Pro-life advocates demonstrate in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 11, 2019. (CNS photo/Fredrick Nzwili) See ICPD25-CATHOLIC-DISAPPROVE Nov. 11, 2019.
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Photo: Marie Mulli

The 2019 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Nairobi last week will be remembered as a United Nations gathering that deliberately shut out pro-family and pro-life advocates from around the world.

“Most United Nations conferences will allow diverse opinions, but this one was hostile to anyone who spoke against issues like abortion or homosexuality. We also know that those admitted were sexual health and reproductive rights supporters, so their voice would dominate the summit,” Dr Wahome Ngare of the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum (KCPF) told MercatorNet.

The restrictions did not stop there, on the final day of the Nairobi Summit, when KCPF and other organizations tried to organize a peaceful demonstration around Nairobi, opposing the ideas being pushed by the conference, they were blocked. The same forces that barred pro-family and pro-life supporters from attending the summit prevented them from marching.

“Initially, they had granted us a permit but later, citing security concerns, withdrew it. So I say the system could have become soft on ICPD but hard on us,” said Richard Kakeeto the KCPF lead event organizer. Not to be stopped, in a church compound just meters from the conference, the group waved placards, sang songs and prayed.

Months earlier, pro-family and pro-life participants who applied online to be part of the summit, though not out-rightly denied entry were also not confirmed. They were left in limbo.

As the date for the summit drew closer, they had still not received accreditation. Holding a parallel conference was the next logical step for the organisers. The KCPF felt it was their duty to organize these talks because they did not agree with the ICPD values that would be disseminated in their backyard. They would make their voices heard anyway. The KCPF collaborated with other like-minded organizations from around the world and held a four-day event.

ICPD: An agenda to sexualise children

The aim of the Nairobi Summit, which drew around 6000 people, was to look at the gains made by countries since the original ICPD conference in Cairo in 1994. They set out five points to be addressed ranging from: gender based violence to “universal access to sexual and reproductive health rights” (SRHR). “Reproductive rights”, as Sharon Slater of Family Watch International pointed out, “is a euphemism for abortion, while ‘sexual health rights’ is a euphemism for legalizing prostitution, homosexuality and transgender surgeries.

“In contrast most governments think it only means the empowerment of women, stopping female genital mutilation, preventing domestic violence and so on. The UN uses this term as window dressing to get governments to accept its sexual and birth control agenda.”

The other ambiguous term being pushed in Nairobi was “comprehensive sexuality education” (CSE). “CSE sounds beautiful.” says Ms Slater, “but if you look at the content it’s harmful graphic education meant to change the norms about sex and gender – promote homosexuality, abortion and sexual pleasure. Basically, they want to liberate children from parental and religious views regarding sex.”

The aim of CSE, she suggested, is to sexualize children so they regularly access abortion, condoms, contraceptives and drugs for sexually transmitted infections, thus enriching the companies that manufacture these products and provide the services.

The ICPD Nairobi Summit put these two agendas in documents that countries were meant to agree on, alongside other genuinely good ideas like preventing gender based violence. But even if there were some good proposals, the anti-life and anti-family agenda nullified them.

‘Solutions’ opposed to authentic human development

It is no accident that the summit was held in an African country, since the continent – or at least sub-Saharan Africa – is the last frontier for population control, which remains at the heart of the UN’s agenda, despite rhetoric about women’s rights. Africa’s strongly pro-life and pro-family culture is represented in these forums as obstacles to development.

“They want to exploit Africans,” Dr Theresa Okafor, president of the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage, told me.

“When you consider ideas being pushed by the ICPD they present a front as though trying to solve a problem. We do have problems like maternal mortality but their solutions are opposed to authentic human development.

“They push contraceptives and safe abortion, yet studies have shown contraceptives have side effects which compromise the health of users, and condom promotion increases risky sexual behaviour and sexually transmitted diseases.

“So money meant for development – for clean water, better infrastructure and so on – will be recycled back to the donor to pay pharmaceutical companies to treat Africans; that’s if we do not all become annihilated.”

The other Nairobi summit

Over 200 organizations were represented in the parallel talks, the majority from Africa. Janet Opota travelled from Uganda, about 650 kilometres from Nairobi, to take part. “I came for this conference to join the rest of Africa in addressing our concerns around certain key commitments of the ICPD that are not in line with our values and culture,” she said. The promotion of sex education, contraceptives in schools, abortion and issues of homosexuality cannot fit in our society. We cannot sit back and look on as these things are being passed.”


Photo: Fredrick Nzwili / CNS

Positively, the parallel talks shared pro-life and pro-family policies from around the world. For instance, the United States Government’s support of Sexual Risk Avoidance programs that teach teenagers the benefits of avoiding and delaying sex, and Protect Life Global Health Policies under which the US government does not fund foreign programs that promote or provide abortion.

A Brazilian government financial program assists parents with the Zika virus so they do not abort their children. In Poland, the government gives a family allowance to parents who have a second child to encourage parents to have more children. And the Hungarian government suspends student loans and gives tax allowances to women on their first pregnancy to encourage young couples to marry.

The ‘Nairobi Declaration’, a reflection of African values

The parallel conference ended with the Nairobi Declaration, which called on governments: to respect sovereignty and religious and cultural values, protect and strengthen the family, respect rights of parents and end abortion. “We hope they implement these ideas,” said Dr Wahome, so that by the time they (ICPD) come back in another decade, we shall demonstrate that we actually met our targets without offending our values.”

Compared to the ICPD summit, the parallel events only attracted a fraction of the participants. “We were few,” said Dr Okafor, because of funding. It is not easy for people to leave their source of livelihood to come and listen to the discussions. We have very little material means compared to ICPD. But we had government officials, young people, civil society and religious people from all over the world, and it takes just a few people to change the world.”

On the final day of the ICPD conference a joint statement by 10 countries, led by the United States (which did not participate), opposed recommendations that would be made there. Valerie Huber of the US Department of Health and Human Services’ said that any points of action made at the ICPD were not representative of the views of all the countries:

“The Cairo program of action was negotiated and implemented by the entire United Nations general assembly membership. Now, only a small handful of governments were consulted in planning and modalities of the 2019 Nairobi Summit. Therefore, outcomes from the summit are not inter-governmentally negotiated nor are they the result of a consensus process. As a result, they should not be considered normative nor should they appear in any future documents as intergovernmental agreed language. The ICPD does not fully reflect the all the views and positions of all member states.”

The other countries represented were Belarus, Brazil, Egypt, Haiti, Hungary, Poland, St. Lucia, Uganda and Senegal.

Sharon Slater commented: “Gathered here are people from all over the world, so the Nairobi Declaration recommendations are intended to tell governments we do not want sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR), abortion rights, radical sexual rights and sexualisation of children. What we need are family based solutions to world problems.”

Now it is up to each person and organization to take suggestions put forward in the Nairobi PDeclaration and make them a reality.

Marie Mullli is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker living in Nairobi, Kenya

Postscript: Maternal mortality

In a statement of November 18 on the summit, Dr Robert Walley of Matercare International, said the conference failed to address the necessary action to reduce maternal deaths.

“The summit covered five themes, but not among them was greater access to basic obstetrical care which would prevent the overwhelming majority of maternal deaths.

“According to the study Global causes of maternal death: a WHO systematic analysis, ‘Between 2003 and 2009, haemorrhage, hypertensive disorders, and sepsis were responsible for more than half of maternal deaths worldwide.’ Therefore, access to obstetrical care ought to be the preeminent concern in the matter of reducing maternal mortality.

“Sadly, the international community represented in the Nairobi Summit fixated on ideological offerings to curb maternal mortality that hinged on the concept of reducing pregnancies overall rather than ensuring safer pregnancy and childbirth. This is a painful neglect of one group of women — mothers.

“Maternal deaths remain unacceptably high in poor countries in the 25 years since the inception of the ICPD. Mothers suffer neglect from the international community which is culpable of the denigration of motherhood to mere servitude of biology rather than upholding the dignity and vital importance of the role of motherhood that enriches our global society.

“The solution to preventing maternal deaths is not the elimination of motherhood, as summits such as these would have us believe. Rather, the solution to preventing maternal deaths is to ensure that every woman has access to clean, safe and reliable health care facilities and practitioners.

“To appreciate the importance of motherhood in our contemporary world at least four complementary approaches must be envisaged by those in whose professional expertise this responsibility lies. These are competency, conviction, community and compassion.(3) Until we, as an international community, can see women in their biological entirety as persons, not simply vehicles for a Western ideology, we will continue to fail them.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is a New Zealand journalist with a special interest in family issues. She began her working life as a secondary school teacher but always fancied the life of the scribe. Too late, she realised that the latter is even more work than teaching Shakespeare to 15-year-olds and the pay is generally less. Being a reluctant geek, she has never quite got over the surprise of finding herself the deputy editor of an online magazine -- a pleasant sensation for the most part. She once wrote a book -- the history of New Zealand’s own anti-porn movement in its heyday -- for which she got mixed reviews and no awards. She lives in the country’s largest city, Auckland, which is three hours by plane from Sydney -- the hub of MercatorNet -- and too far for comfort from anywhere else of importance. Still, it is a very nice vantage point from which to meddle in the affairs of the world.