Friday, April 26, 2013


This is it. The delegates have finally reached consensus, after a long week of confusing and often tedious negotiations. Maybe we should be a little more excited about this, but, to be very frank, we did not have much influence on what went on in the negotiation room. Every progressive statement on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) was subsequently met with much opposition of the Arab group and the African group. Especially the latter was very insistent on not having any references to anything  ‘sexual’, whatever that might mean. The most frustrating part for us was that, even though we know there are progressive African countries, conservative countries like Nigeria did the talking on behalf of the African group, without opposition. Only South Africa stood up to protect SOGI and SRHR, like they have done in the past, and we thank them for that.

But, all disappointment aside, with all the opposition we have been facing here at this CPD on migration we could not have expected a much better outcome. This morning we already knew that the co-chair from Moldova would come up with a chair’s draft. Earlier negotiations had barely resulted in any agreements on paragraphs, so the chair took the fate of this year’s resolution into his own hands and started rewriting the document in a way that all delegations could agree to it. Not the best way to reach consensus, but absolutely vital in light of the antagonism that SRHR and migration inspired. As the chair said it, ”everybody will lose some, and everybody will gain some.” With this trivial remark he expressed what we know is the end of every CPD. Indeed, we lost some:

  •              Strong language on the human rights of young and adolescent migrants … OP18quat
  •       Comprehensive sexuality education for young migrants
  •             Specific mention of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
  •        A negative addition was the inclusion of the ‘sovereignty clause’ which states that any implementation of the resolutions should be consistent with national law.

But it’s not all bad, the chair was also able to retain some language that is very important to us:
  • -          It protects a migrants right and access to sexual and reproductive health services
  • -           It specifically mentions emergency contraception, safe abortion in circumstance s where such services are not against the law
  • -          It recognizes that young migrants are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection, gender based and sexual violence, gender inequality and violations, and lack of accurate information on HIV (weak reference to CSE) and other sexually transmitted infections and access to SRHR.
  • -          It calls for services preventing and treating HIV and AIDS and further encourages member states to ‘consider’ reviewing any remaining HIV travel restrictions

It’s been a long, tedious, confusing week here at the CPD. There have been ups and downs.  Moments of joy and despair. In the words of the facilitator: “we have all worked hard to receive an equal, if not painful result.” Now we can take a breath. We didn’t get everything we wanted but we got a lot. Considering the context of the very volatile contentious issue, we can consider this a satisfactory outcome. We can be proud of ourselves, our team, and in the end, even the delegates and facilitator. CPD 46 has come to a close. Seeing the opposition against SRHR, the next years are not going to be easy for our movement. But giving up is the last thing on our mind. We will take this as a friendly warning and continue the work we have been doing to make sure our issues are represented in the broader context of the ICPD process and the post2015 development agenda. CPD, we will be back!

-Vincent & Stefan

Dazed Diplomacy

It’s the final day of the CPD and we’re far behind. To give you sense of exactly how behind we are, the commission traditionally goes through at least three readings of the text before a consensus is reached. As of this morning, the second reading has not even been completed. Furthermore, the ‘operational paragraphs’ which contain the important legislative clauses, have barely been touched. Yesterday night the negotiations lasted until 10:30pm and the delegates left the hall with a tangible sense of frustration.

The problem is two-fold. The facilitator of the negotiations from the Philippines is being incredibly inefficient. The negotiations are moving forward at a snail’s pace and tolerating long irrelevant soliloquies discussing, for instance, the exact definition of internal migration. A Brazilian delegate posed the question if her personal move from downtown to uptown Rio would be considered internal migration. Unfortunately, it was not uncommon to see such personal, or irrelevant discussions dominate the floor. It is evident to many here that the commission does not have the time or capacity to ponder such futile discussion and has resulted in this serious time-crunch. Yet some delegates can’t seem to adopt a diplomatic approach during this CPD.

Another, more drastic predicament, is the inability to find a consensus on SRHR. The commission is visibly divided about the issues. Certain delegations such as Argentina, champions of the sexual health rights, won’t budge on the language. Other delegations are united to remove any language referring to the rights. It seems that conservative delegations are grouping together SRHR, sexual rights, sexual orientation and gender identity rights, sexuality education, and anything health related to sexuality and health all under the same heading. Without these important distinctions, they emulate the important issues that requires specific, precise attention and language.  And, yet other delegations seem to be attempting to persuade the commission that treating language about SRHR is entirely irrelevant to the topic of migration...

Today is judgment day. Because time is running out, we are expecting the chair to propose their own draft to reach a consensus. This would mean we could, unfortunately, expect minimal language on SRHR. However it will be resolved, we are not losing sight of how important our work here is and continue to press on for our sexual and reproductive rights here at the CPD.  

-Vincent & Stefan

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day Four at the CPD

Time is flying here at the Commission of Population and Development. Yesterday was an important day for the host of progressive youth organizations here at the CPD because the speaker’s list opened for NGOs to give oral statements. CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality was given a speaking slot via RutgersWPF and we contributed to writing a strong statement about migration and SRHR from a youth perspective. We invite you to read it at here.

Today (Thursday) will prove to be an extremely important day in the negations room. Including language on sexuality and reproductive health rights is proving to be an uphill battle in the midst of debate largely focused on population dynamics. While a few key countries continue to strongly support this language, as expected, traditional progressive allies have become unpredictable and are positing their own migration issues higher than our fundamental human rights. 

We are currently reviewing the second round of amendments to the zero draft. It is clear that a lot of delegations are still confused about the importance or even the meaning of sexual and reproductive health rights and are in dire need of clarification and education. These issues are intrinsically linked to migration. Migrant women are, for instance, likelier to be pregnant than their non-migrant peers. Young people, because of their migrations status, often cannot access crucial youth services, such as access to contraceptives. Furthermore, the commission has previously decided that access to SRHR is fundamental human rights. We feel that this fundamental human right also covers those of us who are voluntarily or involuntary displaced from our homes. Our job  is to relay this message to the delegates who are cautiously negotiating this contentious issue.

We are currently down to the final 48 hours of the conference. These will, undoubtedly, become two very long days. If you want to follow the debate, we recommend you follow #cpd46 on twitter. We will keep you updated.

-Vincent & Stefan 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Commission on Population & Development (CPD46) – Day 1

Today is day one of the 46th session  of the Commission on Population & Development (CPD) in New York. The CPD is an important conference that has taken place every year since the 1994 International Conference on Population Development (ICPD) in Cairo. The ICPD was a milestone in the history of population development, adopting a rights based approach. 179 governments committed to providing universal access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health services and reproductive rights (SRHR) as well as delivering gender equality. During the past 19 years, the global SRHR alliance has made a series of significant victories. For instance, during last year’s CPD conference themed ‘Youth and Adolescents’ governments agreed to provide “youth-friendly” SRHR services “free of discrimination.” Step by step, governments are broadening their human rights promises and we can expect an exciting review process next year in 2014. This year, however, we have one more challenging hurdle to leap across as this year’s CPD theme is ‘Migration.’

Only one month ago, our colleagues met here at the UN for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The conference delivered promising language on ending all forms of violence against women, young women, and girls after two weeks of high tensions. Today, we find ourselves, once again, sitting in the UN building discussing the most strategic approach to tackling sensitive, yet extremely important issues. The migration theme will present several specific challenges. For example, many countries which have traditionally been strong vocal advocates of progressing SRHR issues may now become unpredictable players in the negotiations due to tense domestic migration policies back home.
Furthermore, migration is an extremely broad theme and brings up a range of implications for women, SRHR, and youth. Young migrants under the age of 29 make up half of all global migrants.  An undocumented young migrant, for example, can face many difficulties accessing crucial information and services regarding their sexual health. Moreover, marginalized migrants are often not in a position to voice their needs and address their human rights.

The Zero Draft, which is the original draft on which the negotiations will be based this week, already contains some promising language to address these issues. For example, it already urges member states to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence, discrimination, trafficking, exploitation and abuse of women and girls. It is going to be an extremely important week for the rights of all young migrants as we will struggle to give them a voice at this important international platform.

Today the plenary is in session and the member states will briefly negotiate the first paragraphs of the text. The atmosphere here outside of the negotiations hall is very mellow and calm. It has been predicted that this conference will try not to attract to much publicity because of the contentious theme and its close proximity to the CSW. How this conference will actually play out remains to be seen. We are extremely excited to get to work and will keep you updated throughout the week!

About the authors: Vincent McLeese and Stefan Hennis are both youth advocates for the Dutch based NGO CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality. CHOICE is a member of WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform. You can read more about CHOICE at  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

UN Women: what does CSW mean for Post2015

Yesterday the Acting Head of UN Women, Ms. Lakshmi Puri organized an informal discussion in Brussels on the outcome of and follow-up to the 57th session of the CSW and around the post-2015 MDG framework, post-Rio+20.

About CSW, Ms. Lakshmi highlighted the preparation before the event, including the UN System (e.g. working together with UNESCO about Comprehensive Sexuality Education), Member States (e.g. regional meetings with ministerial national machineries before CSW that allowed working not only with the vision of FA ministries but also with Gender ministries) and CSOs (that helped with conceptualizations that were successfully included in the agreed conclusions like Women’s rights defenders and survivors).

About the Conclusions, she highlighted the comprehensive definition of VAW, the inclusion of vulnerable groups and intersectionality, and the emphasis on prevention that includes equal systems and empowerment, and SRHR. UN Women wanted to include CSE and awareness raising and Human Rights of LGTB, but finally could only include the Rio and Beijing formulations of sexuality. The difficulties were around the concept of services and also the term multisectorial, but specially about cultural and national sovereignty that was solved with the language from Beijing and Viena.

What UN Women ask to CSOs is work on advocacy and knowledge including data, because opposition to women’s rights are questioning its veracity.

About Post 2015, even when some women’s organizations are questioning if we should have any goal at all because we should better look for a radical change of paradigm, UN Women thinks that we must work towards a gender goal and gender mainstream in the whole post 2015 framework, but they agree that we have to look for structural and transformative targets and indicators.

The G77 has already shown their support for a gender goal and gender mainstreaming, and UN Women has been also actively influencing the members of the HLP but they asks CSOs to intensify their advocacy efforts to gain more support.

UN Women has agreed three points:

1)      MDGs (MDG3) were a basis but not enough to be transformative, as stated in Rio;

2)      High level of ambition;

3)      Connect development, peace and security and human rights, address social protection, access to essential services, governance and accountability.

Under this, they have agreed three vectors for the goal:


2) CHOICE (economical and social empowerment, including SRHR)

3) VOICE (political participation)

UN Women will share their initial narrative on this with CSOs in the coming weeks to receive our feedback and comments.

= Joni van de Sand =