“The African and Asian Parliamentarians’ Meeting on Population and Development: Creating Positive Impacts for ICPD+25 and SDGs”

Osamu Kusumoto (Ph.D.), Executive Director and Secretary General Asian Population and Development Association (APDA)

By Osamu Kusumoto
TOKYO, Japan, Aug 19 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) organized the “African and Asian Parliamentarians’ Meeting on Population and Development for ICPD+25” on August 5 – 6, 2019, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to serve as a platform to gather the opinions and set of proposed actions of parliamentarians in the Asia and Africa regions.

Osamu Kusumoto

This November, the world will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) through a Summit in Nairobi, Kenya.

The theme of the event, which is called ICPD+25, will revolve along with the progress made by countries on the Programme of Action (PoA) in the last 25 years, as well as on how to tackle the unfinished business of the ICPD. The event will also underscore the role of parliamentarians in ensuring that the gaps are addressed.

The ICPD+25 Summit in Nairobi will coincide with the 50th-anniversary celebration of the establishment of UNFPA, the international organization who was and continue to be the main force behind the ICPD.

The ICPD+25 Summit will define the efforts of countries in addressing population issues in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, which was adopted in 2015.

The ICPD Programme of Action shaped the discourse around the issues of population, reproductive health and rights, and gender equality. Before the ICPD, the population was regarded as the main variable for achieving sustainable development.

The ICPD achieved a paradigm shift in the way we perceive population issues as its nature from one of the most important variables for achieving sustainable development to becoming the subject of society’s debates. It used to be handled as a statistical target but following the principles of the ICPD, it became clear that addressing population issues should be a result of voluntary decision making or through informed choice.

As a result, two different philosophies were formed: the population is the largest variable in sustainable development, and at the same time it is not a means of sustainable development. The past 25 years of addressing population issues exist between these two directions, and the center of the population activities was a history that emphasizes the direction of RR.

In view of this, the African and Asian Parliamentarians’ Meeting is set to make a major contribution to the Nairobi Summit, which requires substantial international agreement since ICPD, through the integration of reproductive rights and the SDG approaches. It clarified several issues, made recommendations and affirmed its commitments.

Thus,

    (1) Reaffirming the philosophy of ICPD, which clarified that the population does not just number, it refers to humans that constitute the society;

    (2) Clarifying that the purpose of ICPD and SDGs are the same and that without finishing the unfinished business of the ICPD Programme of Action is not possible to achieve the SDGs;

    (3) The reproductive rights concept has been clearly defined in the ICPD as early as 25 years ago. Efforts to prevent unwanted and unplanned pregnancy – which is the main cause of population growth in developing countries – must be triggered by arguments that population-related problems hamper the achievement of sustainable development goals;

    (4) There is a need to achieve an appropriate level of fertility rate in developing and developed countries by using the same perspective to view to fulfill the Reproductive Rights. Fertility transition which introduces balanced fertility at both developing countries and developed countries what will be called the third demographic transition should be the result of social and economic policies that bring about the development in countries; and

    (5) Mere discussions and/or interpretation about reproductive rights concept is not productive. To realize its actual meaning, questions such as “How can we achieve reproductive rights?” should be the front and center of the discussions. This and questions around requisite conditions to avoid death due to starvation i.e. ensuring food security, protecting the environment, and securing water are just as important and critical discussion components and should be considered in the bigger scheme of things.

Addressing Gender & Protection Issues During Humanitarian Emergencies

By Nimarta Khuman
PORT VILA, Vanuatu, Aug 19 2019 – Vanuatu is among the world’s ‘most at-risk’ countries to natural disasters. In the last 12 months alone, the country has faced multiple volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, cyclone and tsunami.

The largest humanitarian emergency was caused by volcanic eruptions on the island of Ambae which resulted in the evacuation of over 8,000 people. Some displaced communities have resettled in the islands of Santo and Efate, but land ownership is a contentious issue.

Vanuatu also has the lowest rate of women in parliament and ministerial positions globally and high rates of gender-based violence. Cumulatively, these issues increase the risks affecting women and girls in humanitarian emergency and recovery periods.

In an interview with UN Women, Nimrata Khuman explains what it means to incorporate gender and protection in humanitarian action and why it’s important.

Excerpts from the interview:

What is meant by “Gender and Protection in Humanitarian Action”?

When we talk about gender and protection in humanitarian action, we need to ask the questions about whether we have addressed the different needs of women, girls, men and boys in our humanitarian response, because there is no “one size fits all” approach that works.

Every context in which a disaster has happened is different and women and girls may have unique risks, vulnerabilities and capabilities. There are other factors that can contribute to their marginalization and vulnerability, such as disability, age, sexual orientation, income and location.

The Department of Women’s Affairs leads the Gender and Protection Cluster in Vanuatu in partnership with CARE and Save the Children. The Cluster works to promote women’s voice and leadership, prevent and respond to gender-based violence, and ensure child protection and disability inclusion in any humanitarian response is designed and implemented for the affected population.

During the humanitarian response to the Ambae disaster for example, referral pathways for gender-based violence and child protection services were developed and Gender and Protection Cluster partners raised awareness within communities about violence prevention and where to go to access assistance.

Partners also developed and disseminated information for communities about their rights during evacuation and resettlement, conducted leadership training for women involved in humanitarian response, provided psycho-social support services and child-friendly spaces to help children cope with the effects of the disaster.

Volcanic eruption in Vanuatu

How did you incorporate gender and protection in the humanitarian response in Vanuatu?

The Gender and Protection Cluster ensures that people’s rights are protected and respected, and they can access services across all sectors safely and with dignity. This involves assessing needs, referring concerns and raising awareness among communities and service providers (such as agencies involved in food distribution, shelter, education and water, sanitation and hygiene).

It also involves advocating with other ministries to include gender and protection concerns into their response. During the Ambae State of Emergency, a joint Gender and Protection and Health Cluster was established to provide services across sectors for people with disabilities.

The Gender and Protection Cluster worked with the WASH Cluster to raise awareness on issues such as safety, lighting and privacy for toilet and shower facilities. During the Ambae and Ambrym responses, partners also integrated information on gender equality and menstrual hygiene management when speaking to communities.

We have also drawn attention to the lack of access to land and income for displaced communities, exposure to violence and delays in children’s education, when advocating with the Government.

We are now in the Ambae recovery phase and have been working with the Prime Minister’s Office to ensure all sectors include relevant actions and budgets for gender and protection in the programmes under the Ambae and Affected Islands Recovery Plan.

What has been the role of women in the different crises in Vanuatu in the past year?

Women are a vital part of humanitarian response and the ongoing emergencies have presented an opportunity to increase women’s participation and leadership in humanitarian action. In the Department of Women’s Affairs for example, seven of the ten staff who have been involved in leading response in different provinces are women.

The National Disaster Management Office and NGOs have involved senior female staff members in coordinating and responding to emergencies. The Vanuatu Women’s Centre has also been very active in efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in emergencies and has provided support for life-saving counselling, health, legal assistance and access to justice services for survivors of violence.

At the community level, women are pivotal to disaster preparedness, and for designing response and resilience activities that meet the needs and realities of their communities. Gender and Protection Cluster partners are implementing programmes involving women in Community Disaster and Climate Change Committees and increasing women’s voice in decision-making at the local level.

But we need more women in leadership positions within communities, in the humanitarian sector and in Ministries and Departments which make decisions on policy, planning and financial resource allocations.

What are the biggest challenges that you are facing in your work in Vanuatu?

Since I arrived in Vanuatu a year ago, there have been five natural disasters due to the volcanic eruptions in Ambae, volcanic eruptions and earthquake in Ambrym, a tsunami affecting Aneityum, Tropical Cyclone Oma, and most recently, the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle, which has the potential to destroy livelihoods of tens of thousands of people if left untreated.

These disasters have caused people to leave behind their homes, their land and jobs. Integrating into new communities has also not been an easy process for the displaced. Some are still living in tents in Santo and there is tension between displaced people and host communities due to the lack of essential services and resources in resettlement sites.

Some of the key issues that the Gender and Protection Cluster addresses in times of emergencies include violence against women and children, family separation, inclusive response for marginalized groups and ensuring that people can access services across sectors.

Although we have been able to shape policies, we need them to be implemented down to the community level. For this to happen, we need increased awareness that addressing gender and protection in humanitarian action is lifesaving and planning and budgeting needs to reflect that.

More initiatives are also required to prepare communities for the effects of natural disasters and to ensure that they are supported in the recovery phases.

What innovative approaches have worked so far?

Listening to communities and community-led solutions have been key in the programmes developed by the Gender and Protection Cluster partners. In Vanuatu, we have very strong church and chief systems and the Gender and Protection Cluster has been working with both in disaster preparedness, emergency and recovery.

Partners have trained church leaders and chiefs in community-based protection, peacebuilding, violence prevention and referral pathways. Churches are often used as evacuation centres and in the recovery phase, the Vanuatu Christian Council has mapped churches and assessed inclusivity of design in different islands.

The Vanuatu Women’s Centre has trained church leaders and chiefs to become male advocates and other partners have included local chiefs in their awareness-raising activities to ensure women’s leadership and voice is factored into response programmes.

The joint Gender and Protection and Health Cluster for the Ambae State of Emergency was also the first of its kind in Vanuatu and demonstrated that collaboration across different sectors and ministries can increase access to services for the most vulnerable.

Building upon lessons learned from recent disasters, in the next year we will be working on strengthening preparedness and response at the local level and developing protocols for elimination of violence against women and girls in emergencies.

We will also be training government, NGO partners and community leaders in Gender and Protection in Humanitarian Action and setting up Gender and Protection Committees in each of the six provinces of Vanuatu.