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TOKYO, JapanMembers of Parliament from Asia and East and Southern Africa committed to intensifying their efforts to improve the livelihoods of all, especially women and girls, and to ensure that in their respective communities, women and girls are empowered, respected, protected from gender-based violence, and able to make informed sexual and reproductive health choices.

The parliamentarians made this commitment call during the African and Asian Parliamentarians’ Meeting on Population and Development for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. This meeting served as a platform to gather the opinions and proposed actions of Members of Parliament in the Asia and Africa regions, as they work towards creating enabling conditions for achieving inclusive communities and ensuring a sustainable future. Commitments made will inform the upcoming Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 in Nairobi, Kenya from 12-14 November.

Members of Parliament highlighted the importance of their role to accelerate the ICPD Programme of Action which was developed in Cairo in 1994.

Dr. Osamu Kasumoto, Executive Director and Secretary-General of the Asian Population Development Association (APDA), said parliamentarians play a critical role in ensuring that a people-centered approach to development is at the heart of all national development planning initiatives.

Job Ndugai, Speaker of Parliament for Tanzania, said the meeting provided a good learning forum, given the diversity of participating countries (ranging from least developed to developed countries). Tanzania stands to draw lessons and best practices that would inform its future development interventions, he said.    

Why is the ICPD critical to human development?

The ICPD agenda is about human beings, respect, rights and what we can do to ensure that every individual can make his or her own decisions.

“The ICPD agenda is about human beings, respect, rights and what we can do to ensure that every individual can make his or her own decisions,” said Justine Coulson, UNFPA Deputy Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

The ICPD Programme of Action articulated a bold new vision about the relationships between population, development and individual well-being. At the ICPD in Cairo in 1994, 179 countries adopted a forward-looking Programme of Action that was remarkable in its recognition that reproductive health and rights, as well as women's empowerment and gender equality, are cornerstones of population and development programmes. It continues to serve as a comprehensive guide for people-centered development progress.

The parliamentarians’ meeting brought together Members of Parliament from 15 African, Asian and European countries. The conference was attended by experts drawn from population and development institutions, parliamentary staff from member countries, the APDA secretariat and embassy representatives.

Suggestions made by delegates are to inform the upcoming Nairobi Summit discussions on the unfinished business of the ICPD, in Kenya, in which sustainable development and empowerment of women are embedded. The forum committed to ensuring that African and Asian countries remain steadfast in promoting progressive policies and legislative actions that positively impact global population and development matters.

Parliamentarians commitments around young people, SRHR, gender-based violence, climate change

The following commitments were reaffirmed:

1. Emphasize the importance of investment in youth, as the main actors for population, reproductive health, gender equality, economic and social development and environmental protection and encourage governments to create investment opportunities for the youth;
2. Ensure that the rights of all individuals are respected, protected and fulfilled as set forth in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights;
3. Support initiation and enactment of legislation and policies that link national constitutions to the ICPD agenda with people's rights, perspectives, health, education, planning and economic development;
4. Enact laws, policies and programmes to prevent and protect all persons from discrimination, stigmatization and violence, including gender-based violence; and to amend laws, policies and programmes that address violations of human rights and discrimination on the basis of gender, sexuality and ethnicity;
5. Enact laws, policies and programmes that respect, protect and fulfill SRH and reproductive rights of all individuals, and removing barriers towards realizing the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services and information; 
6. Ensure stronger political commitment to actualize full implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action and use our role as parliamentarians to keep Governments accountable to the commitments made in Cairo and for achieving the SDGs by 2030;
7.  Adopt legislations, policies and measures that prevent and eradicate gender-based and sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations and humanitarian emergencies; and
8. Continue to advocate for the allocation of appropriate and sufficient resources for long-term investments to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth in support of implementing the ICPD Programme of Action.

- Derick Nyasulu