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Secretary of State Commemorates the 15th Anniversary of the ICPD

On Friday, January 8, 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton delivered a speech recognizing the 15th anniversary of the United Nation’s International Conference of Population and Development (ICPD). Secretary Clinton remarked on the successes that have been achieved since the 1994 ICPD and, more importantly, mapped out the steps still needed in order to meet the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The Millennium Development Goals are a series of international targets that include reducing poverty, providing education and maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, and reaching gender equality. 1
The ICPD agreement was formulated around the belief that “population, poverty, patterns of production and consumption and the environment” are all interconnected.2  In 1994, 174 countries participated in the ICPD in Cairo, Egypt.  The outcome was an agreement outlining the steps necessary to ensure “universal access to education, especially for girls; reductions in infant, child and maternal mortality; and universal access to reproductive health.”3 Countries participating in ICPD wanted an international plan to coordinate an effective utilization of world resources, encourage sustainable development, coordinate actions, and overcome any international and political obstacles. The target date to achieve the “universal access to health services” was set for 2015.4
The ICPD agreement advocates for a stronger government commitment to family planning programs. Additionally, the plan outlines a greater commitment by states to sexual health and reproductive health services. Although a United States delegation was active in creating the 1994 ICPD agreement, under past administrations there has been a reluctance to fund family planning programs. During the administration of President George W. Bush, the Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule, was reinstated, prohibiting funding to any organization that offered abortion services, counseling on abortion or referred to a provider offering abortion services. The United States government also ceased funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2002.5 The United Nations Population Fund is an international development agency that uses population data to help countries create programs that reduce poverty, fight HIV, promote human rights and aid women in their reproductive decisions.
Since entering office, the Obama Administration has made several changes in United States reproductive health policies, which Secretary Clinton outlined in her statement. Some of the first actions taken by President Obama were to overturn the Mexico City Policy and restart federal funding to UNFPA. President Obama also launched the Global Health Initiative, in which the United States government committed $63 billion to a joint global health agenda, including critical areas relating to HIV/AIDS, family planning, maternal and child health, and neglected tropical diseases. Secretary Clinton expressed pride at the creation of a new office for global women issues, led by Ambassador-at-large Melanne Verveer. Finally in the last appropriations cycle, the United States Congress has appropriated $648 million to international family planning and reproductive health programs.
In her speech, Secretary Clinton recognized that controversy is sometimes generated around reproductive health related issues, but that statistics show that there is a world crisis that the United States “can not accept morally, politically, socially or economically.”6 She maintained that an investment in the health of women and girls will be centrally integrated into President Obama’s Administration’s foreign policy plans. The Secretary argued that the problems women are dealing with are connected to every other problem around the world. Furthermore, Clinton expressed her strong belief in the linkage between health and progress. She remarked how low infant mortality rates and successful health care systems “are important indicators of broader progress” in a country.7
A coalition of sexual and reproductive health and rights advocates, including the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), lauded Secretary Clinton’s speech and the United States government for supporting “the worldwide consensus that achieving universal access to reproductive health is critical for individual health, family well-being, broader economic development and a healthy planet.”8 Secretary Clinton’s statement is one further indication of the Obama administration’s support for sexual and reproductive health globally.

Secretary Clinton ended her speech with a sense of optimism for the future of women and girls and the commitment of the United States to reproductive health. However, she urged “that we do not grow weary” in working to reach the goals of the ICPD agreement.9 

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1 “End Poverty Millennium Development Goals 2015: Make it happen,” United Nations, 2010, accessed 11 December 2010, <>.

2 “Report of the ICPD,” United Nations, 1994, accessed 8 December 2010, <>.

3 “Secretary Clinton to Commemorate 15th Anniversary of International Conference on Population and Development,” State Department, 2010, accessed 11 December 2010, <>.

4 “U.S. Government Rejoins Worldwide Consensus on Reproductive Health,” 8 January 2010), Earth Times, accessed 8 January 2010, <,1113127.shtml>.

5 Patrick Worsnip.  “UN family planning agency looks to new US funding,” United Nations, 27 January 2009, accessed 8 January 2010, <>

6 Hillary Clinton, “Remarks on the 15th Anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development,” State Department, 2010, accessed 11 December 2010, <>.

7 Ibid.

8 “U.S. Government Rejoins Worldwide Consensus on Reproductive Health”

9 Ibid.