The early 1990s marked an unparalleled consensus among national governments on population policy. This shift was most evident in the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which was hosted by the United Nations in Cairo. ICPD was the largest intergovernmental conference ever held.
The conference resulted in an ambitious 20-year Programme of Action (PoA) – adopted by all participating governments - which recognised women’s empowerment and gender equality as the cornerstones of population and development programmes and, for the first time, defined reproductive health in an international policy document. The PoA made the provision of comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including the legalisation of safe abortion, the provision of safe pregnancy and delivery services, and the elimination of harmful practices against women (such as genital cutting and forced marriage), a central feature.
Zambia committed to the ICPD’s Programme of Action and formally recognised sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) as a fundamental human right in 1994, and subsequently invested in national and community-level programmes to deliver inclusive and equitable SRHR outcomes. These enabled the country to make significant strides in key national SRH indicators. This year marks the conference’s 25th anniversary. As the international community is set to gather at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 to mobilise the political will and financial commitments to fully implement the conference’s Programme of Action, this policy brief takes stock of Zambia’s progress in achieving its SRHR commitments and in creating an enabling policy and funding environment. It also identifies what more needs to be done to fulfill the unmet needs of women and girls and provides insights into how national ownership and stewardship and the development of an enabling environment have resulted in better SRH and family planning outcomes.