The year since the High-Level Commission on Follow-up to ICPD25 published its first report, No Exceptions, No Exclusions: Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice for All, aptly illustrated the centrality of sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice to the well-being of humanity. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the harm caused by the failure of many governments to craft a gender-responsive response. This has undermined sexual and reproductive health and rights through the restriction and disruption of services deemed non-essential, unequal access to digital technology, and structural barriers to care faced by diverse women, adolescents, people with disabilities, people with low incomes, refugees and people of various origins. sexual orientation and gender identity. Financial insecurity, lockdowns and limited health, social and legal services have allowed gender-based violence to proliferate. Many governments have been reluctant to enact additional protections for victims and survivors.
New variants of COVID-19 now suggest the virus will continue to spread even as violations of sexual and reproductive rights persist in many parts of the world. Another threat and evidence of a lack of learning is the global outbreak of monkeypox, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a public health emergency of international concern. Similar to COVID-19, HIV and other epidemics, the virus has overtaken the response, which has been plagued by systemic racism and homophobia.
Two events in the Global North in 2022 – the war in Ukraine and the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court of the United States of America – have had a disproportionate impact on global well-being with profound ramifications for justice. In Ukraine, the war has internally displaced more than 6.6 million people; 6 million more have fled the country. The crisis has contributed to the record number of people affected by humanitarian crises over the past decade, from Afghanistan to Sudan to Syria. The unprecedented scale, frequency and duration of emergencies and the need for humanitarian assistance in fragile contexts due to conflict or climate-related disasters require urgent attention. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, around 1.8 billion people live in fragile environments around the world. The number of people in humanitarian need reached 274 million in 2022.
In June, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, depriving citizens of a constitutional right to abortion. Abortion is currently banned in 17 states, and more states are expected to enact restrictions. In many states, exceptions do not exist for abortion in cases of rape or incest, in violation of international law. Black and brown people and people below the poverty line – who already face limited access to sexual and reproductive health services like contraception while experiencing inequalities in broader social and economic dimensions – are likely to bear the burden of these restrictions as they constitute the majority of the population. those who obtain abortions in the United States. The Commission remains concerned about the effects of this decision, as it fears that it will only increase the number of unsafe abortions and lead to more maternal deaths. This will likely bolster anti-abortion and conservative movements seeking to restrict progress on sexual and reproductive rights around the world.
What happened in the United States contrasts with recent advances in Latin America and Africa, which have become an inspiration for the fight for sexual and reproductive justice around the world. Following successful advocacy by women’s movements in Mexico and Argentina, Colombia legalized abortion in 2022. In November 2021, Benin’s parliament voted to legalize abortion in most circumstances, a revolutionary initiative on the African continent, where 92% of women of childbearing age live under restriction. The Democratic Republic of Congo, the first country in Francophone Africa to expand access to abortion care, has adopted guidelines to implement the directives of the African Protocol on the Rights of Women (the Maputo Protocol). In July 2022, Sierra Leone took steps to overturn colonial-era abortion laws after decades of advocacy by the women’s movement and government officials. Parliament will debate a bill on the decriminalization of abortion which has won high-level political support; it should pass before the end of 2022.
Other fallout from recent years has had an indelible impact on the social, political and economic environment that determines sexual and reproductive health. Shrinking civic space combines with misinformation, disinformation, and political polarization associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, among other factors. These are linked to a rise in authoritarianism, far-right rhetoric and populist movements. Food insecurity, aggravated by the war in Ukraine and inflation, is on the rise. Climate change is driving disaster-related displacement and forced migration around the world as communities face increased droughts, floods, cyclones and other climate-related events.
In 2019, the Nairobi Summit celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the historic 1994 Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). Governments and civil society actors, businesses and a wide range of other stakeholders presented over 1,300 commitments to action and endorsed the Nairobi Declaration, which sets out 12 core global commitments to achieve the Goals ICPD for everyone, everywhere.