Approximately 40 people braved the rain to attend today’s Feminist Majority workshop, From Cairo to Beijing. Panelists spoke from Asia, Africa, and the United States about the successes and problems with the implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo last year.
All three panelists stressed the important role of NGOs in developing new ways to solve problems, monitoring governments, and serving as a bridge between the people of the country and their governments. They also discussed the great impact that the political climate in countries has on the degree to which the decisions made at international conferences are implemented.
A representative of the Environment and Population Center in Zambia discussed the positive impacts of the ICPD, including development of a program that making medical care available free to all pregnant women and children under age five. A national commission was also formed to look at the best ways to transfer the Cairo agreements to national policies.
However, because many of the NGOs in Zambia and the rest of Sub-saharan Africa are poorly funded, many have not adopted a long-term perspective on attempting to implement the Plan of Action. In addition, information dissemination about the implications of the decisions made at the conference to the grassroots and to the people of Zambia has been difficult.
Karen Rindge, from Planned Parenthood, spoke on the U.S. perspective of the ICPD. She had very little good news to tell. The lack of financial support from foundations for NGOs working on implementation of Cairo and the shift in control of the U.S. Congress to conservative Republicans have undermined implementation of the Cairo document in the U.S. The Republican-controlled House and the Senate are attempting to both dismantle domestic social programs in the U.S. and to slash international family planning assistance, cutting the funding entirely for organizations working on reproductive rights issues.
A panelist from Bangladesh told the audience about problems with implementation of the agreements in her country. The UNFPA has translated the platform into Bangla, which is the language that 80% of the people speak and formed an advisory panel for follow-up of the conference. However, while the only organizations really interested in implementing the decisions from the Cairo conference in Bangladesh have been women, these very organizations have been excluded from the governmental process.
The panelists reminded the audience that despite some setbacks in implemenation of the Cairo Plan of Action in the first year, the document sets forth a ten-year implementation strategy.