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Statement by Minister Jackson Mthembu delivered on behalf of 55 Likeminded Countries at the Nairobi Summit on #ICPD25

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Ladies and Gentlemen, Representatives of the media,
I have the honor of delivering this statement on behalf of the Governments and peoples of fifty-five countries: Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, United Kingdom, Uruguay, as well as my own country South Africa. 

We congratulate the Governments of Denmark and Kenya, and UNFPA for convening this Summit and we express our sincere thanks to President Kenyatta, for hosting this historic gathering. We also thank civil society for their immense contribution to ICPD and to the Cairo agenda since then until today. 

The ICPD Programme of Action has undeniably accelerated national and global development. Twenty-five years ago, the international community put forth a new definition of population policy that elevated sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. 

Over this past quarter-century, women and girls all over the world have had more access to health care and education than ever. Many laws and policies that held them back have been abolished or amended. Millions of women have contributed to the well-being of their family and are now more fully participating and leading in all sectors in their communities and countries. This extraordinary progress was possible because we prioritized access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. This has been essential to our success. 

Women’s and girls’ empowerment and SRHR remain central to achieving the SDGs. Education, health, food security, and jobs can bring about gender equality only if women are also able to determine their childbearing, as a basic human right. According to the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission, fulfilling the SRHR promise that was made in Cairo has been impeded in part by persistent discrimination against women and girls. Moreover, women and girls across the world continue to experience sexual and gender-based violence. This ought to end! 

Policies once put population control over the right of women to decide whether, when, and with whom to have children. The nations of the world agreed to the ICPD Programme of Action for their own experiences showed that major population and development challenges could not be solved without the meaningful participation of women and girls. 

One hundred and seventy-nine countries once stood together to bring us to this point. Today, 4.3 billion people will have limited or no access to sexual and reproductive health services throughout their childbearing years unless we accelerate action now. So, we must urgently finish what we began. 

We know what the world would be like if SRHR was provided to all. There would be 67 million fewer unintended pregnancies annually, 2.2 million fewer newborn deaths, and 224,000 fewer maternal deaths. Women and adolescent girls in the poorest regions would have equal access to opportunities, services and rights available elsewhere. Universal health coverage schemes would accelerate accessibility and affordability of SRHR, including for young people. 

Such a world is within our reach, if we all fully deliver the promise we made in Cairo. We had great belief in the consensus we achieved then. Twenty-five years of social and economic progress has shown what can be accomplished and paved the way forward.
It was an act of great political courage for Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, to attend the ICPD. She noted with sadness that a concerted global effort to address common problems seemed lost. “We are a planet in crisis,” she said. “The question before us…is whether we have the will, the energy, the strength to do something about it. I say we do. We must.” Her conviction rings in our ears. 

Finally, we support the Nairobi Statement and recommit to the ICPD goals to be fully achieved, within the next decade. 

I thank you for your attention.