By Hassan Zaggi
The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD+25) held in Nairobi-Kenya, between November 12-14, has come and gone.
However, its resolutions and reactions that followed will continue to be subject of discussion by stakeholders for a long time to come.
The first ICPD was held on 5–13 September 1994, in Cairo, Egypt.
The Nairobi Summit was co-convened by the governments of Kenya and Denmark with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The summit generated over 1,200 commitments from around the world, including billions of dollars in pledges from public and private sector partners.
It also raised the voices of marginalized communities, youth and grassroots advocates, who were able to directly engage heads of state and policymakers about how to realize the rights and health of all people.
It would be recalled that 25 five years ago, at the ICPD,
the world agreed that sexual and reproductive health is a human right, that no mother should die while giving life, and that gender-based violence and discrimination have no place in the modern world.
Painfully, however, the progress has been unacceptably slow, and the burdens of death and violence are unfortunately borne by the most marginalized in societies across the world.
The Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 aimed to galvanize partnerships and spur political and financial commitments to urgently complete the unfinished business of the landmark ICPD Programme of Action and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
The Summit commenced with the release of new research showing the price tag to achieve “three transformative results” -zero maternal deaths, zero unmet needs for family planning, and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices — within the next 10 years.
The total cost to the world was put at $264 billion, according to the analysis by UNFPA and the Johns Hopkins University, in collaboration with Victoria University, the University of Washington and Avenir Health.
Many Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) including the International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH) and other stakeholders in the health sector from Nigeria also attended the summit.
The Federal Government of Nigeria’s delegation led by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, was also there.
Speaking at the Summit, the Dr. Ehanire reiterated the commitment of the federal government to the fulfilment of the promises of the ICPD to improve the lives of girls and women across the world including Nigeria by year 2030.
While making the commitment on behalf of the Federal Government, the Minister said: “Nigeria is committed to the fulfilment of the promises of the ICPD to improve the lives of girls and women across the world which will facilitate the achievement of 2030 agenda and SDGs.
“Nigeria is committed to ensure a compulsory girl child education up to the age of 18.
“Nigeria uses this opportunity to commend all stakeholders and partners who supported us in the past to improve the health and rights of women and adolescent and protect the lives of girls in particular.
“Nigeria looks forward to develop partnerships, welcoming more allies and working with stakeholders who share common interest with us.”
However, despite the lofty ambition of the ICPD25, it is not without the usual condemnation and criticisms.
Few days ago, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), lambasted the Federal Government for participating and accepting the resolutions of the ICPD25 in Nairobi-Kenya.
The Bishops frowned at the Federal government’s attendance of the summit because “it promotes contraception, abortion and transgenderism, which are against the sanctity and dignity of human life from conception to natural death.” It is also against the Catholic faith.
In a press statement signed by the Episcopal Chairman on Family and Human Life Committee of its Church and Society Department, Most Rev. Dr Hyacinth Egbebo, the CBCN noted that it is backing the Holy See in objecting the Summit and its resolutions.
“Although the Nigerian government was part of the ICPD+25 conference in Kenya and a part of the resolutions that emerged, the CBCN, like the Holy See objects to that Summit, where contraception, abortion and transgenderism were projected as a global “rights of Women”.
“These are against the sanctity and dignity of human life from conception to natural death. They are against our faith as Catholics.
“The killing of an unborn child and willful disruption of women’s natural rhythm of fertility cannot be accepted as normal.
“We continue to affirm that human life is sacred and belongs to God; it begins at conception – a fact which is universally-known by the scientific community. Therefore, any action taken after fertilization occurred summarily which destroys a living human life – a person with his or her own rights to life,” he said
The Catholic Bishops, therefore, urged the Nigerian government to hold fast to what it described as the pristine values which distinguishes the traditional African community’s respect for life, family and human dignity.
“We reaffirm commitment to promote scientific natural planning methods and natural reproductive technologies, and urge the government and development partners to support these ethically-sound and culturally-acceptable options.
“Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights is a coded language (euphemism) for contraception, abortion and sterilization. Disguising it as ‘family planning’ is only deceptive. Human sexuality is not a disease to be controlled,” the CBCN reiterated.
It is therefore pertinent for the government of Nigeria to engage the CBCN and indeed, all Nigerians that may be skeptical and suspicious of the resolutions of the Nairobi summit for proper understanding.
This will enable all Nigerians to be on the same page for the realization of the lofty resolutions of the summit.
Many experts who attended the ICPD25 are of the opinion that the same way the original 1994 ICPD in Cairo was a turning point for the future of women and girls, the Nairobi Summit will be remembered as a watershed moment that sets in motion actions that saved lives, lifted millions of women and girls, their families and communities from exclusion and marginalization, and enabled nations to harness the demographic dividend to grow their economies.