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Twenty-five years ago, the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) took place in Cairo, Egypt. The ICPD is regarded as one of the most significant global conferences ever held, as the ICPD Programme of Action signed by 179 countries transformed the way in which countries address population, poverty reduction and sustainable development issues – putting the needs and aspirations of individuals at the centre of sustainable development. In 2015, the international community reaffirmed this commitment of putting “people, planet and prosperity” at the centre of sustainable development when it adopted the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Over the past 25 years, global progress in some of the key indicators has been remarkable:

  • Preventable maternal deaths have declined by 40 per cent.
  • Adolescent birth rates have decreased by 32 per cent.
  • Contraceptive prevalence rate has increased by 25 per cent.
  • Primary school is now accessible to most children, and the percentage of females who progress to secondary education has grown from 83 per cent to 91 per cent.
  • The proportion of seats in parliament held by women has expanded from 11.7 per cent in 1997 to 24 per cent today.

Additionally, female genital mutilation has declined by more than a third in 24 high-risk countries.

Despite this remarkable progress, the dream of the ICPD remains a distant dream for millions of women and girls, who are still waiting for the promise of Cairo to be fulfilled:

  • An estimated 830 women die in childbirth every day, many of them girls aged 15 to 19.
  • Every day, some 33,000 girls marry before they reach the age of 18.
  • More than 200 million women lack access to modern family planning.
  • Over 3 million girls undergo female genital mutilation annually.
  • More than 2 million people aged 10 to 19 are HIV-positive; 1 in 7 new HIV infections occur during adolescence.
  • About one-third of all women have reported being victims of sexual and gender-based violence during their lifetimes.
  • Around 132 million girls are out of school. This includes 34.3 million of primary education age, 30 million who should be in lower secondary school, and 67.4 million who are not getting upper secondary education.

Never before have there been so many young people… 1.8 billion. Never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress. How we meet the needs and aspirations of young people will define our common future. Young people are about to inherit an enormous responsibility for resolving many long-standing complex problems, ranging from poverty to climate change, yet they have mostly been excluded from participating in the decisions that will determine what the future looks like.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ICPD, the governments of Kenya and Denmark, along with UNFPA, are co-convening the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 on November 12-14. The heart of the Summit will be the endorsement of a set of voluntary global commitments, through global consultations with different stakeholders, largely centred on achieving the “three zeros:"

  • Zero unmet need for family planning.
  • Zero preventable maternal deaths.
  • Zero gender-based violence and harmful practices against women, girls and youth. 

The ICPD Programme of Action both informed and, in many ways, underpins the entire Agenda 2030 and the SDGs. In fact, completing the ICPD Goals is critical to meet Agenda 2030 and the SDGs.

An International Steering Committee (ISC), co-chaired by the governments of Kenya and Denmark and by UNFPA, has been formed to guide the Nairobi Summit process. One of the ISC's key responsibilities is to develop a set of voluntary commitments, which it has already prepared:

  1. Overall, intensify our efforts to achieve full, effective and accelerated implementation and funding of the ICPD Programme of Action within the framework of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.
  2. Strive for zero preventable maternal deaths.
  3. Integrate a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health and rights interventions into national universal health coverage strategies, policies and programmes.
  4. Ensure zero unmet need for family planning information and services, as well as universal availability of quality, affordable and safe modern contraceptives, including during humanitarian crises.
  5. Uphold bodily integrity and autonomy, allowing all individuals to make decisions governing their bodies for themselves and to access the essential services in support of that notion.
  6. For young people to have access to age-appropriate information and services required to adequately protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies, and sexually transmitted infections like HIV/AIDS.
  7. End child marriage.
  8. Eliminate female genital mutilation.
  9. Terminate sexual and gender-based violence.
  10. End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls.
  11. Set up or explore new financing instruments and structures to mobilize the required resources to finance the full ICPD agenda, in particular the “three zeros.”
  12. Use national budget processes, as well as all available (innovative) financing instruments and schemes, to do what is in our power to increase domestic financing for sexual and reproductive health programmes to fill the funding gap.
  13. Increase the percentage of official development assistance specifically earmarked for sexual and reproductive health and rights to complement domestic financing of sexual and reproductive health programmes.
  14. Harness the demographic dividend by investing in family planning information and services, and investing in the health, education and employment opportunities of young people.
  15. Support the notion that nothing about young people’s health and well-being can be discussed and decided upon without their direct and full involvement and equal participation (“nothing about us, without us”).
  16. Build inclusive societies, where the old and the young, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples, all feel valued and able to contribute to their societies.
  17. Make the provision of data and the improvement of our data systems a priority to achieve sustainable development.

As part of the ISC's engagement with a broader spectrum of people, we welcome your feedback on these draft Nairobi Summit commitments until 31 August. To do so, please click below to participate in a short survey. Your comments and suggestions will enable the Summit organizers to ensure an inclusive programme that balances the opportunities for participants to chart strategies to implement a post-summit roadmap to implement the Nairobi commitments. 

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We look forward to your comments to make the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 a milestone in the enduring challenge to achieve all the goals that the 1994 ICPD Programme of Action set for the world.