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Today, as we commemorate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we recall its opening words: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. This principle is at the heart of the Programme of Action of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, which guides the work of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. As we join in this year’s theme to “Stand up for Someone’s Rights Today”, I applaud our staff who, working with national partners, are defending the rights of the most marginalized and excluded and bringing to light the discrimination they face.


One of the rights we fight for every day is the right to have access to information and services that ensure or improve our sexual and reproductive health. This is a human right that is critical to saving lives, advancing development and promoting gender equality. It is at the core of sustainable development. Sadly, millions of people, mainly women and young people, especially girls, continue to be denied this human right, largely due to stigma and discrimination. That is why addressing the structural barriers of discrimination, including challenging discriminatory laws, social norms and stigma that perpetuate inequality and disparities, is an essential part of UNFPA’s work.

We, at UNFPA, support and promote the rights of all people to enjoy good sexual and reproductive health. We work with people with disabilities or living with HIV to address their sexual and reproductive health needs. We advocate for strengthening the rights of indigenous peoples and promote their access to sexual and reproductive health services, such as voluntary family planning. We promote the right of teenage girls to access youth-friendly services, education and skills development, and we tackle gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls. In all of these initiatives, UNFPA strives to empower individuals and groups to participate and have a voice in decisions that affect them. We also help national, regional and international human rights bodies highlight these issues and assist national authorities in monitoring compliance with established standards.

In response to the call of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to “leave no one behind”, we must stand up together for those people facing discrimination and stigmatization. We will strive to uphold their inherent dignity and human rights, while working for their empowerment as active partners in our efforts to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Not just today, but every day.