Mr. Chair,

I make this statement on behalf of a cross-regional group of countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania,  Mexico, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, and my own delegation New Zealand.

We are grateful to Zambia and Canada for their leadership on the resolution on Child, Early and Forced Marriage, and the open and constructive way in which they have facilitated negotiations at this session. We therefore regret the breaking of consensus on this resolution at this late stage, particularly given the importance of this topic.

We are surprised by the last minute nature of these proposed amendments. We are concerned at the lack of regard shown for the appropriate procedure of this Committee, with the circulation of amendments less than 24 hours before action on this resolution, despite weeks of informal negotiations and ample opportunity to table the amendments.

Our greater concern, however, is that these amendments seek to modify agreed-language, which has been consensus for many years. This terminology has a long history in inter-governmentally agreed documents. The language comes from the ICPD Programme of Action 1994 and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 1995.

Sexual and reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system. This includes access to skilled birth attendance, emergency obstetric care, access to medicines and medical equipment.

We acknowledge that these can be sensitive issues, but terminology such as ‘sexual and reproductive health’ has been used to encompass a wide range of perspectives. Since the mid-1990s, we have all agreed on the importance of sexual and reproductive health. In the 2030 Agenda we have all committed to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services. It is deeply unfortunate that today we see an attempt to upset the consensus and balance on these issues.

These universally agreed concepts have been accompanied by considerable progress over the past two and half decades. Globally, the maternal mortality ratio dropped by 44% between 1990 and 2015. Even today, each year there are over 300,000 maternal deaths from preventable causes. Adolescent girls are disproportionately affected. While considerable progress has been achieved, the international community made a shared commitment in the 2030 Agenda to end all preventable maternal deaths.

It is essential that we do not go back on our shared commitment: we must not accept attempts to undermine the normative framework that underpins our work. These deaths are a human tragedy and a violation of the rights of women and girls around the world.

Once again we express our regret that we have been forced to vote on these issues in this Committee. We urge all delegations to support the rights of women and girls and vote against any amendments.

Thank you Mr. Chair