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Project Ploughshares

Action Canada for Population and Development

Member Profile May-June 2013


SWOP Launch 2011 (ACPD’s Director of Parliamentary Affairs, Dina Epale,
moderating launch of UNFPA’s 2011 State of the World Population Report

This month CCIC met with Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director at Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD). ACPD was founded in 1997 and has been much engaged in the promotion of reproductive and sexual rights and health as human rights. Read about ACPD’s involvement in the High-Level Task Force for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), share their comments on the High-Level Panel report on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and much more.


CCIC - Your mission states that “ACPD (.....) seeks to enhance the quality of life of women, men and young people by promoting progressive policies in the field of human rights and international development with a primary focus on reproductive and sexual rights and health”. How and how much have you been able to achieve that since the organization was founded in 1997?

Sandeep Prasad

Sandeep Prasad - ACPD has played a leadership role in advancing gender equality, adolescent sexual and reproductive rights, abortion rights, maternal mortality and morbidity as a human rights matter, comprehensive sexuality education, among other human rights issues related to individuals’ sexual and reproductive health and rights within the UN system. ACPD has been working actively within the UN human rights system since 2002. Notably, ACPD was the first NGO to advocate in a sustained fashion for the UN Human Rights Council to take up the issue of maternal mortality and morbidity, which led to the groundbreaking resolution on “Preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights” in June 2009 – the first intergovernmental recognition of maternal mortality as a human rights issue.  ACPD has also led and participated in advocacy efforts to integrate reproductive and sexual rights issues into a number of other UN resolutions, including successfully advocating for policy commitments on these issues to be made in resolutions on HIV and the right to health, violence against women, adolescents and youth, among others. To do this, ACPD engages in direct advocacy with a range of governments to grow support for specific proposals.

ACPD is the coordinator of the Sexual Rights Initiative, a South-North coalition of six organizations working to advance human rights in relation to sexuality and gender through the UN Human Rights Council and its mechanisms.

ACPD has also established itself as a respected organization in the area of NGO capacity-building and has worked to increase the knowledge of progressive advocates and organizations as to using international human rights mechanisms to advance their advocacy work.  ACPD has done this, for example, by conducting regular workshops for advocates on how to work with the universal periodic review (UPR) and assisting them to use this tool for advancing their domestic advocacy priorities.  ACPD also contributes to strengthening of the international sexual and reproductive health and rights movement by facilitating discussions, establishing coalitions and maintaining e-mail listservs.

Within Canada, ACPD is the secretariat of an all-parliamentary group entitled the Canadian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (CAPPD). Through this group, ACPD has raised the awareness of dozens of sitting Members of Parliament and Senators on issues related to sexual and reproductive health, human rights and development. ACPD has also facilitated the exchange of information between countries on these issues through MPs and Senators’ participation in international events including global parliamentarian conferences and study tours.

CCIC - You have an international Board of Directors; can you explain how that reflects in the work that you do?

Sandeep Prasad - ACPD’s international Board of Directors plays a critical role in informing and strengthening its work. All of ACPD’s Directors bring unique skills and perspectives to the work of the organization. Such diversity in backgrounds enhances the organization’s positions and approaches, while also contributing to the strengthening of its national, regional and international partnerships. Concretely, through its international Board of Directors, ACPD has been able to develop strong partnerships with domestic and regional parliamentary associations working on population and development issues; this has created greater opportunities for CAPPD members to gain a deeper understanding of global sexual and reproductive health and rights issues..


CCIC - ACPD is a member of the High-Level Task Force for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD): what is the objective of this Task Force and what is your role in it?

Sandeep Prasad - As ACPD's executive Director I was appointed to the High-Level Task Force for ICPD in September 2012.  The goal of the Task Force is to strengthen “political will and commitments that advance sexual and reproductive health and rights and secure their positioning in the post-2015 global development agenda.”  At its core, the Task Force advocates for the respect, protection and fulfillment of sexual and reproductive rights for all, universal access to quality, comprehensive and integrated sexual and reproductive health information, education and services, universal access to comprehensive sexuality education for all young people and the elimination of violence against women and girls, including the securing of their access to critical services for all survivors of gender-based violence.

The recommendations that the Task Force has made strive to empower individuals through greater respect, protection and fulfillment of their human rights, particularly their right to bodily autonomy, and the ability to make free and informed choices regarding their sexuality, reproduction, and sexual and reproductive health. Women, young people and individuals from other marginalized communities are those who are least able to exercise these rights. As a member of the High-Level Task Force for ICPD, I am working to bring a greater focus on human rights into the new development agenda, with a particular focus on the empowerment of women and young people.


CCIC - What was ACPD’s reaction to the High-Level Panel report on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which was released a few weeks ago?

Sandeep Prasad - ACPD welcomes the release of the High Level Panel’s report. ACPD is particularly pleased to see the report’s focus on reaching excluded and marginalized groups through deeper analysis of their needs and the socio-economic, political, religious, cultural, geographic, among other factors, which contribute to their lived realities. Similarly, ACPD is pleased to see the emphasis that the report places on the rights of women and girls. Specifically, the report calls on gender equality as an issue requiring both a standalone goal, as well as one which is cross-cutting. Moreover, the report emphasizes sexual and reproductive health and rights as a key priority. This is particularly important when we think about the more than 222 million women and girls who lack access to any modern method of contraception, whose right to decide if and when they want to have children is not guaranteed. Or the 800 women who die every day due to preventable pregnancy and childbirth-related complications, contributed to by a lack of access to comprehensive and integrated sexual and reproductive health care.  Or the 2400 young people who become infected with HIV every day.

Nonetheless, it is disappointing that women and adolescent girls’ access to abortion, as part of a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services, is not mentioned in the report. Failing to provide women and adolescent girls with access to safe abortion services, including through its decriminalization where it is still against the law and by removing other restrictions, constitutes a violation of reproductive rights, the right to bodily autonomy and the right to health among other rights. It is essential that safe abortion services be made accessible to all women, including for survivors of sexual violence and rape. This is important not only as a means of eliminating unsafe abortions which lead to maternal morbidity and mortality, but also as a human rights issue.  Similarly, the report does not include specific references to adolescents’ access to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). CSE is proven to be an effective means of reducing stigma, discrimination and violence, by challenging gender norms and stereotypes and promoting values of equality, non-discrimination and human rights. CSE also provides young people with essential information regarding their sexual and reproductive health which can help prevent unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of STIs, including HIV, and ultimately empower them to make the best possible decisions regarding their futures.

CCIC - In 2013, what are the main challenges in regards to reproductive and sexual rights and health, both at home and abroad?

Sandeep Prasad - We’re in a critical time in history, both at home and abroad. Abroad, we are almost one year away from the end of the ongoing review of the 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD PoA). Throughout this review process, civil society organizations have been playing a critical role in identifying new and emerging issues within the context of population and development. In this context, CSOs are calling on their governments to go beyond commitments made in 1994, by respecting, protecting and guaranteeing sexual rights for all, including adolescents, sex workers, LGBTI individuals and others, eliminating all forms of stigma, discrimination and violence, respecting and protecting adolescents’ right to bodily autonomy and ensuring women and adolescent girls have access to safe abortion services, all of which are essential to securing individuals’ right to the highest attainable standard of health, contributing to wellbeing and achieving sustainable development. Alongside the review of the ICPD PoA is the review of the MDGs and Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals. All three processes will culminate with the mapping out of a strategy that will guide the field of international development for the foreseeable future.  In sum, 2013 will include many opportunities for CSOs to bring attention to these new and emerging issues, so that they may be addressed in the post-2015 development agenda.

At home, we have seen just cause to be concerned regarding Canada’s role within these processes. Most recently at the 23rd session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Canadian government adopted a regressive approach to a resolution on the theme of sexual violence against women – a resolution for which our government was the chair of the negotiations.  The Canadian government actively prevented the inclusion of numerous key recommendations related to effectively addressing sexual violence and the rights of survivors of violence by blocking the recognition of a comprehensive package of services that need to be available to survivors of sexual violence. Canada’s approach represented a serious attack on women’s rights and the health and wellbeing of survivors of sexual violence. Such an approach is reminiscent of the government’s refusal to fund safe abortion services, even where legal, as part of Canada’s international aid under the Muskoka initiative. Both examples emphasize the need for Canadians and Canadian CSOs to hold the government accountable to implementing its international development commitments and human rights obligations not only at home, but also internationally through the delivery of official development assistance and in the formulation of international agreements which have a direct impact on national level laws, policies and programmes.

CCIC - You were recently elected as a member of CCIC’s Board; what do you bring to the table and what are you hoping to achieve?

Sandeep Prasad - As Executive Director of ACPD, I’m very honoured to join CCIC’s Board of Directors. I am excited to begin working alongside other members of the Board from across the country, which have all made, and continue to make, significant contributions to international development. To my position on the Board, I bring significant expertise relating to human rights, advocacy, the UN system and sexual and reproductive health and rights. As a member of the Board, I hope to contribute towards ensuring that human rights are at the center of our approaches to development as well as to facilitate the bridging of Canadian and international human rights movements, with the intention of securing greater commitment towards human rights, specifically sexual and reproductive rights, both at home and internationally.  As a member of the Board, I hope to use our partnerships to foster greater relationships and understanding of human rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the UN human rights system, with CCIC members.



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