World Parliamentarians renew commitment to protect rights of women, girls

Friday, October 26, 2018

Over 200 lawmakers, cabinet ministers, UN experts, representatives of national, regional and international organisations and civil society leaders from all over the world have concluded the 7th International Parliamentarians Conference on the Implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (IPCI.ICPD) in Ottawa, Canada, with a renewed commitment to collaborate in promoting and taking action on sexual reproductive and human rights (SRHR) of women and girls.

Held between 22-23 October, the two-day forum was organised by UNFPA in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Parliamentarians for Population and Development (CAPPD), Inter-American Parliamentary Group on Population and Development (IAPG) and European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (EPF) with support from regional parliamentary groups from Africa, the Arab world and Asia.

The conference set out to achieve three objectives namely; keeping the ICPD issues alive and within mainstream parliamentary discourse across the world, taking stock of the progress of the ICPD Programme implementation; and strategically positioning population dynamics in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Canada’s minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau said Canada hosted the first ICPD conference in 2002 and it is an honour for them to once again bring together parliamentarians and other stakeholders to discuss pivotal issues facing the health and rights of women and girls around the world.

She stressed Canada’s commitment to mobilising global support for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls which, she said is a key commitment of Feminist International Assistance Policy. “We believe that focusing Canada’s international assistance on gender equality and full empowerment of women and girls is the most effective way for our international assistance to make a difference in the world,” she said.

Hedy Fry, a Canadian Member of Parliament and chairperson of CADDP described the conference as an historic event as it marks the 24th anniversary of ICPD. “Despite the passage of time, the Cairo Programme of Action developed by world leaders in 1994, remains relevant,” she said.

She said after more than two decades of sporadic progress in protecting the world’s poorest, weakest and most vulnerable people, the participants are bringing a substantial amount of knowledge. “We also have a responsibility, not only to monitor the progress of the international community in realising the commitments made in the ICPD Programme of Action, but also to apply ways to address the new challenges women and girls face in a world where conflict and migration have placed them at greater risk.”

Dr. Natalia Kanem, executive director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Under Secretary General of the United Nations recaptured the advances made since the Cairo Declaration, some 25 years ago.

She said it is the duty of parliamentarians to hold governments to account in ensuring that they fulfill their commitments on the Cairo Declaration.

The UNFPA head said for women to have choices that can change the world, gender equality is key in addressing the challenges. She added that there should be zero tolerance to harmful traditional practices including Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Ousman Sillah, National Assembly Member of Banjul North and chairperson of the National Assembly Select-Committee on health, women, children, disaster, humanitarian relief and refugees, who represented The Gambia at the conference implored on his parliamentary colleagues to rise up to the challenges and address the pressing issues affecting women and girls.

“As Parliamentarians, it is our duty to muster the courage and demonstrate the political will to promote and defend the rights of women and girls even if it means committing political suicide,” he said.

Mr. Sillah underscored the importance of such international conferences which, he said provides the platform to articulate common issues and build strong partnerships to address common concerns. “We need to continue working and collaborating with our partners to address issues of common concern. However, since our dependency on donor funding of the most basic needs of populations is not sustainable, it is important for us parliamentarians to ensure that our governments start committing our national resources to address these needs,” he said.

The conference ended with the adoption of the Ottawa Statement of Commitment to the implementation of ICPD on the Road to 2030.