4th Declaration "An Open Letter to Our Governments", Hyderabad, India, 2007 - 7th APCRSHR

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4th Declaration "An Open Letter to Our Governments", Hyderabad, India, 2007

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4th Asia-Pacific Conference of Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights
Venue: Hyderabad, India
Date: October 29-31, 2007


The objectives of the conference:

  • Enhancing understanding of the elements and principles for rights-based programming on sexual and reproductive health in the Asia Pacific region.

  • Developing newer discourses to inform future research and programming to address sexual and reproductive health needs from the perspective of young people, including adolescents.

  • Engaging multiple stakeholders in advocacy to reinforce the centrality of sexual and reproductive health for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

To the leaders of the countries of Asia and the Pacific
[Specifically addressed to the members of government and civil society organizations with responsibility for reproductive and sexual health in the country of the participant]

I have recently joined with colleagues from across the region in Hyderabad, India for the 4th Asia and Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and rights. This meeting undertook a review of the progress our region has made in fulfilling the promises and challenges of achieving full reproductive and sexual health and rights.

The human rights promises of the 1994 ICPD Programme of Action on Population and Development, the commitments to gender equality from the 1995 Beijing Declaration on gender equality, and the practical adoption of indicators for the Millennium Development Goals have all been commitments accepted by virtually all the governments of our region. These promises have been reiterated in numerous regional and national meetings. The NGO fora organised at these meetings have proven to be excellent platforms wherein the civil society committed and recommitted itself to these promises.

We are disappointed in our failure to live up to the many commitments made over the past two decades, and grievously saddened by the millions of women and men who continue to suffer from entirely preventable maladies

In 1987 governments and NGOs met in Nairobi to call for an end to the 570,000 global and 332,100 Asia and Pacific annual maternal deaths caused by women’s lack of access to contraception, skilled birth assistance, safe abortion, nutrition and respect. Today we see that there are still 242,910 maternal deaths in our region annually, a small decline in comparison with our expectations. Across Asia and the Pacific large numbers of women are still denied access to contraception and safe abortion services either through their poverty, or the barriers erected against comprehensive reproductive and sexual health services. Some countries have made progress in addressing gender based violence, and some have worked hard to reduce the harm of unsafe abortion by ensuring women have access to contraception and high quality methods of safe abortion. But progress is too slow and the cost of this continuing failure is too high.

Too many of the girls born in 1987 on the dawn of the Safe Motherhood commitments are today facing the same terrible threats to life and wellbeing that their mothers suffered two decades ago. Young people of the region and the children born today deserve better. They must have access to sexual and reproductive health services that can preserve their lives, irrespective of their poverty or marital status. This is their right. This is our responsibility.

As agents of change we feel that a much greater drive and acceleration of efforts is needed by all of us to save the lives of women and men living in resource poor settings. We would like to reiterate here that poverty today has moved from its earlier definition that encompassed only economic parameters. Today social poverty inhibits and constrains access to already scarce development resources by young people, by people living with HIV and AIDS, by women seeking safe abortion and all people living in vulnerable circumstances irrespective of their economic status.

Today, young people face significant barriers to sexual reproductive health information, resources and services. In some countries, young people represent half of all new HIV infections. Programmes and policies have not proven effective to stop or even decrease the problems related to sexual and reproductive health and rights.  These must be re-assessed and that reassessment should include the meaningful involvement of young people. It is essential that young women and men have access to age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education that is evidence-based and non-judgmental. Young people must be recognized as autonomous individuals who have the right to make decisions regarding their own lives. In addition, HIV prevention programmes need to be carried out for all, regardless of their gender and sexuality.

The practical commitment of governments to recognize the human rights of their citizens can make a difference. The technologies are available to achieve a revolution in reproductive and sexual health but programs need resources which are not beyond the scope of national budgets as the benefits of investment in reproductive health are far greater than the costs involved. This needs to be done through an urgent transformation of budget priorities in favour of health, education and development of women and men. Of course budget decisions alone will not solve the problems.

As leaders, we will work with our governments so that we can make a very practical difference to catalyse the legal, programmatic and budgetary reforms that are required to make reproductive and sexual health services accessible to all. The expenditure of funds needs to be carried out in an institutional structure that facilitates efficient action. Today too many governments remain shackled by external pressures, outmoded laws and regulatory structures undermining reproductive health. At the core is the need to recognize reproductive rights including the right of all people to accurate sexual and reproductive health information appropriate to their stage of life and the right of women to make decisions on their own reproductive lives in a context of safety and social support. Integrated responses to HIV and AIDS and reproductive and sexual health are required to realize these rights. We require urgent action now to turn the rights that governments have recognized in conventions and treaties into reality in the lives of all citizens.

As we leave this conference with a spirit of constructive partnership, we are committed to hold ourselves accountable for the reproductive and sexual health responsibilities we have agreed to shoulder. As a group we will support the effective monitoring of significant allocations of development resources whether they are managed by governments or the civil society in the region and report progress to the next meeting, to be held in China in 2009. As individual researchers, service providers, activists and youth representatives in our nations and across the region we will commit our skills to the mobilization of our colleagues to form effective partnerships, in the belief that the whole of civil society needs to be alert to the actions of governments in reproductive and sexual health. This is the time for governments to make the total commitment to reproductive and sexual health. We stand committed to work with governments to take up an active policy of programmatic integration as well as legal and budgetary reform.

Signed by
[Participant’s name]

DOWNLOAD:4th Open letter Hyderabad 2007.pdf

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