Messe à Nairobi

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Holy See Will Not Participate in Nairobi Summit

Conference will be Held Outside of United Nations Framework

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The Governments of Denmark and Kenya, together with the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), are organizing a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, November 12-14, 2019, under the title “The Nairobi Summit on ICPD 25.” Its organizers intend to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which took place in Cairo in 1994.

The Holy See is and remains a staunch supporter of ensuring the advancement of equitable, sustainable and integral human development that fosters human dignity and the common good of every man, woman and child, as Pope Francis stated: development must be founded on “effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education. These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life and, more generally, what we could call the right to existence of human nature itself.” [1]

The conference held in Cairo in 1994 was an important event. The Programme of Action was noteworthy, in particular, for its affirmation against all forms of coercion in population policies. The position of the Holy See on the ICPD documents and their terminology is contained in the specific reservations to the same documents.[2]

Therefore, the Holy See noted with interest the news that a conference to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the ICPD was planned for this year and that it was to take place in Africa. The organizers’ decision, however, to focus the conference on a few controversial and divisive issues that do not enjoy international consensus and that do not reflect accurately the broader population and development agenda outlined by the ICPD, is regrettable. The ICPD and its encompassing Programme of Action within the international community’s broad development agenda should not be reduced to so-called “sexual and reproductive health and rights” and “comprehensive sexuality education.” There is, instead, the urgent need to focus on critical aspects of the Programme of Action, such as women and children living in extreme poverty, migration, strategies for development, literacy and education, the promotion of a culture of peace, support for the family as the basic unit of society, ending violence against women, and ensuring access to employment, land, capital and technology, etc.

The Holy See cannot support the “Nairobi Statement on ICPD25: Accelerating the Promise.” It regrets that no substantive and substantial consultations on the text were carried out. The Holy See notes that if more time and a truly inclusive approach had been chosen, broader support could have been ensured for the text and for the conference.

It is also regrettable that the conference will be held outside of the United Nations framework, thus precluding transparent intergovernmental negotiations while conveying the misleading impression of “consensus” on the “Nairobi Statement.” Therefore, “The Nairobi Summit” cannot be deemed a meeting requested by the United Nations or held under its auspices.

Consequently, on 24 October 2019, the Holy See informed the Government of Kenya that it will not participate in the conference.

1. Pope Francis’ address to the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2015.
2. The reservations of the Holy See are to be interpreted in terms of the statement made by the representative of the Holy See at the 14th plenary meeting of the International Conference on Population and Development, on 13 September 1994; available at:, p. 143.

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