rights. Governments must be held accountable for ensuring these human rights, both by the people they represent and by the international community. It is essential that we keep human rights front and center as we celebrate the ICPD at 15.

The Center is calling on national governments, activists, civil society, international and regional human rights bodies, and international donors to take the following steps towards the realization of the principles embodied in the ICPD PoA:


  • Reform laws that discriminate against women or impede women's ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • Continue to harmonize national laws addressing sexual and reproductive health and rights with evolving international standards and norms.
  • Through inclusive and transparent procedures, ensure meaningful participation of the communities most affected by laws and policies in the legislative and policy-making process. 
  • Develop effective national monitoring and accountability mechanisms to ensure that, when appropriate, public officials are subject to investigation and liability for infringing upon women's sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • Ratify international human rights treaties as a means to promote and safeguard women's sexual and reproductive health.
  • Report to TMBs regarding compliance with human rights obligations that relate to women's sexual and reproductive health and rights, including by providing disaggregated data and information on the impact of the policies and programs developed.
  • Take concrete actions to implement the concluding observations, recommendations and decisions of the international and regional human rights mechanisms.


Heighten advocacy efforts aimed at advancing women's sexual and reproductive rights by:

  • Bringing cases before national and international courts;
  • Submitting shadow letters and individual communications to UN Treaty Monitoring Bodies;
  • Engage with the Universal Periodic Review process of the Human Rights Council.


Enhance and continue the monitoring of states' compliance with international human rights obligations in the area of sexual and reproductive health, including by examining the following concerns:

  • Access to safe and legal abortion, maternal mortality
  • Access to family planning services
  • Providing evidence-based sexuality education
  • Concentrating on the reproductive rights of women living with HIV.


  • Fund national programs that enable governments to meet their international human rights obligations on sexual and reproductive rights.
  • Do not place conditions on funds that hinder governments' compliance human rights norms.
  • Allocate funding for human rights accountability mechanisms and strategies as an essential part of development packages.
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