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IFPA Calls for Reproductive Health to be placed at the Heart of European Development Policy

By April 1, 2004News

– Release date: 02 April 2004

The Irish Family Planning Association has called on politicians and NGOs to set aside their hang-ups about promoting policy on reproductive health and work constructively to ensure that women throughout the world have the capacity to space and plan their children.

The call was made by the Chairperson of the Irish Family Planning Association, Niall Behan, who opened a European Conference on the role of reproductive health in development policy. The event was held today (2.04.04) in the Store House Conference Centre, Dublin 8. It was organised by the IFPA and the European Network of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

The conference represents the only event to take place in Ireland to mark ten years since the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

This Conference, which was held in Cairo, resulted in the agreement of a Programme of Action on population and development. This programme was signed by 178 countries and has an implementation timeframe of 20 years. This year marks the mid-point in this timeframe.

Signatories to the ICPD Programme of Action have committed themselves to vast improvements in the advancement of women and children through access to education, family planning and protection from violence.

According to Mr Behan, “In a recent UN Conference to mark the ten years of the ICPD Programme of Action, the Irish Government reiterated that reproductive rights are human rights and insisted that ‘national governments have a duty to respect, protect and fulfil reproductive health and rights of all individuals, especially young people’. This is a commendable statement, but responsibility for the promotion of reproductive rights extends beyond national governments. Responsibility also rests with all politicians, policy makers and NGOs who work to eliminate poverty and inequality.

“Unless all of us rise to the challenge of putting reproductive health at the heart of development policy, the appalling statistics on maternal mortality and health will persist.”

The IFPA Chairperson said that it was intolerable that we lived in a world where every single minute:

  • 380 women become pregnant however half of those women did not plan or wish for the pregnancy.
  • 110 women experience a pregnancy- related complication.
  • 100 women have an abortion – almost half are unsafe.
  • 11 people are newly infected with HIV/AIDS.
  • 1 woman dies from a pregnancy-related cause.

“The Irish Government is an important example in prioritising funding for sexual and reproductive health. While countries, such as the US, have been reducing or completely withdrawing funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Ireland’s contribution to this important fund has been increasingly steadily. This is in the face of sustained opposition from a small but vocal conservative group.

“However, the Irish Government can further show its commitment to the promotion of reproductive rights by advancing legislation in Ireland to outlaw harmful practices, such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

“Many European countries, including Britain, have now moved to enact specific legislation to outlaw the practice of FGM. It is important for Ireland to make a similar move, not just to provide women and girls with protection, but to show leadership in ending this harmful practice against women globally.”

According to the World Health Organisation, over 120 million women and girls worldwide are affected by FGM.

The IFPA also called on the Government to consider funding programmes operated by the International Planned Parenthood Federation and its affiliate organisations in developing counties. “IPPF is the leading NGO in the provision of sexual health services and the promotion of reproductive rights. Ireland is now one of the few EU member states that do not directly fund the work of IPPF. Increased funding for indigenous funding of family planning organisations in developing counties would help in achieving the objectives of the ICPD Programme of Action,” said Niall Behan.