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Berlin Conference Issues Call to Action

The NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development held in Berlin last week issued a Berlin Call to Action urging immediate and international action to improve women's health and access to resources. The call to action stated that "with five years left" until the deadline established by the 1994 Cairo Consensus, "we call on local, national and international decision-makers to join with non-governmental organizations to establish and implement concrete, practical and fully-funded actions for ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights," reported Planetwire.

The action plan calls for governments to guarantee that sexual and reproductive rights "are fully recognized and fulfilled, through legal reforms and new family policies;" to increase access to sexual and reproductive health information, family planning, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and to address "unsafe abortion as a public health and human rights issue;" to remove barriers to young people's access to information that will empower them to ensure their sexual and reproductive rights; to involve "young people, marginalized groups and NGOs in policy dialogue and guaranteeing them autonomy;" and to "ensure that donor contributions and national budgets and policies meet the needs of all people for sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially during times of economic stress."

The conference, which brought delegates from over 300 non-governmental organizations together, was held on the fifteenth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo, where 179 nations agreed on what is known as the Cairo Consensus, a plan of action that included plans to provide access to reproductive healthcare worldwide, drastically reduce infant and maternal mortality, and close educational gender gaps, according to DAWN News.

Under former President George W. Bush, vital funding was withheld from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which was the organization primarily responsible for implementing the action plan. The withheld US funds accounted for 13 percent of UNFPA's annual budget and would have prevented some two million unwanted pregnancies, 4,700 maternal deaths, nearly 60,000 cases of maternal illnesses and over 77,000 cases of infant and child death each year. President Barack Obama has pledged to restore US funding to UNFPA in upcoming appropriations and signed the 2009 fiscal year omnibus spending bill in March, which included a provision allotting $50 million to the UNFPA.

Scott Radloff of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) told the Associated Press after the conference, "we're likely to be witnessing about a 50 percent increase in funding for both family planning, reproductive health and for maternal/child health over a two-year period" from the US.

Media Resources: Planetwire 9/4/09; DAWN News 9/4/09; Associated Press 9/4/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 3/12/09

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