Holy See: ‘Birth control is not the key to sustainable development’ – Vatican News

Nearly thirty years have passed since the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Egypt, which transformed the global approach to population and development issues, and defined a bold agenda for sustainable development.

The conference was held in the Egyptian capital from 5-13 September 1994 gathering some 20,000 delegates, and resulted in the adoption of a landmark Programme of Action (PoA), which  affirmed that inclusive sustainable development is not possible without prioritizing human rights, and addressing inequalities as well as the needs, of individual women and men.

Its ambitious goals, included the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, the achievement of universal primary education, the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, the reduction of child mortality, and the improvement of  maternal health.

Since then, there have been significant advancements in development, notably with the adoption in 2015  of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), to eliminate poverty, achieve gender equality, and secure the health and well-being of all people. The 17 global goals, known as Agenda 2030, call for collective effort across a wide range of areas – including environmental action, public health, human rights, education, and much more – to usher in a new era of development around the world.

Thirty years on, however, growing inequalities, prolonged crises and a retreat from multilateralism threaten the legacy of that landmark achievement, and progress is at risk of stagnation or even reversal.

“It is evident that numerous challenges persist, especially in the pursuit of the eradication of poverty”, noted Archbishop Gabriele Caccia the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations on Wednesday.

Speaking at an event organized in New York to mark the anniversary, the Vatican Observer lamented that over the past three decades, the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA) has become “increasingly narrow in focus,” with a “consequent shift away from addressing development issues.”

Archbishop Caccia referred specifically to the ongoing emphasis given by the United Nations’ agencies to birth control policies, including abortion, as a means to stem poverty and promote development, which has been a contentious issue since the Cairo Conference.

“The discussions have regressed with many attempting to frame population as an issue to be ‘solved’. This is clear in the push for abortion under the guise of politically correct language, making it the focus of ICPD and the implementation of its PoA”

“This is not just a harmful misunderstanding of the PoA, but of development in a wider sense”, he said. “It also leads to the erosion of respect for the sanctity of human life and the inalienable dignity of the human person.”

Concluding, Archbishop Caccia once again rejected the “notion that population control is the key to sustainable development.” Instead, he said “it is essential to guarantee that all men, women and children are afforded the opportunity to actualize their full potential.”

The Holy See has engaged extensively in United Nations negotiations on issues concerning sexual and reproductive health rights as they have emerged and evolved in a dynamic global agenda over the past three decades and has said that suggesting that reproductive health includes a right to abortion explicitly violates the language of the ICPD, and defies moral and legal standards.

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