ICPD+15: The Center and the ICPD

Commemorating Advances, Calling for Greater Accountability

In celebration of the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the German government and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will co-host the forum, Global Partners in Action: NGO Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development, this September.

The forum aims to strengthen Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) working in partnership to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights for sustainable development in an uncertain and interdependent world.

The Center is proud that Nancy Northup, President, was selected to participate in this forum and that she will be joining advocates from around the world to design strategies to confront challenges to meeting the ICPD objectives in the years ahead.

We had a chance to sit down with Nancy to talk about the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA), the international consensus document articulating the political commitments of the ICPD, and find out how the Center has played a role in the implementation of this groundbreaking document.


Q&A with Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights

Q: What are some of the achievements that the Center has accomplished in relation to the ICPD Programme of Action?

A: 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. Our achievements include the following:

We have successfully brought cases to international and national courts seeking government accountability for reproductive rights violations.

  • The Center has been involved in more than 20 such cases before national and international courts, and has won significant victories in several of them.
  • Courts have found that total bans on abortion violate women's rights, as does failing to ensure that women can access those services when they are legal. They have found that failing to ensure a woman's informed consent prior to surgical sterilization violates women's enjoyment of the rights to health and to determine the number and spacing of their children.

Where courts uphold norms — and find governments accountable — we are in a better position to argue that implementation of reproductive rights is not merely the right thing to do, but something that governments must do.

The Center has worked with a variety of UN human rights mechanisms, including the treaty monitoring bodies (TMBs), to advance an understanding of human rights treaties that encompasses sexual and reproductive rights, as articulated in the ICPD.

  • The Center has submitted more than 75 communications to the TMBs during countries' periodic reviews and has organized thematic briefings to inform the committees about the situation of sexual and reproductive rights throughout the world. The TMBs have consistently expressed concern over reproductive rights violations, including neglect of women's health care needs.
  • The Center has contributed to further the advancement of sexual and reproductive rights as human rights within UNTMBs and has documented these standards in its publication, Bringing Rights to Bear, which was recently updated as a series of eight briefing papers.
  • The Center, together with national partners, has published more than a dozen human rights fact-finding reports documenting reproductive rights violations in countries around the world. These reports address various reproductive rights issues including maternal mortality, forced sterilization, violence in health care settings, denials of safe abortion, and restrictions on family planning. These fact-finding reports have been critical to advocate for changes in laws and policies to ensure women's sexual and reproductive rights.

Q: Why is it important that the Center be represented at the ICPD+15?

A: As the president of an organization that has been deeply committed to, and has been working towards the realization of, the principles adopted at the 1994 ICPD, I wish to join colleagues in developing a roadmap and strategy to further the efforts towards the achievement of the ICPD PoA. It is also a great opportunity to share and learn about groundbreaking work being done around the world to realize the ICPD PoA. I also feel that, as a legal organization working to strengthen enforceable norms and policies protecting reproductive rights, we can bring an important perspective to the discussion.


Q: How will the Center address the challenges of implementing the ICPD PoA in the United States and internationally?

A: The Center has produced a wealth of publications relating to reproductive rights globally, including on the development of reproductive rights norms within international and national courts and human rights institutions. The Center has also produced many fact-finding reports which reflect some of the challenges in the implementation of the ICPD PoA in the different regions of the world. We have also specific publications related to the progress and challenges implementing ICPD PoA and the MDGs.
Click here for a list of publications.


Q: What are two key elements that the Center feels should be prioritized in the Call to Action that will be presented to decision makers as a result of the NGO Forum in Berlin? How can the Center commit to contribute to the implementation of the NGO Action plan and the sharing of the Call to Action after the Forum?

A: Two of the items we would like prioritized are:

  1. Action to strengthen legal norms and accountability mechanisms that protect women's reproductive rights.
  2. The repeal of discriminatory laws that interfere with women's reproductive rights, including those that criminalize health care that only women need.

The Center will continue to use legal advocacy strategies to advance the goals of the ICPD PoA and the NGO Action plan. We will contribute with our strategic litigation, research and advocacy to the implementation of the priorities of the NGO Action Plan. We will work collaboratively with other NGOs and networks in advocacy activities at the national and international level to promote the implementation of the NGO Action Plan and the Call to Action. We will advocate with government delegations in New York to take into account the Call to Action. We will disseminate both outcome documents with our partners and networks in the different regions and will use our website and other advocacy tools for this purpose.