Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for giving us the opportunity to address this assembly. The International Planned Parenthood Federation – Western Hemisphere Region is a network of 40 sexual and reproductive health organizations across North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Our Member Associations provide 19.4 million services each year. These range from sexuality education, contraceptive services, and prenatal care to HIV testing, abortion-related care, and screening for gender-based violence. We also act as advocates for sexual and reproductive rights at the local and international levels.
Our clients are women, men, and adolescents from diverse economic, cultural, and geographic backgrounds. I speak as a representative of the youth of the Latin American and Caribbean region in this, the international year of the youth. IPPF/WHR reinforces its commitment by highlighting the historically relevant unmet needs of the worlds youth.
According to the World Bank 2007 , 1.3 billion of the 1.5 billion young people aged 12-24 lived in low and middle-income countries. 42 per cent lived in poverty and many lacked access to basic health services, particularly sexual and reproductive health services, as well as to education. Over 500,000 young people are newly infected with a sexually transmitted infection each year (excluding HIV).
Universal access to reproductive health target MDG5b is central to both the ICPD and the MDGs. Few development interventions have as far reaching and profound impacts as enabling women to determine whether and when to become pregnant. Ensuring gains in reproductive health and rights is one of the most cost effective ways to empower women, accelerate development and equity, and alleviate poverty. Furthermore, it is vital that access to reproductive and sexual health services are extended to young people. In this way, these services should be youth friendly, confidential, with a gender and human rights approach and available to all.
Comprehensive sexuality education is a right that no young person should do without. The access to information and services aids a person’s development and furthers its decision-making capabilities. Furthermore, this contributes to a greater social and economic development. For this reason, it is imperative that a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum is implemented in schools and in informal education programs around the globe, with adequate resources and taught by specialized personnel.
In this context, youth participation is fundamental. Young people everywhere are working for the improvement of their surroundings. It is vital to see young people as strong actors for change, and not as a burden. Investing in them now will only help to reduce social and economic problems in the future. In this sense, young people are central to both the ICPD and the MDGs.
We need to highlight the fact that sexual and reproductive rights are human rights and should be acknowledged as such. They should be integrated into each countries’ policies and development plans in order to improve people’s health, dignity and to help social justice and development.
For all this to be met we must ensure that government recognize sexual and reproductive health issues as a priority, in particular the needs of women and youth. Investments in sexual and reproductive health and rights and youth participation have proved to be important tools in achieving the MDG’s and the ICPD CAIRO Program of Action. With the impending deadlines of the MDG’s now, more than ever, a serious investment in sexual and reproductive rights and health must be made. Civil society has already achieved remarkable success in advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights and delivering services, information and education. It is essential that civil society be given funding, the space and opportunity to work in meaningful partnership at every level with governments and UN agencies.