Says significant gains made in health and longevity since 1994

Since the adoption of the Cairo Programme of Action at the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994, the status of women has improved worldwide, a new U.N. report says. But growing inequalities will undo the significant gains made in health and longevity, it warns.

Maternal mortality has come down by half; skilled birth attendance has increased by 15 per cent since 1990; more women have access to education, work and political participation; and fewer adolescent girls are having babies, says the report “United Nations International Conference on Population and Development Beyond 2014.”

The Cairo Programme of Action has significantly contributed to tangible progress. Population growth has slowed partly as a result of the new approach, which emphasises individual decision-making in population trends, the report says. But it argues that to sustain these gains, governments must pass and enforce laws to protect the poorest and most marginalised, including violence-hit adolescent girls and women and rural populations.

The report is the first truly global review of progress, gaps, challenges and emerging issues in relation to the landmark Cairo ICPD. It gathers data from 176 countries, alongside inputs from civil society and comprehensive academic research.

“A fundamental commitment to individual dignity and human rights is the basis of a resilient and sustainable future,” Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund, says.

Yet the report warns that these successes are not reaching everyone equally. In the poorest communities, women’s status, maternal death, child marriage and many of the concerns of the Cairo Conference have seen very little progress in the past 20 years. In some instances, the progress has even been reversed.

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