I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak here today.
In 1994 in Cairo, governments agreed on more than common objectives and actions. We also agreed on a new path towards these goals, based on human rights and gender equality. This has stood the test of time and remains fundamental to our efforts today.
Although much progress has been made since 1994, we still have some major challenges to deal with:
- We continue to have to spend time and resources to protect what we agreed on in Cairo 28 years ago from well-organised attacks, instead of using these resources to make further advances;
- The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating consequences;
- Inequalities both within and between countries continue to rise;
- War and conflict continue to cause immense suffering to civilian populations.
Gender equality is necessary to ensure sustainable and inclusive growth. And yet discriminatory legislation and practices remain in place, with impacts on education, employment, legal protection, access to services and political participation.
Gender equality includes the right of young girls and women to decide over their own bodies, to choose their partner and to decide if, and when, to have children. This is an essential human right, and a fundamental part of the ICPD. Too many women and girls are living lives in which sexual and reproductive health and rights are still only a distant dream. In fact, the majority of young people lack the knowledge they need to make responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. This leaves them vulnerable to coercion, child marriage, infection, and unintended pregnancy.
The evidence is clear: Comprehensive sexuality education improves sexual and reproductive health. We must strengthen CSE both inside and outside schools.
According to the latest report from UNFPA half of all pregnancies are unintended, 60 % of unintended pregnancies end in abortion, and unsafe abortion causes 800 maternal deaths each day. We cannot turn a blind eye to this situation. We must strengthen access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Including the right to safe and legal abortion. We must work to safeguard the right to be free from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Gender equality is not a policy option. It is a human right and it encompasses the right to participate fully in society. It is also the key to unlocking a country’s full potential. Norway remains committed to delivering on the ICPD and Agenda 2030, to ensure sustainable development and inclusive growth.