85 Countries Sign International Population Agreement on Family Planning, HIV/AIDS; U.S. Does Not Sign
Eighty-five countries on Wednesday signed a statement reaffirming commitment to reproductive health- and HIV/AIDS-related population and health goals agreed to 10 years ago at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. More than 250 world leaders -- including presidents, prime ministers and Nobel Prize winners -- endorsed the goals of ensuring a woman's right to education, health care and reproductive choices (Lederer, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/14). During the Cairo conference, 179 countries approved a plan to enhance the reproductive health and rights of women throughout the world. Targets set at the conference aim to provide family planning options and education to prevent unwanted pregnancies as a way to reduce world poverty and hunger and improve women's rights in developing countries (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 8/27). The statement approved by 85 countries on Wednesday reaffirms the commitment "to an action plan to ensure universal access to reproductive health information and services; uphold fundamental human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights; alleviate poverty; secure gender equality; and protect the environment." The statement also says that despite progress, poor nations are facing an exponential increase in HIV/AIDS, "persistent high levels" of death from pregnancy and birth complications and inadequate access to family planning, according to Reuters (Leopold, Reuters, 10/13).
Bush Administration Opposition to Statement
Despite endorsement by the entire European Union, China, Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan and more than 12 African nations, the Bush administration refused to support the statement because it mentioned upholding "sexual rights" -- a term that the administration says has no "agreed definition" in the international community, the AP/Inquirer reports. On Tuesday, Kelly Ryan, deputy assistant secretary of state, reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the "goals and objectives" of the 1994 Cairo conference, including the empowerment of women, but Ryan said the U.S. is "unable" to endorse the statement because it "goes beyond what was agreed to at Cairo," according to the AP/Inquirer. Sexual rights were first mentioned at the 1995 U.N. women's conference in Beijing where the U.S. took a leading role in drafting a platform of action -- which more than 180 countries adopted -- that stated, "The human rights of women include their rights to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence" (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/14). Since taking office, President Bush has withheld $34 million in annual funds to the United Nations Population Fund on the grounds that the group allegedly supports forced abortions in China, according to Reuters. UNFPA denies the claims and says Washington has no proof to back up the accusation (Reuters, 10/13).
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) on Wednesday in recognition of the 10th anniversary of ICPD released a statement in support of women's rights around the world, saying, "We must do more to address the needs of women, to ensure they and their children live healthy lives," according to the statement. Kerry said, as president, he would reaffirm America's "leading role" in fighting for women's rights, adding, "I will repeal burdensome restrictions on family planning, restore U.S. funding to [UNFPA] and double U.S. funding to fight AIDS." Kerry also commended the world leaders who committed their support to the goals of the Cairo conference, according to the statement (Kerry statement, 10/13).