You are here

Today on International Human Rights Day, I applaud human rights defenders across the globe and everyone who participated in the 16 days of activism to end violence against women. Together, we must stand up for human rights and human dignity for every one every day.  This is a global goal worthy in itself and critical for the advance of peace, justice and sustainable development.

Since the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 66 years ago, many gains have been won, but the foundational aspiration of “equality in dignity and rights” remains a distant reality for so many people. This year’s theme, Human Rights 365 Days, reminds us all – governments, corporations and civil society – that we must uphold all human rights for all people on all days.

Today, I pledge that UNFPA will continue to uphold human rights for all, especially the rights that underpin sexual and reproductive health and well-being. These rights were proclaimed as global priorities at the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo 20 years ago and reinforced the next year in Beijing at the Fourth World Conference on Women.

Twenty years later, far fewer women die in pregnancy and childbirth. Far more women and couples are using voluntary family planning.  Far more women are enjoying their rights to education, employment and political participation.  More children, especially more girls, are going to school. And nearly 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty.

However, 20 years later, millions of women, men, girls and boys still suffer the indignities of discrimination, violence and injustice even in the most intimate spheres of their lives, in violation of their sexuality, reproduction and bodily integrity. Together, we must end such human rights violations as sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination, forced sterilization, forced impregnation and child marriage.

UNFPA supports governments and civil society organizations to address these abuses and promote and protect sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as well as gender equality, including at the United Nations Human Rights Council. A UNFPA report published this year shows that more than 27 per cent of all recommendations from the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, from 2008 to 2011, concern sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. 

The Human Rights Council review has invigorated national policy dialogue and action, providing an opportunity for women, adolescents, youth and marginalized populations to make their voices heard on issues central to their human dignity and well-being. 

Today and 365 days of the year, UNFPA will promote the human rights of people in all of their diversity, in all spheres of life, particularly their right to sexual and reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion and violence.