CHOICE advocates Anna and Lisa went to the United Nations in New York City to attend the 51st Commission on Population and Development (CPD). Every year, government representatives from over 40 countries come together for a week to discuss issues around population, sexual and reproductive health and rights and youth. CHOICE has been going to the CPD for years to advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially those of young people. Watch their vlog below.
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The goal of the CPD is having a so-called outcome document. This is a document where governments commit to solving issues relating to population, and which they can be held accountable for. The governments spend the week negotiating what problems can and cannot be mentioned in the text. As youth advocates, we try to influence the governments to address the issues that we find important, such as youth health and rights, SRHR, LGBTQI+ and migrants’ rights.
Right Here, Right Now!
We were at the CPD as part of the partnership Right Here, Right Now!. This partnership is an alliance between seven NGOs and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and is implemented in 11 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin-America. Right Here, Right Now! focuses on creating sustainable, progressive policy on sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide with a specific focus on young people. At the CPD, we worked together with youth advocates from Suriname, Kenya and the Caribbean, and continuously worked together to influence our countries in the best way possible. As young people from civil society, we can be more bold in the things we demand and leave a larger impression! Therefore, young people’s engagement in advocacy is a key component of the Right Here, Right Now! alliance.
"As young people from civil society, we can be more bold in the things we demand and leave a larger impression!"
Still, as a young person, taking part in a process that is so traditionally adult-led can be pretty intimidating. There is a lot going on at the same time, with diplomats running in and out of rooms, and you never know when there will be an update on the negotiations. RHRN aims to make this process easier for young people, so that their voices are mainstreamed and they have a say in the decisions that are made over their lives.
A difficult theme
The theme of this year was ‘Sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration’. This theme made it especially hard for civil society to have an influence on the process this year, as international migration is a controversial topic in many countries right now. But the CPD is also a space to bring attention to SRHR, young people and gender equality. During this year’s discussion on the theme of migration, a lot of SRHR-related issues came to light. Refugees don’t always have good access to health services, for example. Women and girls can become vulnerable to gender-based violence during their journeys. And their host countries aren’t always willing to provide education or health support.
Making our voices heard
We didn’t only attend the conference: Anna even got the opportunity to give a speech on behalf of the Right Here, Right Now! program. We wrote the speech in collaboration with program partners from Suriname, Kenya, and the Caribbean. In her speech, Anna addressed how important it is to have abortion services available for women and girls and to eradicate stigma and criminalization. This was an important opportunity to raise the issue with the diplomats in the room, because abortion services can be critical for refugees and migrants.
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Hopes for the future
This year, we ended the week of the CPD with no outcome document. Many countries could not find the middle ground on migration issues, and so the governments came out of the Commission empty-handed. This means that there is increasing polarization between countries on the issues that are discussed during the Commission. However, we won’t stop advocating for the things we stand for! Next year, it’s the 25th anniversary of the CPD, and hopefully this will shine a new light on the urgent issues that we’re facing every day. We want more young people at the decision-making table, better access to health services, and worldwide recognition of the importance of SRHR, and we’re calling on our governments to push for it!
Psst! Did you know CHOICE has a YouTube channel? Watch all our vlogs and more (like Dutch Youth Ambassador and CHOICE badass Melodi's adress to the Commission on Population and Development) HERE.