This article is part of a series on #CPD51, and also ARROW’s response to the absence of an outcome document from the 51st Session of Commission on Population and Development (CPD). See the first part here, second part here and ARROW’s oral statement during the event here.
The 51st Session of Commission on Population and Development (CPD) on the theme, “Sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration”, took place from 9-13 April, 2018 at the UN Headquarters in New York. After two weeks of deliberations, the session ended without an outcome document much to the disappointment of all those who worked tirelessly with the hope of a strong document to take the agenda forward.
ARROW expresses our deep regret for the lack of a resolution again this year. Although the final text was a negotiated document, with qualifiers to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), Member States were still unable to come to a consensus. The qualifier to SRHR in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action[i], was still insufficient to reach an agreement. This is disappointing because member states have agreed upon and committed to these documents in the past, and the regression is unacceptable.
Opposition to the proposed Chair’s text was also due to the sovereignty clause demanded by some of the member states. We wish to reiterate that protecting and respecting the rights of all migrants most certainly does not mean infringing upon the state’s sovereign right to determine migration policies. Respect for the international legal framework leads to enhanced respect for the individual as well as for national legislation and institutions. A rights-based approach to migration does not only benefit the individuals concerned but promotes respect for the rule of law for existing institutions and thus benefits both states and individuals.
The inability to reach a consensus for consecutive years undermines the authority of the Commission to take forward the review and implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action. This is especially crucial as we head towards the 25th year of the ICPD PoA review. We support the statement made by Tunisia on behalf of more than 30 like-minded member states on SRHR being integral to the theme of sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration and the sustainable development agenda.
This trend of not being able to reach consensus by the Member States leaves us with difficult and pertinent questions on how we can keep the ICPD and the sexual and reproductive health and rights agenda alive, and how to truly leave no one behind, if we cannot ensure the human rights of all including migrants.
Home to 60% of the world’s people, the Asia Pacific region is currently facing a historic dual demographic transition with young people forming a significant population group, and a rapid and unprecedented ageing population. Urbanisation continues as a key trend, with more than 2.1 billion urban residents, or 60 % of the world’s urban population currently residing in the Asia Pacific region. This urban growth is primarily attributed to migration from rural to urban areas. While this rapid urbanization has transformed the Asia-Pacific region, such urbanization has largely been not well planned and significant gaps exist in term of growing inequalities, lack of basic health and education services, environmental degradation and unsustainable use of resources. Over 62.1 million international migrants were residing in the Asia-Pacific region in 2017 and most of them are South-South migrants, with many of them moving within the same sub-region and specifically to neighbouring countries.
Gender and health issues permeate all aspects of migration, be it internal or international migration. SRHR of women migrant workers are subject to discriminatory regulations by both countries of origin and destination. Women and young people particularly face significant violations of their human rights throughout the migration process, from recruitment to return, through abusive practices by recruitment agents, employers and others. Women migrant workers face particular risks in this regard, especially those working in domestic work. They routinely lack access to labour and social protection, healthcare, and social safety nets. They are vulnerable to discrimination, violence and exploitation of women migrant workers, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Women and young people in the region also experience restrictions in their freedom of movement, especially when employers confiscate their passports and identity documents. Destination countries within the region in some instances require pregnancy and HIV testing, either on a yearly basis or upon renewal of contracts. Those who get pregnant or acquire a sexually transmitted infection, such as HIV, could be imprisoned or deported in certain destination countries in the region. Restrictions also exist when it comes to women migrant workers accessing abortion or contraceptives.
Given these realities of the region around sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration, and despite the setbacks encountered at the 51st session of CPD, ARROW and our partners will continue to work towards defending and fulfilling sexual and reproductive rights, and universal access to sexual and reproductive health services on the ground. We are deeply committed to continuing to work towards a just, equal, and equitable world together with member states, UN agencies, and civil society organisations.
[i] Including the outcome documents of their review conferences, including universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services