“ICPD Beyond 2014: An Opportunity to Move Beyond Cultural Relativism”

 A Statement from the Arab Caucus1 at the 47th Commission on Population and Development.

(Arabic version below)

The Arab caucus is closely monitoring the language of Arab member states during the 47th Commission on Population and Development; and so far, we find that discourses of cultural relativism and sovereignty are being used at alarming rates in this session.

Culture is a dynamic and complicated process and does not have one single meaning. More importantly, it is unacceptable to use culture as a justification to deny women and youth their rights, specifically their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Member states should in fact commit to enact and implement laws and policies that respect and protect sexual and reproductive rights for all individuals without discrimination on any grounds. This includes ensuring equal access to a comprehensive, accessible, and integrated package of sexual and reproductive health services, and the realization of universal access to comprehensive sexuality education for all adolescents and young people in and out of school. Culture also cannot be invoked in incidents of early and forced marriage, marital rape, sexual violence and violence in conflict situations, female genital mutilation, and other forms of gender-based violence, or to deny access to post-abortion health care for women.

Moreover, Arab member states must bear in mind that a developmental approach does not function as an alternative to the rights-based approach. In fact, any sustainable development model must be built on the fundamental principles of human rights, equality, non-discrimination, and social justice for all. Arab member states have responsibilities to promote, respect, protect and fulfill people’s rights to reproductive health, bodily integrity, as well as freedom from violence, as they are signatories of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Cairo Declaration: Development Challenges and Population Dynamics in a Changing Arab World. These obligations are not overridden by allegations of sovereignty.

 1. The Arab caucus consists of civil society organizations and alliances working nationally and regionally on sexual and reproductive health and rights issues and who are currently attending the CPD.

“المؤتمر الدولي للسكان والتنمية لما بعد عام 2014: فرصة لتجاوز النسبية الثقافية”

بيان من التجمع العربي1 في الدورة 47 للجنة الأمم المتحدة للسكان والتنمية.

التجمع العربي يراقب عن كثب لغة الدول العربية الأعضاء خلال الدورة 47 للجنة الأمم المتحدة للسكان والتنمية. في هذه الدورة و حتى الآن نجد أن موضوع النسبية الثقافية في الخطابات يستخدم بمعدلات مثيرة للقلق.

لا بد من الإشارة إلى أن الثقافة هي عملية ديناميكية ومعقدة  و ليس لها معنى أو مفهوم واحد. والأهم من ذلك، أنه من غير المقبول استخدام الثقافة كمبرر لحرمان المرأة والشباب من حقوقهم، وتحديداً حقوق الصحة الإنجابية والجنسية. يتعين على الدول الأعضاء الالتزام بسن وتنفيذ القوانين والسياسات التي تحترم وتحمي الحقوق الإنجابية والجنسية لجميع الأفراد دون تمييز لأي سبب من الاسباب. وهذا يشمل ضمان الوصول المتكافئ إلى مجموعة شاملة، متاحة، ومتكاملة من الخدمات التي تعنى بالصحة الإنجابية والجنسية، وإحقاق حصول جميع المراهقين والشباب على التعليم الجنسي الشامل في المدرسة وخارجها. ولا يمكن التذرع بالثقافة في حالات الزواج المبكر والزواج القسري، والاغتصاب الزوجي، والعنف الجنسي والعنف في النزاعات، وتشويه الأعضاء التناسلية للإناث (ختان الإناث)، وغيرها من أشكال العنف القائم على النوع الإجتماعي او انكار وصول النساء للخدمات الرئيسية الصحية لما بعد الإغاثة .

وبالإضافة إلى ذلك ينبغي على الدول العربية الأعضاء أن تأخذ في الاعتبار أن إتباع النهج التنموي لا يصلح كبديل للنهج القائم على الحقوق. في الواقع، يجب أن يبنى أي نموذج للتنمية المستدامة على المبادئ الأساسية لحقوق الإنسان، والمساواة، وعدم التمييز، والعدالة الاجتماعية للجميع. الدول العربية الأعضاء هم من الدول الموقعة على الاتفاقية الدولية للقضاء على جميع أشكال التمييز ضد المرأة (سيداو)، و العهد الدولي الخاص بالحقوق الاقتصادية والاجتماعية والثقافية، وإعلان القاهرة: تحديات التنمية وديناميات السكان في العالم العربي المتغير، لذلك يجب عليهم تحمل مسؤوليات تنفيذ وتعزيز واحترام وحماية حقوق الأفراد في الصحة الإنجابية والسلامة الجسدية، فضلا عن التحرر من العنف وهذه الالتزامات لا يتم تجاهلها بإدعاءات سيادية.

 ١. يتألف التجمع العربي من تحالفات تعمل وطنياٌ وإقليمياٌ في قضايا حقوق الصحة الجنسية والإنجابية والذين يحضرون حاليا لجنة السكان والتنمية.


Gender, Economic, Social and Ecological Justice for Sustainable Development: A Feminist Declaration for Post 2015

As the United Nations decides on the future course of international development Post 2015, women of all ages, identities, ethnicities, cultures and across sectors and regions, are mobilizing for gender, social, cultural, economic and ecological justice, sustainable development and inclusive peace. We seek fundamental structural and transformational changes to the current neoliberal, extractivist and exclusive development model that perpetuates inequalities of wealth, power and resources between countries, within countries and between men and women. We challenge the current security paradigm that increases investments in the military-industrial complex, which contributes to violent conflict between and within countries.

We demand a paradigm transformation from the current neoliberal economic model of development, which prioritizes profit over people, and exacerbates inequalities, war and conflict, militarism, patriarchy, environmental degradation and climate change. Instead, we call for economic models and development approaches that are firmly rooted in principles of human rights and environmental sustainability, that address inequalities between people and states, and that rebalance power relations for justice so that the result is sustained peace, equality, the autonomy of peoples, and the preservation of the planet.

This transformational shift requires the redistribution of unequal and unfair burdens on women and girls in sustaining societal wellbeing and economies, intensified in times of violence and conflict, as well as during economic and ecological crises.  It also must bring attention to the kind of growth generated and for this growth to be directed toward ensuring wellbeing and sustainability for all. It must tackle intersecting and structural drivers of inequalities, and multiple forms of discrimination based on gender, age, class, caste, race, ethnicity, place of origin, cultural or religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, health status and abilities. This involves reviewing and reforming existing laws and policies that criminalize consensual behaviors related to sexuality and reproduction.

A development model that will work for women and girls of all ages and identities must be firmly rooted in international human rights principles and obligations, including non-retrogression, progressive realization, and the Rio principles, including common but differentiated responsibilities, as well as the fulfillment of the Cairo Program of Action, the Beijing Platform for Action, and Extraterritorial Obligations of States as outlined in the Maastricht Principles. It also requires states to have ratified and implemented international human rights treaties, including on economic and social rights and women’s human rights, and multilateral environmental agreements.  Any sustainable development framework Post 2015 must aim for social inclusion and equity, human security and sustainable peace, the fulfillment of human rights for all and gender equality. It requires reviewing the current security paradigm of investing heavily in militarized peace and security; respecting the secularity of the State where this is enshrined in national norms; reversing the current model of over-consumption and production to one of sustainable consumption, production, and distribution; and ensuring a new ecological sustainability plan that applies a biosphere approach and respect for planetary boundaries and ecological sustainability.

We aim to build political commitment and to overcome financial and legal obstacles to sustainable development, peace, and the respect, protection and fulfillment of all women’s human rights. We urge the international community to address the unjust social, economic and environmental conditions that perpetuate armed conflict, violence and discrimination, the feminization of poverty, commodification of natural resources, and threats to food sovereignty that impede women and girls from becoming empowered, realizing their human rights and achieving gender equality.  Specifically, we call for:

1. Gender equality to be cross-cutting across all sustainable development goals, strategies and objectives, as well as a stand alone goal to achieve gender equality, women’s empowerment and the full realization of women’s human rights that contributes to the redistribution of the current concentration of power, wealth and resources, including information and technology. We call for an end to all forms of gender-based violence including early and forced marriages, female genital mutilation, honor killings and sexual violence, especially during and after conflict and natural disasters; an end to all forms of discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, cultural background and health status; a guarantee of women’s equal, full and effective participation at all levels of political, private and public life, leadership and decision-making, including in all peace processes; a guarantee of all women’s equal rights to land and property; a guarantee of all women’s sexual, bodily and reproductive autonomy free from stigma, discrimination and violence; and the collection of data and statistics, disaggregated by, among others, gender, age, race, ethnicity, location, disability and socio-economic status to inform the formulation, monitoring and evaluation of laws, policies and programs.

2. Any goal on education must include specific means to address the social, cultural and community practices that prevent girls, adolescents and women across the life-course from accessing and completing education and lifelong learning; create enabling environments for girls’ learning, including safety, hygiene, and mobility; achieve universal access to quality early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary education for all children and eliminate gender gaps, with a focus on transitions between primary-secondary and secondary-tertiary in order to ensure retention and completion by girls, adolescents and young people; provide formal and non-formal education for all women to be aware of and able to exercise their human rights; ensure comprehensive sexuality education programs that promote values of respect for human rights, freedom, non-discrimination, gender equality, non-violence and peace-building; implement education curricula that are gender-sensitive and eliminate gender stereotypes, sexism, racism and homophobia, and that provide teacher training to enable the delivery of un-biased, non-judgmental education

3. Any goal on health must include the achievement of the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. Health services must be integrated and comprehensive, free from violence, coercion, stigma and discrimination, and emphasize equitable access, especially for adolescents, to contraception, including emergency contraception, information on assisted reproduction, maternity care, safe abortion, prevention and treatment of STIs and prevention, treatment, care and support of HIV, as well as services for those suffering from violence and in situations of emergencies and armed conflict. All services must be accessible, affordable, acceptable and of quality.  New investments and strategies for health and the development of goals, targets and indicators must be firmly based on human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights.

4. To ensure economic justice we call for an enabling international environment for development that upholds the extra-territorial obligation of states to ensure macroeconomic and financial policies meet economic and social rights as enshrined in the Maastricht principles.  This includes development-oriented trade, fiscal, monetary and exchange rate policies, progressive tax measures, a sovereign debt workout mechanism, and ending trade and investment treaties that impoverish nations and people; challenging global intellectual property rights frameworks; eliminating harmful subsidies; boosting productive capacity through an inclusive and sustainable industrialization strategy of diversified economic sectors moving from carbon intensive to safe and environmentally sound societies; transforming the gendered division of labor and assuring the redistribution of paid and unpaid work, while ensuring decent work and a living wage for all; implementing a universal social protection floor for persons of all ages to access basic services such as health care, child and elder care, education, food, water, sanitation, energy, housing and employment; recognition and account for the value of care work and protect the rights of care workers throughout the global care chain and guarantee women’s equal access to resources; promotion of technology transfer, financing, monitoring, assessment, and research in line with the precautionary principle; increased financing for gender equality and women’s human rights and re-directing investments in the warfare industry from militarized security to human security.

5. To promote ecological justice, we call for ensuring the health of ecosystems and ecosystem services are protected and restored and that the intrinsic value of nature is recognized and respected; an end to the commodification of nature; securing safe, sustainable and just production and consumption patterns and eliminating hazardous substances and technologies; ensuring food and water sovereignty for all, paying particular attention to small holder farmers and fisher-folk, who are often women, as key economic actors whose right to use and own land and access forests, grass and waste-lands, rivers, lakes, seas and oceans should be protected through legally binding safeguards, including against land and resource grabbing; respect for the unique knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities, including peasant and coastal communities, and ensuring the right to free, prior and informed consent in any development projects that may affect the lands, territories and resources which they own, occupy or otherwise use; address the inequality, pressure and exploitation of women living in poverty within urban and rural communities, including through reversing rapid and unsustainable urbanization to prevent degradation of ecosystems and exploitation of resources that exacerbates injustice in urban, peri-urban and rural areas. Ecological justice requires a strengthened United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, fulfillment of the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States, and a clear recognition of the cultural and ecosystem losses that climate change has already failed to save- and the crises faced by small island developing states- particularly by strengthening the newly established Loss and Damage mechanism under the UNFCCC.

With regard to governance and accountability and means of implementation of the sustainable development framework, we call for a prioritization of public financing over public-private partnerships as well as transparency and accountability in both public and private actions related to sustainable development. Private sector is profit-oriented by nature and not obligated to invest in social needs and global public goods.  Today, thirty-seven of the world’s 100 largest economies are corporations. The public sector—whose crucial roles include the financing necessary for poverty eradication, meeting social needs and financing global public goods—thus remains essential for a sustainable development financing strategy.   All public budgets need to be transparent, open to public debate, gender responsive and allocate adequate resources to achieving these priorities, including through the implementation of international financial transaction taxes. We must ensure the meaningful participation of women in the design, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of the development goals, policies and programs, as well as during peace-building efforts, protect all women human rights defenders, and guarantee their safety and non persecution. There must be access to effective remedies and redress at the national level for women’s human rights violations. Monitoring and evaluation should include reporting of states on their obligations before the Universal Periodic Review, CEDAW and its Optional Protocol, and other human rights mechanisms and under multilateral environmental agreements.  Regulation, accountability and transparency of non-state actors, particularly trans-national corporations and public-private partnerships, are critical for achieving sustainable development. Justice will not be possible without effective governance mechanisms, for which it is necessary to guarantee the respect for, enforceability and justiciability of all human rights, as well as ensuring the rule of law and the full participation of civil society, in conditions of equality between men and women.

To endorse this statement write to feministspost2015@gmail.com

List of Signatories: Continue reading