KUALA LUMPUR, 18 November 2019 – AT the Nairobi Summit on International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), Malaysia-based, regional NGO, Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) along with various civil society organisations (CSOs) reaffirmed their commitments to work on the human rights of women and young people.
In a statement delivered on behalf of Asian-Pacific CSOs, ARROW’s executive director Sivananthi Thanenthiran highlighted that recognising women and girls as equal members of society, which includes fulfilling their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), are fundamental to achieving substantial and sustainable equality in society.
“We are here together with governments to commit towards zero unmet need for family planning, zero preventable deaths and zero gender based violence and harmful practises against women, girls and youth,” Sivananthi said.
“We know shifting the needle on these issues requires an integrated health and rights approach, universal access to SRHR and increasing the ability of women and young people to claim these rights for themselves.”
The Kenyan capital hosted the three-day summit from November 12 to 14 to mark 25 years since the landmark ICPD. More than 6,000 world leaders, scholars, advocates, faith leaders and others converged on the Kenyatta International Conference Centre to attend the summit, which called for action to end maternal deaths, stop gender-based violence and meet demands for family planning – all in 10 years.
In 1994, 179 governments came together and adopted the landmark Programme of Action (PoA) at the ICPD which was held in Cairo. The Programme of Action was revolutionary in putting women’s empowerment and autonomy at the centre of development and shifted the paradigm from demographically driven population-control goals to a human rights based approach and defined reproductive rights for the first time in an international policy document.
A great deal of progress has been made since the original ICPD, including significant improvements in maternal health and expanded access to voluntary family planning. But, there is still a long way to go.
Universal access to SRHR includes access to quality sexual and reproductive health services free from judgement or discrimination. In the Asia-Pacific region, access to sexual and reproductive health services for young people, access to comprehensive sexuality education, access to safe abortion services, access for marginalised groups such as migrants, refugees, the indigenuous, and continue to remain shrouded in stigma, impeded by cultural and religious barriers and exacerbated by restrictive laws. All of these are essential to be tackled if we are truly serious about ensuring zero preventable maternal deaths.
Climate change is the key threat in the region which can roll-back progress on development and gender equality across the region. Climate change induced disasters hit the poorest in the region, and in that women and girls suffer disproportionately so.
“Forty-five percent of the world’s natural disasters have occurred in the Asia-Pacific zone in the last three decades. As natural disasters, some of which occur cyclically, affect the region’s economies and people, it is essential to factor them in when planning for development,” Sivananthi said.
ARROW’s Women and Earth (WORTH) Initiative aims to create a platform where creative and motivated environmental and climate change CSOs can develop new and integrated solutions to the cross-cutting issues of gender inequality, lack of SRHR and needs for climate change adaptation.
In line with these, ARROW co-convened and participated in the following side events and panels at the Nairobi summit: Localising ICPD Commitments: Youth and Community, Accessibility and Prevention: Public Health, Safe Abortion and Human Rights, and the Climate Change and Reproductive Justice panel .
The Nairobi Summit was attended by more than 9500 delegates from 170 countries, and saw 1200 commitments being made by different stakeholders to achieve the ICPD agenda.