5th Declaration "BEIJING CALL to ACTION", October 2009 - 7th APCRSHR

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5th Declaration "BEIJING CALL to ACTION", October 2009

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5th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights
Venue: Beijing, China
Date: 17th to 20th October 2009

Theme: Working for Universal Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights: Building on the ICPD PoA and the MDGs

Objective of the Conference:

  • Provide a common platform for all stakeholders to exchange experience and discuss strategies in the reproductive health fields in Asian Pacific countries.

  • Arouse the attention from the international community to reproductive health issues, and facilitate the attainment of MDGs in the Asia and Pacific Region on schedule.

Over one quarter of the world’s people were born since the ICPD, yet even today they do not fully enjoy the guarantees of services and rights promised by 179 nations in 1994. Many adolescents remain ignorant of their reproductive and sexual rights. In some societies they are taken out of school prematurely to be thrust into marriages arranged without regard to their personal preferences. Too often they are subject to gender based violence and disrespectful treatment. Women and men continue to struggle in many societies to obtain the services that would guarantee safe childbearing and achievement of their family formation goals. The elderly remain victims of social stereotypes that relegate them to the category of “dependent” despite the continuing contributions they make to society. Their sexuality is overlooked by most programmes of reproductive and sexual health.

The Asia-Pacific community represents an intricate mosaic of cultures and religions, reflecting a full range of reproductive and sexual health and behaviour challenges. It is this region that many sexual and reproductive challenges are clearly manifested, and it is in consideration of these challenges that we representatives of civil societies, universities, parliaments, governments, donors and youth organizations have gathered for the 5th APCRSHR in Beijing.

We recognize that reproductive and sexual rights and the associated need for universal access to relevant education, social and health services are critical for the development of each individual. Reproductive rights guarantee that all couples and individuals have the basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information, education and means to do so. Sexual rights include the right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. These are crucial for achieving gender equality, and are key components of effective programs to eradicate poverty and achieve equitable sustainable development. Governments, parliaments, and civil society organizations across the Asia-Pacific region urgently need to act on these issues.  

We the participants of the 5th APCRSHR reaffirm our individual and collective commitment to collaborate to achieve the full realization of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) by 2015. We recognise that this requires the simultaneous reaffirmation to achieve the Beijing Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women, and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

We recall the outcomes of previous APCRSHR conferences in Manila (2001), Bangkok (2003), Kuala Lumpur (2005), and Hyderabad (2007), and acknowledge that progress has been made on several issues, especially the integration of population concerns into socio-economic development strategies, the adoption of laws and policies to protect women’s rights and empower women, and efforts to increase access to reproductive and sexual health services. But much remains to be done, and the need for action is urgent, particularly in the following areas:

Reproductive Health and Rights. Governments should fully recognize sexual and reproductive rights through effective education, policies and services supported by adequate budgets. To do so requires greater commitments to comprehensive family planning and health education and services. This is the most effective way to achieve the ICPD and MDG 5B targets of universal access to reproductive health by 2015. Continuing high levels of mortality surrounding pregnancy and childbirth should alert everybody to the need to include voluntary family planning, skilled birth attendance and emergency obstetric care in efforts to strengthen primary health care services. Research by WHO and other organizations has reminded us that even in countries where abortion is legal women suffer from the risks of unsafe procedures. In many countries debates about morality of abortion eclipse the commitments made to protect the health and well-being of women. While recognizing the value of traditional health practices, governments need to ensure that medications and practices provided for reproductive and sexual health are safe and effective.  In facing all these challenges governments need to ensure that poverty and lack of education are removed as barriers to services for reproductive health and safe childbearing.

Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women. Governments and civil society organizations need to increase their efforts to promote gender equality and equity through laws and policies protecting women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. They should take action to eliminate all forms of violence, trafficking and exploitation of women and girls. This will require them to address inequitable and outmoded cultural practices that stand in the way of women’s empowerment. Men and boys who challenge the patriarchal norms and laws that reproduce gender inequalities from generation to generation deserve the recognition and support. They help to establish the necessary foundations of gender equality and empowerment of women, and in doing so they create new and more socially productive roles for men.

Youth. We recognize the distinctive content of the Youth Declaration made by the youth participants to this conference and support its full implementation. We join them in urging Governments to provide universal access to non-judgmental and respectful sexual and reproductive health services including counselling. Such initiatives will be enhanced by increased resources for meaningful youth participation in decision-making processes.

Ageing Population. Though the populations of the Asia Pacific region are ageing rapidly, this is not necessarily the disaster portrayed by many observers. Older people continue to make productive contributions to their families and communities, and are in fact major carers of members of their own and younger generations. Governments have responsibilities to establish effective social welfare systems and would do well to promote self reliance of older persons by facilitating their continued participation in a full range of economic and social activities. Society in general also needs to respect the continuing sexual health needs and rights of older people, including appropriate health services. Issues of sexuality among older people should be informed by social realities rather than blind stereotypes and judgmental expectations.

Migrants. In a region of massive internal and international migration there are numerous ways in which the sexual and reproductive needs and rights of migrants are ignored or violated. Trafficking is frequently connected to sexual exploitation. Governments have attempted to control the worst aspects of this trade, but much more needs to be done. There is a need for greater international cooperation and national action to protect migrants, including well designed programmes addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of all migrants, especially those displaced by conflicts and natural disasters. In this context civil society organizations play a crucial role in advocacy and services of vulnerable people.

Climate Change. There are complex linkages between population, resource consumption, and the environmental concerns exemplified in current international discussions of climate change. These are justifiably commanding the attention of governments, and sparking debates about steps to be taken for prevention and amelioration of environmental degradation. Nations should remember the crucial contributions rights based reproductive and sexual health services can make a direct contribution to sustainable development and welfare in the face of environmental challenges from climate change. We need to avoid false and fruitless competition for ODA and national funding. These are complementary issues, not financial trade-offs.  

HIV/AIDS. While HIV/AIDS remains the single most recognised disease focus of international health collaboration its setting within sexual and reproductive health behaviours is often overlooked. We urge governments to link HIV/AIDS interventions more effectively within established programmes of primary health care and comprehensive reproductive health services as a means to strengthen efforts to prevent the transmission of HIV.  Effective programs must specifically address mother to child transmission of the virus and ensure that all people living with the virus have access to appropriate life extending medications, free from stigma and discrimination.

Resources and Partnerships. The current global economic crisis has hit developing countries particularly hard with damaging fallout for the achievement of the MDGs. They have been hit by the double blow of reduced domestic resources and failures in international development assistance. Despite the tardy recognition of reproductive and sexual health in the MDGs through the adoption of MDG 5B, there has been a lacklustre reaction by governments, donors and development institutions to the calls for predictable and long-term financing of policies and programs. We urge governments and donors to increase their official development assistance to create and support strong and sustainable reproductive and sexual health programmes.

This is not exclusively or even primarily the responsibility of governments. Civil society institutions and private enterprises play an important role both on their own and in partnerships with governments. To be effective they need adequate funding. This requires the mobilization of domestic resources and the coordination of innovations across a range of sectors including efficient use of development assistance funds.  

We strongly urge rapid response by civil society, parliamentarians, governments, donors and young people address our call to action on the unfinished agenda of the ICPD to achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015.  

Meeting in Beijing recalls the proverb that “In today’s actions, take the perspective of 1000 autumns.” In other words, the actions we begin today will determine the welfare of our region, not only tomorrow, but for the whole millennium to come. For this reason, we urge governments to act wisely and decisively.

DOWNLOAD:  5th Beijing Call to Action 2009.pdf
                      5th Beijing presented to UNPC.pdf

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