UNITED NATIONS, New York – The High Level Commission on the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 Follow-up held its culminating event on the sidelines of the High-Level week of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, September 22, that saw the launch of its 2023 report driving home a clear message: sexual and reproductive justice cannot wait, and we all must play a part in achieving rights and choices becoming a reality for all people. The event was held with a full in-person audience at the auditorium of the Scandinavia House in New York, while also being live streamed in various languages so global audiences could join in, and started with opening remarks by the Commission’s Co-Chairs presenting the report.

Leading up to the fourth anniversary of the landmark 2019 Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, and as preparations for the ICPD30 review process are gearing up, the Commission's final report calls on all actors to ensure that no one is left behind in the quest for reproductive justice by ensuring that the multiple barriers to its realization are redressed, in their totality. 

Entitled Sexual and Reproductive Justice Cannot Wait: All Rights, All People, Acting Now, the report by the Commission urges diverse movements for justice, including those advocating for sexual and reproductive rights, youth, gender equality and climate solutions, to join forces in driving deep-seated changes needed around the world. This final report of the Commission, the third in a series, provides a quick and accessible summary of the Commission’s thought leadership, findings and recommendations over the past years. The report demonstrates the power of sexual and reproductive justice as a framework to link issues, people’s movements, and monitoring to keep progress on the ICPD goals and Nairobi Summit commitments on track.

The Right Honorable Michaëlle Jean

Commission Co-chair The Right Honorable Michaëlle Jean, former Governor General of Canada, emphasized that “sexual and reproductive justice is a universal concept, built on sexual and reproductive health and rights. The concept recognizes that structural inequalities and intersecting forms of oppression fundamentally determine sexual and reproductive decision-making.”

Report praises advances while pointing to persistent shortcomings

The Commission’s report insists on advancing the commitments made at Nairobi to complete the ICPD agenda, acknowledging the structural and cultural barriers to their progress. It notes that, “Too many people have been left behind in every part of the world, caught in multiple traps of discrimination, deprived of bodily autonomy and their right to make choices about their lives.”

Co-chair H. E. Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, the former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, emphasized that sexual and reproductive justice requires better socioeconomic development overall. He stated, “The global efforts at development within societies must be underpinned by sexual and reproductive justice. If we are to see a world which is fair and inclusive, a justice perspective has to be central to the attainment and transformation of these rights to empower all humanity.”

Co-chair H. E. Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete presents.

UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem, commending the Commission on its impressive body of work, said “The call for reproductive justice is a call for accountability to uphold our inalienable human rights. It requires deliberate actions, in community after community, with a focused message and direction. It requires our continuous attention and mobilization.” She added, “The report launched today outlines the path forward, both collectively and individually, to meet the 12 core Nairobi commitments and achieve three transformative zeros: zero unmet need for contraception, zero preventable maternal deaths, and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices.”

The final report of the Commission, reinforces the messages from its previous two authoritative and highly-acclaimed reports, the 2021 report  No Exceptions, No Exclusions: Realizing sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice for all, and the 2022 report Sexual and Reproductive Justice as the vehicle to deliver the Nairobi Summit commitments, and its advocacy  to achieve the commitments.

Report received by Dr. Natalia Kanem

The event was also joined by H.E. Dan Jørgensen, Minister for Development Cooperation and Global Climate Policy of Denmark, representing Denmark as one of the co-hosts of the Nairobi Summit together with UNFPA and Kenya, as well as the key donor that supported the work of the Commission over the past three years. 

The event also included an interactive panel with panelists drawn from amongst the Commissioners, including H.E. Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, South Africa and Chairperson, Partners in Population and Development who spoke on the advances made in her country from the grassroots level up to engage local communities in advancing sexual and reproductive justice. 

Myrna Cunningham, indigenous rights activist, eloquently highlighted the particular struggles faced by indigenous women and girls in exercising their reproductive rights and stressed the importance of addressing their needs in culturally appropriate ways. She also stressed the need for better data, that allows for more disaggregation, along categories that currently remain overlooked. 

Martin Karadzhov, Board member of ILGA world, underscored the importance of meeting young people on their terms and paid special attention to the needs of LGBTQ+ communities, which are often faced with high levels of discrimination and oppression. 

The role of parliaments and parliamentarians in ensuring conducive legislation and policy frameworks, was underscored by Inter-Parliamentary Union Secretary-General, Martin Chungong.  The role of the private sector in creating a conducive environment that supports and upholds sexual and reproductive health and rights of workers, customers and more, was the focus of the final intervention of the panel by Jan-Willem Scheijgrond, Vice President Government and Public Affairs at Royal Philips.

Youth are key

The Commission’s report launch was accompanied by a youth friendly version prepared by and for young people, on their terms and in their words. The youth-led organizations CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality and the Major Group for Children and Youth supported the development of these and other materials, including a guide for youth engagement in ICPD-related processes, as well as regional and global youth consultations to empower young people to keep the momentum on the accountability for the implementation of the ICPD25 commitments as we move into the ICPD30 process. 

The youngest members of the Commission took the floor to present the youth report and guide to the audience, following in the room and online, and included Hatim Aznague, founder and President of The Sustainable Development's Youth based in Morocco; Alexandra Dvaretskaya-Chichikova, Miss Wheelchair World 2017 and health advocate; Jaha Dukureh, CEO Safe Hands for Girls and staunch advocate for ending FGM; Martin Karadzhov, Board member a of ILGA World; and Sangeet Kayastha, Coordinator, Y-PEER Asia Pacific Center.

Commissioner Hatim Aznague reminded the audience, “Every day in all parts of the world young people lead by example; by celebrating their diverse identities, by advocating for universal and accessible healthcare and by demanding gender-transformative and comprehensive sexuality education free of stigma and stereotypes. You know you can count on young people to never sit still, to always raise the bar, and to keep pushing for what is right and what is our right.” 

Online Global Monitoring Framework

Also launched at the meeting was an interactive online dashboard that presents the Commission’s Global Commitments Monitoring Framework and in-depth country profiles. The robust monitoring framework tracks the implementation of the core Nairobi Summit commitments and has been featured as an annex in the annual reports of the High-Level Commission on the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 Follow-up and has been updated on an annual basis. The framework captures the global ICPD and Nairobi commitments and presents them in a scorecard, using a four-color traffic light system to indicate progress globally and regionally on key global indicators under each of the core global commitments and as an overall score for every commitment. In addition, the framework includes a range of in-depth country profiles that provide further deep dives on the data. Now the framework is also available as a user-friendly, interactive online dashboard, in which trends can be tracked year on year and across regions.

A Call for Justice

Co-chairs H. E. Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete and The Right Honorable Michaëlle Jean, concluded the Commission’s report, and led the Commission into their final meeting, with a clarion call: “The cry for justice, once heard, cannot be ignored. Countries and activist movements around the world are calling for justice, for all people, across all issues. They are an inspiration, rising up for change. We believe they are also harbingers of a better future, one envisioned by the ICPD, and despite the challenges, always within reach.”

About the Commission

Established in September 2020 for a three-year term, the High-Level Commission was mandated to annually track progress on the set of 12 Global Commitments made at the Nairobi Summit and provide guidance and political backing for meaningful follow-up. Coming from diverse backgrounds in government, civil society, parliament, youth and faith-based organizations, the private sector and others, Commission members provided recommendations to remove bottlenecks and accelerate momentum towards a world of rights and choices for all. 

Following the launch of its final report and the accompanying deliverables, the Commission held its concluding meeting to reflect on its body of work accomplished over the past three years, discuss lessons learned and key takeaways, for which they were joined by UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem, who expressed her sincere thanks to the Co-Chairs, Commissioners and Secretariat for the impressive legacy to High-Level Commission is leaving behind, which will be an important contribution and input to the ICPD30 process and beyond.