• Photo Credit: MSI/Sam Dew

ICPD25: the time for action

Friday, 26 Jul 2019
The countdown is on for The Nairobi Summit on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). This year marks 25 years since the first summit in 1994, held in Cairo.

Back then, Governments, donors, civil society, and other partners made commitments to reduce infant and child mortality, reduce maternal mortality, ensurne universal education, and increase access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, amongst many others. These commitments were a massive step forward for the rights of women and girls: committing to changes across the lifecycle.

Although significant commitments where made at the 1994 ICPD, recognising what was important, it did not cover the ‘how’. The consequence has been little action on the commitments made.  Sir Richard Ottaway, one of the original 1994 delegation, reflected, “We aren’t seeing the results we were hoping to see”.

25 years later, this ICPD must be about action.

On World Population Day, 10th July, donors, government, and civil society came together at the UK House of Lords to discuss the priorities for this upcoming milestone anniversary of ICPD, and what needs to be considered to ensure we start seeing results.

UNFPA convened a group of panellists who spoke of what action looked like in their contexts, as, politicians, sports women, advocates, and journalists.

Action is implementing transparency

Epidemiological, financial, and demographic data enable all to monitor whether a) funding is allocated to ICPD commitments and b) whether this funding is used efficiently. Guardian journalist, Liz Ford, requested politicians in the room commit to publishing data. This would enable governments, donors, and civil society to track whether action is happening, and hold each other to account on ICPD commitments.  

Action is prioritising inclusion

Action is not possible if it does not include the most marginalised groups. Paralympian, Anne Wafula Strike MBE, spoke passionately of the importance of including people with disabilities in ICPD, specifically in meeting their demand for sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR). Marginalised groups must stop being an after-thought: ICPD commitments will only become reality if we address the barriers affecting the most marginalised.

Action is recognising difference

The barriers that hinder action on ICPD are not the same in every country, community, or for every individual. We must recognise the heterogeneity of population groups and tailor solutions to meet the commitments. The cofounder of the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning, Jilian Gedeon, shared stories highlighting the different journeys and experiences with sexual reproductive health, specifically amongst young people, and the need to avoid a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Action is establishing accountability

ICPD was 25 years ago. There is a new wave of young people working under the umbrella of commitments made at ICPD, who are unaware of all the thinking, workings, and discussions that took place in 1994. To create action, we need accountability. To create accountability, we need institutional memory. This requires learning and decision making to be shared between those involved in 1994, and those who have entered the discussion since, to ensure that all are involved in making ICPD commitments a reality for the long term.

The next ICPD will be held in Nairobi in November, co-convened by the governments of Kenya and Denmark, and UNFPA. Preparations are well under way. Options is partnering with governments across the world to ensure that, in the drive for renewed commitments, we focus on the ‘how’. We believe this ICPD is about action, and therefore, we are working together to ensure that we all have the knowledge to implement ICPD commitments; hold each other to account; and achieve results.

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