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Africa's leadership comes together to zero out unacceptable practices

NEW YORK, United States—Africa has recommitted to fulfilling the Promise of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) through accelerating implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA), with a priority focus on placing people’s rights at the centre of development.

A Ministerial Luncheon, held on the margins of the 2019 ECOSOC High Level Political Forum (HLPF) saw African Ministers, HLPF Heads of Delegations, high-level Government functionaries, Permanent Representatives to the UN, and UNFPA leadership reaffirming the ICPD Agenda through the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development (AADPD).

UNFPA Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Dr. Julitta
Onabanjo. © UNFPA

The ICPD Agenda was adopted by consensus by 179 Member States in 1994. Its continued relevance and value in Africa is underscored, with recognition of consequent contributions to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and Agenda 2063, including realization of the economic and social rights of women, girls and youth.

Africa’s leadership was successfully mobilized for renewed commitments at the Nairobi Summit. Member states commended UNFPA for its work in facilitating transformative change in the lives of women and young people on the continent and globally.

Evidence-based successes and experiences in implementing the ICPD Agenda on the continent were elaborated through interventions by member states, and these can be replicated and used to scale up priority actions. UNFPA leadership in turn recognized Africa’s leadership role as the custodian of ICPD and in leading the political momentum towards the Nairobi Summit.

Priority actions to fulfill the promise of Cairo

Following reflections on the progress achieved and unfinished business in fulfilling the Promise of Cairo, member states underscored the priority actions required to fulfill the promise of the ICPD on the continent, as follows:

UNFPA Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Mabingue
Ngom. © UNFPA

1. Availability and implementation of inclusive policies and legislation that guarantee rights and choices for all, as well as quality of life, especially for women, adolescents and young people, alongside effective monitoring, accountability and enforcement mechanisms.

2. Appropriate evidence-based measures and stronger actions to ensure equitable access that Leaves No One Behind in education, health, empowerment and employment opportunities were emphasized for adolescent girls and young women, boys and young men, including vulnerable and marginalized groups, such as people living with HIV, persons with disabilities, older persons, and populations in underserved areas.

3. Harnessing the demographic dividend requires coherent, tailored, responsive and large-scale reforms and investments in key areas of health (including SRHR), education, training and skills development, and employment within a stable and planned macroeconomic framework.

4. Effective protection measures that safeguard the return and integration of refugees; movement and safety of displaced persons, vulnerable and marginalized populations in humanitarian situations; as well free movement of persons across the continent.

5. Sustainable financing at scale for population-related policies is required to achieve the Promise of Cairo, Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063. Sources of financing through targeted revenue generation and securing additional financing from public and private domestic and international sources is important, while also improving the efficiency of spending across relevant sectors.

6. Strengthened data systems that work for development was underscored as fundamental across all interventions. These include consistent use of data and evidence to benchmark progress, measure results and identify population groups and underserved areas and guide decision making, policy actions and investments.

Despite policy advancements, inequalities remain

In conclusion, through the ICPD PoA, governments embraced the ambitious agenda of delivering inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. Stocktaking in the past 25 years demonstrates inclusive policy advancements in gender equality, empowerment and development outcomes for women and girls, men and boys.

However, enormous multi-dimensional inequalities remain in Africa. These include disproportionate outcomes affecting poor rural women, adolescent girls, and young people with limited educational outcomes, often manifested through preventable maternal deaths, significant unmet need for family planning, stagnating HIV prevalence and rising new infections in adolescents and young people, the burden of non-communicable diseases, persistent rates of gender-based violence, harmful traditional practices, including female genital mutilation, and child marriage. Demographic diversity across the continent continues to underpin socio-economic development outcomes such as poverty, unemployment, exclusion from empowerment opportunities, mixed migration flows with negative consequences, further confounding desired outcomes of quality of life, well-being and prosperity.

In recognition of the fundamentals of ICPD, and its significant contribution in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and aspirations of Agenda 2063, member states once again underscored the centrality of population dynamics in reducing prevailing inequalities on the continent, in alignment with all continental in­struments, including the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development (AADPD).

The Luncheon concluded on a high note with consensus that the Nairobi Summit represents a second footprint on the continent for the ICPD Agenda and in accelerating action towards realizing an Africa with fulfilled aspirations, spurred by rights and choices.