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November 7, 2019


The Governments of Denmark and Kenya, together with the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), are organizing a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, 12-14 November 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: https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/events/pdf/expert/27/SupportingDocuments/A_CONF.171_13_Rev.1.pdf, p. 143.


Women, Peace and Security

On November 4, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave a statement before the United Nations Security Council during the Open Debate dedicated to "Women, Peace and Security” The intervention was delivered by Monsignor David Charters.

He said that next year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Security Council Resolution 1325, focused on Women, Peace and Security. He welcomed the progress that has been made but said that more needs to be done to ensure that the contribution of women is recognized and valued. He spoke about the difficult situation faced by girls and women living in war torn areas of the world who often suffer through sexual violence being used as a weapon of war and from forced displacement and a lack access to healthcare, sanitation. Resolution 1325 recognizes the unique role and abilities of women in promoting reconciliation, he said, and encourages their participation both within their local communities as well as on a national and international stage. He recalled the selfless and tireless work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the work of the sisters of the Talitha Kum network, underlining how the efforts of such women helps to build a culture of peace and to foster the recognition of the unique dignity of all human persons. 

His statement can be found here:


Report of the International Law Commission

On November 5, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave a statement before the Sixth Committee of the 73rd Session of the U.N. General Assembly on Agenda item 79, dedicated to those sections of the Report of the International Law Commission that focused on environmental protection in relation to armed conflicts, the immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction and Sea-level rise in relation to international law.

Archbishop Auza expressed appreciation for the International Law Commission’s adoption of draft principles on the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts, noting that at least 40 percent of all conflicts between States are associated with natural resources. Archbishop Auza said that the immunity of State officials from foreign jurisdiction must be respected, but some egregious criminal acts should be excluded from immunity. He encouraged focus on procedural issues such as timing, invocation and waivers, as these contribute to an even-handed and transparent handling of immunity issues while protecting just sovereignty concerns. He said that sea-level rise demands more than laws, but, consistent with Pope Francis’ call for an “ integral ecology,” an integrated, ethical approach that highlights the consequences of rising sea-levels on armed conflicts.

His statement can be found here