The Holy See will not participate in next week's Nairobi Summit, its mission to the UN announced Friday, saying next week's international gathering is too focused on “reproductive rights”.
The Nov. 12-14 Nairobi Summit is sponsored by the UN Population Fund and the governments of Kenya and Denmark, and it marks the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, which was held in Cairo.
Its program includes five themes, among which are “Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights as a part of universal health coverage” and “Upholding the right to sexual and reproductive health care even in humanitarian and fragile contexts.”
“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 Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations said Nov. 8.
The Holy See had informed Kenya Oct. 24 it would not be participating in the summit.
“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,'”, the Holy See stated.
Rather, there is an “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 permanent observer mission said the Holy See cannot support the Nairobi Statement, citing 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 added 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.”
The permanent observer mission added that “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.”
Several African bishops have also noted grave concerns with the gathering in Nairobi.
Bishop Alfred Rotich, Bishop Emeritus of the Military Ordinariate of Kenya and chair of the Kenyan bishops' family life office, told ACI Africa: “We find such a conference not good for us, (and) destroying the agenda for life.”
Archbishop Martin Kivuva of Mombasa described the summit's agenda as “unacceptable according to our teaching of the Catholic Church” and he encouraged Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta to be wary of the forum.
To counter the agenda of the Nairobi Summit, the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum, with the backing of Kenya's bishops, has organized a parallel convention to be held Nov. 11-14.