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IAWG in the 25 Years Since ICPD

Next week, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) professionals will gather in Nairobi, Kenya for ICPD+25, which marks 25 years since the groundbreaking International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994. The conference mobilized critical funding and catalyzed commitments, action, and the formation of new partnerships – including the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) on Reproductive Health in Crises, a broad-based, highly collaborative coalition committed to advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of people affected by conflict and natural disaster.

During the conference, IAWG is co-hosting a session on delivering the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) on Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH). IAWG has also provided a list of suggested SRHR and humanitarian sessions.

Since its inception in 1995, IAWG has worked to provide technical guidance, champion evidence-based practices, address supply chain failures, and advocate for SRHR to be included in the field of humanitarian action.

Some of the coalitions key achievements include:

Despite this progress, efforts to deliver SRH services and supplies in crisis-affected settings continue to face tremendous challenges. While funding has increased, it remains insufficient to meet the unprecedented scale of today’s humanitarian emergencies. Given the deepening of conflicts and crises around the world and increasing attacks on the rights of women, girls and other groups disproportionately affected by crisis and conflict, the following issues remain to be addressed:

  1. A critical need for strengthened coordination between the development and humanitarian
  2. Marginalized populations that are still too often left behind. These populations include but are not limited to, girls and women, adolescents, people with disabilities, people engaged in sex work, and people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC).
  3. Global rollbacks of support for SRHR access, which negatively impact programs and, at times, force their closure.
  4. A dire need for greater access to quality lifesaving human-rights-based SRH services, including non-discriminatory access to safe abortion care, the full range of contraceptives, and emergency obstetric services.

In response to these gaps, IAWG welcomes the draft of Nairobi ICPD+25 Commitments, which includes the commitment to:

“uphold the right to sexual and reproductive health care in humanitarian and fragile settings by […] the provision of the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, including access to safe abortion care.”

Looking ahead, ICPD+25 should catalyze stronger commitments to SRHR for people affected by humanitarian crises, including:

  • Governments and donors to increase funding, flexibility, and implementation lengths for emergency health programming to meet the SRHR needs of people in crises;
  • Development, humanitarian, peace, and human rights actors to develop and execute concrete strategies to improve ways of working together, particularly on preparedness and recovery efforts, to advance SRHR in humanitarian settings in partnership with community members, young people and beneficiaries;
  • Researchers to include humanitarian settings in data collection, including data disaggregation beyond age and sex, and research proposals on improving the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of SRH services;
  • Governments, donors, and the humanitarian and development communities to invest in building resilient supply chains that anticipate SRH supply needs in emergencies, and withstand and rebuild from crises;
  • Governments, donors, and the humanitarian and development communities fund, research, and implement rights-based programs to ensure SRHR for the most marginalized populations, including adolescents, SOGIESC persons, people with disabilities, and people engaging in sex work;
  • Governments, donors, and the humanitarian and development communities fund, research, and implement comprehensive and rights-based programs that meet the full range of SRHR needs, including safe abortion care and contraceptive services; and
  • Development and humanitarian actors to systemically ensure full, effective and meaningful participation of women-focused civil society organizations and young people along the emergency-to-development continuum in all program phases, including mobilizing support for capacity strengthening and mentorship modalities for locally-led gender or youth programming.

As the global community prepares to celebrate ICDP’s 25th anniversary in Nairobi, IAWG prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The 18th IAWG meeting, Bridging the Divide: Operationalizing Sexual and Reproductive Rights in the Nexus Bridging the Divide: Operationalizing Sexual and Reproductive Rights in the Nexus, will take place in February 2020 in Thailand. This moment provides a key opportunity to address the gaps that remain, build on our progress, and set the course for the next 25 years.