20/11/19 – We are on the crest of a wave on the ICPD Agenda, will we sink or swim?

Last week, the Nairobi Summit marked the 25th Anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development. Jointly hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Denmark and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Summit highlighted the work achieved over the past 25 years. More importantly, the Summit focused on key future actions for the further implementation of the Programme for Action on ICPD by 2030, in line with the SDGs.

Three key targets were set for 2030 in the Nairobi Statement on ICPD 25:

  • Zero preventable maternal deaths
  • Zero unmet need for contraceptives
  • Zero gender based violence (GBV) and harmful practices

Governments, civil society organisations and individuals all made commitments throughout the three days. Minister Zappone headed up the Irish delegation to the ICPD, accompanied by members of government, academics and civil society representatives sharing learning from the Irish context.

Of particular importance to the Consortium is how central gender-based violence featured in the ICPD agenda. A wide range of topics were discussed, including FGM, child, early and forced marriage, violence against women and girls, the need for gender equality to end GBV, comprehensive sexuality education as a tool for reducing GBV and engaging men and boys on issues of GBV.

There were also a lot of conversations, events and commitments in relation to GBV in emergency contexts, something that was not of central focus of the ICPD conference in 1994. Given the reality, that there are 71 million displaced people in the world—what would equate to the 20th largest country in the world—it was clear that protection issues and GBV are an essential component of humanitarian work.

Additionally, at the session on ‘GBV in Emergencies’, organised by the GBV Area of Responsibility, speakers clearly outlined not only the need to respond to GBV but to mitigate against the risks from the onset of an emergency, and even before, in preparedness. There was a clear call for the localisation agenda to be met and for women-led/women’s rights organisations to be central to the design and planning of programmes.

Throughout the Summit, the importance of an intersectional approach was consistently highlighted. With many participants feeling that the original Programme for Action of the ICPD in 1994 had not acted adequately on the differing realities of marginalised groups, there were many discussions on inclusion of marginalised groups such as LGBTQI people, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities.

The focus on intersectionality came through strongly in youth panels, which pushed for solidarity and inclusion to be at the core of everyone’s priorities. They called for collective responsibility, arguing that the key to success will be dependent on government and civil society working together to progress the programme for action, including State’s willingness to live up to their expectations and commitments under the 2030 Agenda.

The work that will be done between now and 2030 will be fascinating to behold. As children and youth advocate, Mavis Aryee of Ghana said, ‘We are on the crest of a wave, the question is if we are going to sink or swim?’