Holy See, African Bishops, and Kenyan NGOs Object to UNFPA’s SRHR Summit in Nairobi
Friday, November 8, 2019

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the governments of Kenya and Denmark are hosting a conference—The Nairobi Summit on ICPD 25—marking the 25th anniversary of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). The conference has raised objections from the Holy See, bishops in Africa, and Christian organizations in Kenya over its promotion of abortion and other issues included under the broad banner of “sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)”.

Despite the claim by UNFPA that the November 12-14 conference represents “all nations and peoples, and all segments of our societies” and “aims to bring everyone together: heads of state, ministers, parliamentarians, thought-leaders, technical experts, civil society organizations, grassroots organizations, young people, business and community leaders, faith-based organizations, … many others interested in the pursuit of sexual and reproductive health and rights”, with few exceptions only those professing a progressive interpretation of “sexual and reproductive health and rights” have been welcomed to attend.

Christian and pro-life organizations and individuals from Kenya, the US, and around the world have largely been excluded from the conference while those professing universal access to abortion have not only been welcomed and registered; many will have an active role as speakers or moderators. Other pro-radical sexual and reproductive health and rights organizations have had a leading role in devising the list of Nairobi Commitments for which countries and organizations are expected to support and commit to financing and implementing.

The first commitment in the list of 12 is an attempt to include access to abortion as a component of “sexual and reproductive health and rights” into universal health coverage. Belgium expressed its commitment under category of  “full, effective and accelerated implementation and funding of the ICPD Programme of Action, Key Actions for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action of the ICPD and Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development” to continue to financially support She Decides, the pro-abortion fund established by the Netherlands after President Trump issued the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy to stop US foreign aid to international organizations that perform or promote abortion who do not pledge to stop doing or advocating for abortion.

The statement created for the conference, Nairobi Statement on ICPD25: Accelerating the Promise also demonstrates the pro-abortion agenda of the conference as it too seeks to advance abortion as part of a package of sexual and reproductive health interventions to be considered part of universal health coverage.

Lest there be any doubts remaining as to the agenda, pro-abortion organizations attending the Nairobi summit have issued a Global Declaration on Abortion  which also seeks to advance abortion as part of “an essential package of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health” that countries will commit to implement through national strategies, budgets and programs and through universal health coverage.

Today, the Holy See announced that it cannot participate in the conference.  In its announcement, the Holy See raised concern about the lack of “substantive and substantial consultations on the text”, and that it is being held “outside of the United Nations framework which precludes “transparent intergovernmental negotiations while conveying the misleading impression of ‘consensus’ on the ‘Nairobi Statement’. It concluded, “‘The Nairobi Summit’ cannot be deemed a meeting requested by the United Nations or held under its auspices.”

The Holy See reiterated its staunch support for “ensuring the advancement of equitable, sustainable and integral human development that fosters human dignity and the common good of every man, woman and child” and quoted Pope Francis’ address to the UN General Assembly in 2015 when he stated that “the 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."

According to the Holy See, the organizers’ decision “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’.”

Catholic bishops in Africa have issued strong words about the Summit’s agenda.  Bishop Alfred Rotich, chair of the Kenyan bishops' family life office, stated, “We find such a conference not good for us, (and) destroying the agenda for life. There will be about 10,000 people here and we know what they are for, they are not pro-life but they are 10,000 abortionists. They are practitioners of what is against life. Their coming here is to endorse a wrong policy.”

According to Catholic News Agency Africa, Bishop Rotich described Kenya as a country “always open and ready and receptive to all manner of discussion and things,” and wondered why “the Kenyan president has offered the country as a market where the pro-choice agenda can be be sold. We are looking at it from the African culture and we are asking the nation through the president, have we no values?” He continued: “What is the constitution saying about the respect of God? What is our interpretation, we as independent and sovereign nation? Are we aware of the enemy that is continually interfering with our tradition and culture of protecting life?”

The Summit was described by Bishop Rotich as an intrusion that is “a dragon against our agenda for life.” Archbishop Martin Kivuva of Mombasa described the summit's agenda as “unacceptable according to our teaching of the Catholic Church” and issued a warning to the president, “Be warned Mr. President, these (ICPD25 agenda) are the issues you should watch out,” adding, “We need to say no, we cannot take this.”

In his comments, Archbishop Kivuva mentioned the “hidden agenda” of the conference which is to reduce the African population stating, “Remember most of this is about population reduction and yet in Europe there is zero growth yet they tell us we are many.” He added that the foreign organizers of the summit “tell us we are poor because we are many. That is a lie! We are poor because they took and still take our resources. Look at DR Congo, with all the minerals it should be the richest country.”

As a counter move, the Catholic Church in Kenya in collaboration with the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), and the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya and the Kenya Christian Professionals’ Forum, has organized a parallel convention.

According to Dr. Wahome Ngare from the Association of Catholic Doctors in Kenya, these counter side events “will allow pro-life and pro-family people to meet and dialogue over issues related to family and life and send an alternative message to the world about what Africans think about the issues.”

Richard Kakeeto, from Centre for Social Justice at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, warned that “there are global entities that are opposed to the Church's position and because such entities are well-resourced financially, they have been able to penetrate the United Nations (UN) and make sure that some UN policies and directives to countries are contrary to the values of family and life.”

He continued, “One of the dangerous thing is that they are asking our governments to implement what is called universal health care which seems like very good. Unfortunately, the proposed universal health care by UNFPA and its allies is designed to offer abortion services, cover contraceptives…This means that my money in taxes is going to be spent on covering things which I don't agree with morally and within the teaching of my church.”

The organizers of the alternative conference, according to Kakeeto, hope to devise an alternative set of commitments “derived from the International Conference on Population and Development that are very good for families, very good for life but have been neglected deliberately by the implementing agencies”.

These commitments are ones that the organizers of the parallel convention invite their governments to consider as they journey “with the faith based entities in implementing these commitments.”

Faith-based health organizations provide anywhere from 30-70% of health care in sub-Saharan Africa, depending on the country. These organizations, especially those working to ensure women and their children survive pregnancy and childbirth, must not be hindered in their work by demands that they abandon their core beliefs in the implementation of so-called Nairobi commitments.

The ICPD Programme of Action rightly recognized that recommendations for action should be given with “full respect for the various religious and ethical values, cultural backgrounds and philosophical convictions of its people” but that agreement is being ignored by Nairobi Summit organizers.

While UNFPA claims that the Nairobi Summit seeks “to mobilize the political will and financial commitments we urgently need to finally and fully implement the ICPD Programme of Action” it ignores the agreements reached at Cairo that do not comport with its radical agenda.

It ignores the fact that in Cairo it was agreed to in the Programme of Action that “governments should take appropriate steps to help women avoid abortion, which in no case should be promoted as a method of family planning”.

It ignores the fact that in Cairo governments are urged in the Programme of Action “to take the necessary measures to prevent infanticide, prenatal sex selection…”

It ignores the fact that the Programme of Action addressed the “use of technologies to determine foetal sex, resulting in abortion of female fetuses” and called prenatal sex selection “a harmful and unethical practice” against girls. 

Agreements reached at Cairo and expressed in the Programme of Action that are antithetical to the Nairobi agenda of universal access to abortion are conveniently ignored by UNFPA and its pro-abortion partners as they claim to seek full implementation of ICPD Programme of Action. As the Holy See stated, the Nairobi Summit “cannot be deemed a meeting requested by the United Nations or held under its auspices.”

Pro-life parliamentarians need to carefully scrutinize any commitments made by their governments in Nairobi.