Photo: Nairobi ICPD25 Nairobi Summit closes with call to action. Credit: Flckr | UNFPA - Photo: 2019

ICPD25 Outlines Pathway for Attaining the Rights of Women and Girls

By Justus Wanzala

NAIRBI (IDN) – ICPD25, held in the Kenyan capital Nairobi from November 12-14 and marking the 25th anniversary of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Egypt, ended with bold commitments towards attainment of the rights of women and girls.

The conference, attended by more than 6,000 world leaders, scholars, rights advocates and faith leaders saw partners announce commitments to end all maternal deaths, satisfy unmet need for family planning and tackle gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls by 2030.

Co-convened by the governments of Denmark and Kenya alongside the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the conference focused on offering an inclusive platform, bringing together governments, United Nations agencies, civil society, private sector organisations, women’s groups and youth networks.

Participants noted that attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved unless women, girls and young people are in control of their bodies, their lives, and live free of violence.

UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem said the Nairobi Summit represented a renewed, re-energised vision and community working together to act and deliver. She noted that through a united front, the next ten years can be a decade of action and results for women and girls.

The conference also unveiled new data about the cost of achieving the set goals. According to an analysis by UNFPA and the Johns Hopkins University, in collaboration with Victoria University, the University of Washington and Avenir Health, the total cost to the world to achieve the targets would be 264 billion dollars.

Speaking at a press conference, Kanem explained that this investment serves to meet three targets: 1) the as yet unmet need for contraception, for every woman and adolescent girl to make decisions on whether or when to become pregnant, and how many children to bear; 2) preventable maternal deaths, so that no woman loses life for lack of reproductive health care; and 3) zero gender-based violence and zero cases of female genital mutilation, as well as child and forced marriages.

Kanem said, “I don’t want to refer to 264 billion dollars as a cost but rather as an investment in humanity. It is a cost we can’t avoid bearing.” This sum will include some 7.5 million dollars in new investments over the years alongside technical investment for stirring innovation and ingenuity of the private sector toward attainment of the Nairobi commitment.

The UNFPA head stressed that ICPD is inclusive, with no marginalised group including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community being left out.

The conference provided an opportunity for marginalised groups such as young people and grassroots advocates to engage heads of state and policymakers about how to realise the rights and health of all people.

Retracing footsteps and at the same time peering into the future, Kanem told delegates that despite the long journey ahead, progress has been made in the last 25 years since the Cairo meeting. “Maternal mortality is down 44 percent worldwide,” said Kanem, adding: “This means four million women who would have otherwise died while pregnant, or at childbirth, are alive today” but “good progress is not good enough, and the promises made to girls, women and everyone should be kept.”

In terms of pledges, governments of various countries – among them Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, alongside the European Commission – committed some one billion dollars. The private sector represented by organisations such as Ford Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, Philips, World Vision and many other organisations committed to mobilizing around eight billion dollars.

Addressing the conference, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta said the world has changed greatly since 1994 in the field of population and development. “Inequalities have increased within and across countries and there is greater demographic diversity. Some countries in the world are facing rapid population ageing; while others prepare for the largest cohort of young people the world has ever seen,” he noted.

Calling for the elimination of practices, policies and laws that undermine the rights of women, Kenyatta said there is need for elimination of female genital mutilation (FGM) which, he said, remains one of the most serious violations of human rights of women and girls. “In April this year we signed a landmark declaration between the governments of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and Ethiopia to address cross border FGM practice,” he pointed out.

He called on participants to bear in mind those he referred to as “most important participants” who were absent in the summit, alluding to the victims of gender violence, discrimination and abuse. “I am referring to the 1-in-5 women from all corners of the world that this year alone will experience gender-based violence, most likely from someone who is close to them; the 800 women and girls who die every day during pregnancy or childbirth; and the four million girls who, every year, have to endure the painful and traumatic effects of FMG,” he said.

Uhuru added that other non-participating but crucial categories are the more than 33,000 girls who are married off every day before the age of 18, and the millions of unemployed youth with limited hope for their future.

Ib Petersen, Denmark’s Special Envoy for ICPD25, said there will be no ICPD50, adding that women and girls around the world have waited long enough to have rights and choices. “Looking towards 2030, we now enter a decade of delivery during which we will walk the talk and hold all of us to account for the commitments we made in Nairobi,” said Petersen.

Rasmus Prehn, Danish Minister for Development Cooperation, called for more support to youth and women, noting that said women and girls are at the heart of sustainable development. “Women and girls are the true owners of their bodies,” he said.

His views were echoed by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, who said: “Millions of women and girls are still waiting for promises to be met, they’ve been waiting for a long time.” She added that SDGs cannot be achieved until women, girls and young people are able to control their bodies and their lives, and live free of violence.”

Ambassador Kamau Macharia, Principal Secretary in the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told delegates that “as a developing country we know the cost of under development: the cost of dead mothers, orphans, those aborted and families broken by gender violence puts to shame that 264 billion dollars.”

According to Macharia, developing nations should not wait for donor support to fund their programmes but should rather mobilise own funding. “Countries making strides are those utilising their own resources to fund their own projects within the global agenda.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 17 November 2019]

Photo: Nairobi ICPD25 Nairobi Summit closes with call to action. Credit: Flckr | UNFPA

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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