General Assembly Sets 22 September 2014 for Special Session to Follow Up ICPD Programme of Action
The General Assembly today decided that a special session on the follow-up to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development will be held on 22 September 2014 in New York “in the most efficient and cost-effective manner”.
Adopting a resolution on the issue without a vote (document A/67/L.55), the Assembly urged all Member and observer States and observers to consider being represented at the special session at the highest political level, including Head of State or Government. The plenary meetings will feature statements by the United Nations Secretary-General, General Assembly President, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, Member States, Observer States and observers, as well as five selected representatives of non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, chosen with due regard for geographic balance.
Further, the General Assembly President is directed to draw up a list of non-governmental organizations in consultative status who may participate, as well as a list of other relevant non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, academic institutions, youth groups and others for submission to Member States for their consideration on a non-objection basis.
By the resolution, the Assembly reaffirms that the special session will be undertaken on the basis of full respect for the Programme of Action and that there will be no renegotiation of the existing agreements contained therein.
Introducing the draft resolution, Koki Muli ( Kenya) recalled that two decades ago, representatives of Member States, civil society, academics and the private sector had gathered in Cairo, Egypt, and had adopted “the most forward-looking document in the world at that time” – the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development. It had “trail-blazed” and set the stage for other international conferences, such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Programme of Action was as relevant today as it had been then. Two years ago, her delegation had facilitated the General Assembly resolution A/65/234 extending the Programme of Action and its key actions beyond 2014. That resolution had been adopted by consensus.
Similarly, Kenya had facilitated the resolution before the Assembly today, she said. The text had several strong points. First, the high-level special session will be held to coincide with the high-level segment of the general debate. That would reduce the burden on delegations. If held at another time, they would have had to come back to New York to attend the special session.
Second, Member States would have the opportunity to recommit themselves to the Programme of Action and its key actions at the highest level, just as had been done in Cairo. Third, the special session would last for eight hours, allowing more delegations to participate. Fourth, there would be participation by civil society and participation by non-governmental organizations would be based on the principle of equitable geographical representation, thus giving each region an equal chance to be represented.
Further, the Commission for Population and Development had also been given a special place in the preparations leading up to the special session, she noted. Though there would be no outcome during the high-level special session, the Commission’s forty-seventh session in 2014 should be open-ended, thus allowing all Member States to participate on an equal footing in the envisaged interactive discussion and preparations for the special session.
Explaining budgetary implications of holding the special session, the representative of the Secretariat said additional requirements of $380,800 – mainly covering the cost of interpretation and verbatim records in all six languages, as well as documentation services – would arise for biennium 2014-2015.
In explanation of position either before or after the adoption, several representatives expressed concern that, according to the resolution’s language, the participation of non-governmental and other civil society stakeholders would be considered on a “non-objection basis”, which could be interpreted to mean their participation would not be considered if an objection was raised. Many felt that the participation of such organizations, in particular those with specific expertise in such areas as family planning, must be permitted to take part in the special session, and lamented the “reluctance” on the part of some Member States to allow such participation.
The representative of the United States, speaking ahead of the resolution’s adoption, stressed that the International Conference on Population and Development, along with its reviews, provided the foundation for global efforts to provide women and young people with sexual health information and help them to realize their reproductive rights. In that respect, she underscored the role of civil society and non-governmental organizations, even those that were not accredited with the United Nations. The special session should, therefore, be open to all such organizations, as “their expertise is essential to the success of the special session”, she said. Indeed, concerns about the involvement of any organization must be addressed openly and transparently, and not behind closed doors.
The representative of the European Union said that his delegation was deeply disappointed with the reluctance shown by some Member States to ensure the full participation of civil society representatives at the special session and to provide transparency in the way that relevant non-accredited non-governmental organizations would be allowed to participate. His delegation, therefore, felt that Member States should be able to examine and challenge possible objections made by other States to the presence of civil society or specific non-governmental organizations in an open and transparent manner. “We firmly believe that maintaining a strong and open dialogue with genuine and relevant civil society groups should be a key element in the high-level discussion,” he said.
The representative of the Russian Federation stressed that, according to the resolution’s text, the participation of civil society and non-governmental organizations should be carried out without prejudice to the rules and procedures of the General Assembly.
Also speaking in explanation of position were the representatives of Mexico, Israel, Canada and Switzerland.