Action on sexual and reproductive health and rights critical say leaders

24 September 2014

Promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights must be at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda, global leaders said during a high-level meeting in New York on 23 September.

During a side event at the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly, participants stressed that key sustainable development goals, such as poverty eradication and ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, could not be achieved without such rights becoming a reality for everyone, everywhere. 

It was argued that the freedom to determine what happens to one’s own body and make decisions about sexuality, relationships and childbearing are fundamental facets of life. Yet far too many people, especially women and youth, are being denied these rights and are unable to fulfil their potential, resulting in an irreplaceable loss to individuals, families, communities and societies. 

The negative consequences of sexual and reproductive health and rights not being protected are widespread and often devastating, noted the participants. For example, every day 800 women and girls around the globe die from largely preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and 2100 young people aged 15-24 become infected with HIV.

Organized by the Aspen Institute, the event was attended by a number of former heads of state, including the former President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, and the former President of Malawi, Joyce Banda. They were joined by United Nations representatives as well as current ministers and heads of global nongovernmental organizations.

Several leaders shared their personal stories with the audience, highlighting their own individual reasons for supporting reproductive health and rights as a key component of sustainable development. This sharing built on the Why we Care initiative, spearheaded by the Aspen Institute, which encourages global leaders to champion global family planning. 


"Sexual and reproductive health and rights must be affirmed as a non-negotiable aspect of the post-2015 agenda."

Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland

"Even one woman dying giving life is one too many. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to get the job done."

Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi

"Why is it that something that is so fundamental to women ends up being the most controversial in the development agenda?"

Helen Clark, United Nations Development Programme Administrator

"The message from young people is clear—there is no way we can justify a new development framework that does not put young people’s issues at the centre of the agenda, including sexual and reproductive health and rights."

Samuel Kissi, Curious Minds

"We have seen it time and time again in the AIDS response. If you put rights, equality and dignity of women first you will see results."

Mahesh Mahalingam, Director, Office of the UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director