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Nairobi Summit Launches Decade of Delivery on Women’s Health | News

A three-day summit in Nairobi, Kenya, marked the 25th anniversary of countries’ commitments made at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). The Nairobi Summit mobilized more than 1,200 public and private commitments for women’s health, and high-level delegates emphasized that, to achieve the 2030 Agenda, ICPD’s “triple zero” goals must be met: zero maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning services, and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices.

The Summit was convened by the Governments of Denmark and Kenya, together with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and took place from 12-14 November 2019, with approximately 9,500 participants.

It raised commitments and pledges by various state and non-state actors in support of ICPD goals, and highlighted their relevance to other global goals, especially the SDGs. Denmark, Germany, Norway and the UK were among the governments that pledged some of the USD10 billion raised during the three days. Kenya committed to ending female genital mutilation (FGM) by 2022.

During the Summit, UNFPA released research that estimates the cost of achieving the triple zero goals to be USD264 billion over the next ten years. The study, undertaken with Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with Victoria University, the University of Washington and Avenir Health, finds that ending preventable maternal mortality alone will cost USD115.5 billion, while meeting family planning ne in 120 countries is expected to require USD68.5 billion. Ending harmful practices such as child marriage and FGM have smaller price tags, and the focus countries are fewer. Overall, the current gap in meeting the USD264 billion total is USD222 billion.

Ib Petersen, Denmark’s Special Envoy for ICPD25, stressed to participants that there must be “no ICPD50,” as women and girls have waited long enough, and that the world now enters “a decade of delivery” and accountability. The summit released the Nairobi Statement, a non-binding declaration that expresses recommitment to the goals initially adopted at ICPD in Cairo, Egypt, 25 years ago. The Statement encourages countries to use the existing UN “reporting ecosystem” for stock-taking and follow-up to the national commitments announced at the Summit, including reporting to the UN High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF).

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told delegates that the SDGs cannot be achieved until women, girls and young people are able to control their bodies and live free of violence, and that the power to choose the number, timing and spacing of children is a human right that will benefit economic and social development. She noted the start of a ‘Decade of Action’ on the SDGs beginning in 2020, toward the 2030 Agenda deadline, urging all to work for urgent and transformative change. Mohammed highlighted the UN’s partnership with the EU on the Spotlight Initiative, which campaigns against FGM and seeks to end all forms of violence against women and girls. 

Young people attending the Summit spoke out about the difference that comprehensive sexuality education could have made for them, including avoidance of unwanted pregnancy and the ability to protect themselves from HIV infection. 

The Summit also attracted controversy, as ten countries, including the US, Brazil and Egypt, opposed the promotion of sex education, and the US stressed that there is no international right to abortion. Petersen said the claims reflect a misunderstanding of the Summit’s aims, which focus on the ICPD programme of action. 

Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, urged delegates to take action against practices, policies and laws that place women at a disadvantage, including FGM, child marriage and lack of access to healthcare leading to maternal and infant mortality. Josephine Kibaru-Mbae, Director-General of the Kenya National Council for Population and Development, hailed the Nairobi Summit as “a massive success,” in view of the commitments made. In addition to government pledges, private sector partners and NGOs committed to mobilize around USD8 billion in new pledges to achieve the triple zero goals by 2030.

Among the major pledges were international development agency World Vision’s promise to mobilize USD7 billion over the next ten years toward the UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child initiative. Plan International pledged USD500 million toward sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls and adolescents by 2025. The Ford Foundation committed USD78.4 million over three years to prevent gender-based violence and support women’s empowerment. Private sector partners including Philips, Johnson Johnson Foundation and Bayer announced technical commitments to meeting ICPD goals. Mariarosa Cutillo, UNFPA, welcomed their cooperation, noting that the private sector is indispensable to meeting the triple zero goals. [Nairobi Summit Website][ENB summary from ICPD]