UNITED NATIONS, New York – The High-Level Commission (HLC) on the ICPD25 Follow-up held its second virtual meeting of 2022 on 8 - 9 June. The main focus of the session was to present the work for the upcoming 2022 think piece which is expected to be launched at the Nairobi Summit anniversary in November, and the commissioners’ advocacy efforts for keeping the Nairobi commitments to women’s health and rights on track. One highlight of the meeting was the interaction with guest speaker Prof. Loretta Ross, a renowned academic, feminist, and activist, who unpacked the concept of the Sexual and Reproductive Justice as an organizing framework and engaged the commission in an inspiring discussion as to how this framework can help advance its work of fulfilling the promise of the ICPD Programme of Action (ICPD PoA) for everyone, everywhere.

The guest lecture by Professor Ross was much appreciated by the entire commission, and was organized in direct response to UNFPA’s Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem recommendation made during the commission’s previous meeting in February 2002 to further elaborate the concept of sexual and reproductive justice and leverage the HLC’s inaugural report “No Exceptions, No Exclusions: Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice for All” as an advocacy tool to continue to advance the commitments of the Nairobi Summit, in particular, the 12 overarching commitments contained in the Nairobi Statement. Welcoming this feedback,  the 27 commissioners and the Co-chairs H.E. Jakaya Kikwete, former President of Tanzania, and H.E. Michaëlle Jean, former Governor-General of Canada, have since then collectively reflected on ways to further expand their advocacy efforts for the 2022 follow-up think piece and ways to accelerate progress on the commitments at large as we get closer to ICPD@30 and Nairobi@5 in 2024. 

As a pioneer of the Reproductive Justice movement, Loretta Ross is one of the 12 women of African descent who came together in 1994 and coined the term and principle of Reproductive Justice as an organizing framework to address the intersectionality of reproductive rights and social justice. Her vast experience in mobilizing and organizing a movement for Reproductive Justice gave the ground for an insightful and inspiring discussion with the HLC. 

“After we attended the ICPD in Cairo in 1994, we were very clear that we wanted to use this new framework called reproductive justice. Reproductive justice is fairly simple to understand:

It is the human right to both have a child and have that child under the conditions one wishes to have that child but it's also the human right not to have a child.” She continued to elaborate the various principles around which the framework is formulated, which eventually also incorporated bodily autonomy more broadly, including the rights related to gender identity and sexual orientation.

Her remarks were followed by an interactive discussion and Q&A with HLC members who agreed on the importance of the Sexual and Reproductive justice framework as a key vehicle to advance the Nairobi Commitments and the recommendations of the commission's first report. The discussion also focused on the usefulness of the concept in support of generating more evidence to advance the full and accelerated implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action. In addition, the relevance of the framework for linking it with other justice agendas, including climate justice, social justice, and racial justice, was a key focus of the conversation. 

The exchange with Prof. Ross followed the first day of sessions on 8 June, during which, Commissioners shared updates on the work areas of Analysis, Monitoring Framework, and Political Advocacy. Important takeaways included the alignment of efforts across the commission’s different areas of work, building a solid foundation of data as the commission moves forward with the indicators established in the inaugural report, and ways in which to translate the advocacy efforts into policy change. The meeting concluded with participants looking forward and discussing the commission’s next steps to be taken. 

The commission is scheduled to meet again in September, ahead of the anticipated launch of its next report that is planned for November this year.