Nairobi Dispatches: Day 2 Recap

14 November 2019, NAIROBI— The second day of the ICPD25 Nairobi Summit included concurrent sessions on specific topics, and commitment statements made by States as well as civil society organisations.

Many of the commitments revolved around positive policies that WYA supports, such as putting an end to gender-based violence and female genital mutilation. Eswatini (Swaziland) committed to introducing new laws to protect women against domestic abuse, reduce their high maternal mortality ratio (500 deaths per 100.000 births) and reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy by education. Haiti committed to increase the participation of youth in legislative, as well as peace and security activities, increased access to obstetric and neonatal health care, introducing a bill to prohibit gender discrimination and promoting the added value of young people in all walks of life.

One of the most used terms when it comes to commitments is sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) (read WYA’s white paper on reproductive health to learn more about this term). States that committed to promote SRHR or ensure universal access to it include countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Gabon, Georgia, Guinea Bissau, Iceland, Maldives, Mexico, and Norway. Many countries that made commitments to it greatly restrict the practice. A few countries, such as Iran and Indonesia, stated that they would not support the Nairobi Summit Statement on the basis of conflict with their law, values, and culture, or simply made no specific commitment to it.

Ecuador has an almost total ban on abortion. However, in a commitments statement, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Social and Economic Inclusion Ms. Daniela Oleas Mogollon of Ecuador stated that Ecuador had lifted its reservations on ICPD. That reservation had reaffirmed the principles embodied in its Constitution, such as the protection of children from the moment of conception, the protection of the family as the fundamental unit of society and the right of parents to bring up their children. In 1994 it expressed reservation with respect to all terms which could involve abortion. Once a reservation is lifted, it can never be re-imposed.

A member of our team approached her afterwards, introduced herself, and sought to confirm that the reservation had been lifted, which Vice Minister Oleas Mogollon confirmed. The WYA team member then asked if that meant that Ecuador supports abortion. Vice Minister Oleas Mogollon replied that the government does but the people do not, and further explained that it is for that reason that they have to move slowly. She stated that they are trying to legalize abortion in cases of rape as a stepping stone to further expansion. By participating in the Summit, lifting its reservation, and committing to SRHR, Ecuador’s government is creating international pressure to adopt measures, such as the legalisation of abortion, which its citizens do not want.

The United States committed to its ongoing health and development efforts, including combatting gender-based violence, preventing child, early, and forced marriage, ending female genital mutilation and cutting, and countering trafficking in persons. The U.S. representative stated that the funding had not changed, but been redirected away from organizations that promote abortion, and specifically declined to endorse the overall commitments of the Nairobi Summit on the basis of ambiguous language not agreed in international law.

Some commitments were more realistic than others, with some countries setting near deadlines to end common practices in their countries, while others simply committed to improving their laws on harmful practices. Several countries also committed to increasing contraceptive use in their countries, despite this being a personal choice and the ICPD’s stated commitment to “voluntary family planning.” Many also committed to providing comprehensive sexuality education in schools, despite its inclusion of content many would find inappropriate. (Learn more about these issues by reading our white papers on sexuality education and family planning.)

As with the first day, many of the concurrent sessions, which featured panels on specific topics, presented abortion as necessary for women and girls’ health and empowerment. “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our World: 1.8 Billion Reasons Why” was a youth-led panel that discussed how to enable access to full sexual and reproductive health, including abortion, to youth in the world (the official description said that it was focused on more than 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24). “Tracking Commitments and Resources for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” focused on ways to make sure that States and other organisations follow through on the commitments made at Nairobi. According to the organizers, there are over 1200 commitments, including approximately $8 billion in commitments from the private sector, a significant portion of which will go towards the provision of hormonal contraceptives.

World Youth Alliance encourages Member States and members of civil society to make and keep commitments in line with the original consensus agreed in Cairo, and ensure that policies and programmes are truly person-centred and grounded in human dignity.

Check back for more details on other concurrent events and statements as we continue to update this page.