Celebration of 50th Anniversary of UNFPA and ICPD25 on eve of 12th Extraordinary Session of the African Union

06 Jul 2019

Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem at the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of UNFPA and ICPD25 on the eve of the 12th Extraordinary Session of the African Union on the African Continental Free Trade Area in Niamey, Niger.

Your Excellency, President Mahamadou Issoufou, of the Republic of Niger
Your Excellency, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Chairperson of the African Union and President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,
Distinguished First Ladies of Africa
Your Excellency Chairperson of the African Union Commission
Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Madam Amina Mohammed
Excellencies, Heads of African Regional Institutions
Ministers and Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished Guests
All Protocols observed,

My sincere gratitude to President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger for bringing us together his evening ahead of your Summit tomorrow.

At the outset, allow me to congratulate African leaders on the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)/Zone de Libre Echange.

We, of the United Nations, ably led this evening by the Deputy Secretary General, my boss, a proud daughter of Africa, Saraaouina Amina Mohammed, join the African Union in celebrating this achievement which is highly significant, especially for the young people of this continent. 

This year we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and its landmark Programme of Action.

It was on this continent, in Cairo, where 25 years ago, African leaders proudly joined with all 179 Member States to imagine a future in which every pregnancy is by choice, a future in which girls no longer face childbearing in their tender, immature years.

Tonight, as we reflect on our collective journey since Cairo, the question is: “What has changed for Africa?

Considerable progress has been made across the continent, thanks to your leadership.

African women’s access to family planning has increased.  

Over the last 25 years, skilled birth attendance by qualified midwives has also increased, cutting by half the risk of women dying in pregnancy or childbirth.  

In West and Central Africa, for instance death in child birth has fallen by fully one third.

These are concrete results of your own efforts to invest in human capital.  This is also a concrete example of how AU Commission led initiatives such as the brilliant Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) can bring about change. And, you First Ladies have played an instrumental role. With your permission, may we applaud the First Ladies.

Since Cairo ICPD in 1994, Africa has made equally important strides in many other areas like our fight against HIV/AIDS. Not completely there yet, but visibly the HIV landscape is definitely not what it used to be.

Tonight, it is an opportunity for us to celebrate your leadership and achievements in delivering on the Cairo commitments. 

We, at the United Nations, are honored to be with you in this journey. 

Excellencies, distinguished guests,

African leaders have put women’s empowerment and investments in youth at the center of African priorities, dedicating 2017 to the theme: “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth.”

This morning, we were extremely pleased to hear leaders of the Sahel celebrate the strong results achieved so far through the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD), a home-grown, country led, country owned initiative, backed by the World Bank and other key partners.

Tonight, we want to congratulate President Issoufou who initiated the SWEDD here in Niamey.

Initiatives like SWEDD, and those engaging faith-based organizations, traditional and religious leaders show the power of partnerships that empower women and girls.

These investments are saving lives, they are creating hope and they are transforming economies.  They are also evidence of your strong commitment.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,

We have made strong progress in our journey towards the Africa We Want.

However, there is unfinished business in Africa:

  • One in five women cannot meet their family planning needs as they wish;
  • One in three women are married by age 18; and
  • One in three women are affected by sexual and gender based violence.

The Africa that we want is an Africa with 3 Zeros:

  • Zero unmet need for family planning;
  • Zero preventable maternal deaths, and
  • Zero violence and harmful practices against women and girls, including female genital mutilation and child marriage.

UNFPA and the entire UN family is committed to continuing our support for the realization of the Africa We Want.

That is why the Governments of Kenya and Denmark, together with UNFPA, will convene leaders and participants from all over the world, from 12 to 14 November for the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25. This Summit will mobilize the commitments so urgently needed to finally and fully implement the ICPD Programme of Action.

On behalf of the co-conveners, please join us in Nairobi.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Colleagues and Friends,

Nairobi offers us an opportunity to make commitments that will accelerate the good progress observed so far and to ultimately finish the unfinished business of ICPD.

As President Mandela once remarked “The mark of great leaders is the ability to understand the context in which they are operating and act accordingly”.

It is fortunate for Africa that such leadership exists here today and is producing tangible results.

When the African adolescent girl gets to fulfill her potential as is her due, there is ample evidence that the return to be reaped on that investment is at least 10 times and can be up to 120 times more.

When the African adolescent girl gets to fulfill her potential, Africa too will prosper.

Tonight, I want to thank you on behalf of that African girl child.

Before I close, meeting with African girls this afternoon, they asked me to carry their message to their Heads of State. I made a promise to them that I would.

  • They want you to help them stay in school
  • They want you to end child marriage
  • They want you to enable them to fulfill their dreams.



Thank you.

We use cookies and other identifiers to help improve your online experience. By using our website you agree to this. To learn more, including how to change your settings, see our cookie policy