UNFPA Brussels Director, Sietske Steneker, introduced the MPs to the successes as well as the unfinished business in realising the ICPD Programme of Action. In the past 25 years, maternal mortality dropped by 40%, adolescent birth rates by one third, early marriages by one fourth and more women had access to family planning.
At the same time, progress has been slow and uneven. In Sub-Saharan Africa, maternal mortality remains an enormous challenge. Worldwide, only 50% of all women have the right to decide to use family planning. The barriers are multiple, including the out-of-pocket costs, the mentality of service providers, and, at the core of it all, the persistence of gender inequality.
Longstanding as well as new challenges were addressed at the Nairobi Summit, which brought together a total of 9,500 participants from all parts of the world, making it an unprecedented summit in support of the ICPD.
Belgian MPs energised by the voices of thousands of young people
Belgium’s MPs, Goedele Liekens and Fourat Ben Chikha, shared their experiences as delegates to the ICPD Nairobi Summit. They were energised by the new generation of young activists they met at the Summit. “Young people have a right to be heard and to have a seat at the table. Some were even standing on top of it!”, Senator Fourat Ben Chikha said. Goedele Liekens echoed Fourat Ben Chikha in his praise of youth activists and the mobilising spirit of the Summit. “The key to realising the SDGs is SRHR, to let girls decide for themselves. Once we start realising SRHR the rest will follow”, Goedele Liekens was quoted as saying, who continued “Yet, I don’t like to hear that women need to be ‘empowered’. Women do not need to be empowered. They are powerful, they have strength, but the problem is that their strength is constrained [by others]”. Both MPs also warned about the influence of an increasingly professional and well-funded opposition to SRHR, as well as the hypocrisy of some of the political leaders that took the stage.
Belgium’s commitment to the future implementation of the ICPD
Marie-Paule Duquesnoy of DGD debriefed the MPs on Belgium’s commitments for the future implementation of the ICPD, which include continued core support for UNFPA, the She Decides movement, UNICEF-UNFPA joint work on early marriages, SRHR projects and programmes in the partner countries and sexual violence response in the DRC.
Liana Hoornweg of ENABEL, Belgium’s implementing agency, introduced the new country programmes in Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda and Senegal that will contribute to the implementation of the ICPD PoA. The programmes differ from country to country, with, in Benin a focus on awareness and behavioural change of young people and women, and the integration of SRH services in the health sector; in Burkina Faso a focus on family planning and economic empowerment of women; in Guinea-Bissau a programme on access to SRH services and Rwanda a cooperation on results-based financing that includes advancing SRH service-delivery in primary health care.
The Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda will follow-up on DGD’s and ENABEL’s efforts to accelerate the implementation of the ICPD.