Male Involvement at the 45th Commission on Population and Development

The United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD) held its 45th Session in New York in April this year. The Commission supports and monitors the implementation of the Programme of Action that was agreed upon by 179 countries at the International Population and Development Conference (ICPD) in Cairo, 1994.  The CPD’s 45th session was informed by the UN Secretary General’s report on Adolescents and Youth.

The ICPD Programme of Action recognises that every person counts, and that population is not about numbers but about people and their quality of life. Governments agreed that all human beings are entitled to a healthy and productive life without discrimination, and that promoting individual rights and dignity are paramount to economic growth and sustainable development. This compilation of universal ideals was a milestone, and the Programme outlines a shared commitment to improving the lives of all people around the world through promoting human rights and dignity, supporting family planning, sexual and reproductive health and rights, advancing gender equality, insisting on equal access to education for girls, eliminating violence against women, as well as focusing on issues relating to population and protecting the environment.

At the CPD’s 45th session, Sonke hosted an event showcasing South Africa’s commitment and innovations in engaging youth and adolescents.  This event was jointly facilitated with the National Youth Development Agency, Soul City, Lovelife, Solomon Mahlangu College, IPPF Africa Region and the South African government.  Sonke staff member,  Itumeleng Komanyane worked with the South African Mission Staff to revise the session’s resolutions on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), to include male involvement as a progressive strategy in HIV prevention and other SRHR issues. Mr Zane Dangor from the South African government highlighted South African commitments, such as supporting the role of young men and boys in supporting initiatives towards female autonomy in exercising SRHR in his statement to the Secretary General.

Civil society rallies government power

At the CPD, the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), which promotes and protects the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and young people globally, played a pivotal role in ensuring that rights-based text and ideologies were included in the negotiation sphere for the session’s resolutions. The IWHC met daily to lobby and provide rights-based text to country delegations for use in their countries’ policy, and in their resolutions from the CPD session. In addition, they utilised various social media platforms to inform the public on the negotiations at the CPD and utilised media to rally political support in specific countries resulting in influencing the CPD negotiations. It was evident that local and international collaboration between government and civil society is critical in informing negotiation processes and outcomes. Civil society is able to provide programmatic support to government-led high level negotiations.

Resolution focuses on adolescents and youth

At the end of the 45th session, the Commission adopted a resolution on adolescents and youth. Briefly, the resolution stresses that governments should make youth development a priority in all sectors.  The Commission also urged governments to protect the human rights of adolescents and youth and ensure that they have agency to decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality. Member states were also urged to enforce laws regarding the minimum legal age of consent and the minimum age for marriage (to be raised where necessary) and to improve and support opportunities for young people to gain access to productive employment through youth employment programmes. The Commission implored Governments and United Nations agencies to invest in the increased participation of young people in taking and making decisions at various levels (i.e. local, national, regional and international) on matters that affect the lives of young people globally.

By Itumeleng Komanyane