ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia—African governments today issued a strong reaffirmation of their common commitment to prioritizing the needs and rights of women, girls and young people. They also asserted that safeguarding and promoting these needs and rights is essential to addressing barriers to the region’s economic and social development and to delivering sustainable transformation for the continent’s future.
The Addis Ababa Declaration came at the conclusion of the Ministerial Segment of the African Regional Conference on Population and Development, Harnessing the Demographic Dividend: The Future We Want for Africa, attended by ministers representing 52 countries, which was held here from 30 September to 4 October.
The event was co-organized by UNECA, UN Economic Council for Africa, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and the African Union as part of a UN mandated global review of progress towards the goals set out at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), intended to lead to a new agenda that puts human rights at the heart of development
The declaration sets out a shared platform for action to address gender inequality, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and to prioritize the education, empowerment and economic and social participation of women and young people.
After days of intense discussions, informed by preparatory meetings of technical experts, civil society and youth organizations from across the region, delegates adopted the declaration which will be the region’s input to next year’s UN General Assembly review of the ICPD. This will, in turn, inform global consultations on development priorities succeeding the Millennium Development Goals.
The declaration will be incorporated into the work plans of the Africa Union and UNECA.
The Declaration reasserts key principles of the ICPD Programme of Action, stressing States’ responsibility to protect human rights and to address the root causes of poverty, including taking action to prevent early marriage and to provide comprehensive sexuality education. It calls for universal and equitable access to sexual and reproductive health, including the eradication of female genital mutilation/cutting, universal access to family planning as a means to address maternal death and to prevent the spread of sexuality transmitted diseases, including HIV.
The challenges and opportunities presented by Africa’s large and growing youth population are addressed with recommendations on the need for quality education, including comprehensive sexuality education, decent work and rights-based policies that effectively respond to urbanization and migration. Creating conditions for peace and security, including addressing violence towards women and girls, was acknowledged as fundamental to inclusive sustainable social and economic development and harnessing the demographic dividend for Africa.
At the closing, Carlos Lopes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, commended governments for their forward-looking agreement.
“The Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development speaks for itself by making a strong stance to ensure the dignity and equality. It calls for new partnerships to reaffirm the continuous relevance and importance of population and related issues as key to development strategies. I also note that most of these commitments are focused on the youth, and on implementation of pro-youth policies,” said Mr. Lopes.
Governments adopted the Declaration by consensus. Several governments recorded reservations in relation to certain paragraphs of the declaration.
Closing the conference, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, said: “The opportunity Africa has today to reinvent, develop and become more competitive is standing right in front of us. They are our young people, unleashing their potential will require specifically focused investment in youth. I am pleased that Africa has come up with its own set of priorities that can be taken forward into the post 2015 development and African 2063 agenda.”
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