My Experience At The International Conference on Population and Development.

About three weeks ago, I was in the city of the pharaohs having been selected by the UNFPA Country office and Reach A Hand Uganda to represent Uganda at the youth model ICPD Conference.

The ICPD stands for International Conference on population and Development and was since enacted in 1994. Therefore whoever attended the conference was a ’94 child. This conference spoke for diversity, and the need to end preventable maternal death, meet all women’s demand for family planning, and stop violence against women and girls by 2030.

History of the ICPD

In 1994, 179 governments from all over the world met in Cairo, Egypt and adopted the groundbreaking ICPD Programme of Action, positioning rights at the center of sustainable development, and recognizing reproductive rights as human rights, as well as young people and adolescents as rights holders in regards to their sexual and reproductive health.

Further more, since the ICPD, gains have been made in strengthening maternal health care and expanding access to quality contraceptive information and services. But there are still many young women who have not benefited from these gains, with more than 800 dying during pregnancy and childbirth.

The aim is to put a stop to gender-based violence, child marriage and female genital mutilation.

The bold, rights-based vision of the ICPD – that development must put young people first, that attention must be paid to strengthening equal access to health, education, and human dignity for all persons – anticipated the bold, ambitious vision of the 2030 Agenda

Commitments made in 1994

Some of the commitments made in the ICPD Programme of Action (1994) to young people include:

  • Realization of the right to education and attainment of a secondary school education
  • Delaying marriage beyond childhood and ensuring free and full choice in marriage-related decisions
  • Exercise of the right to health, including access to friendly health services and counseling
  • Access to health-promoting information, including on sexual and reproductive matters
  • Acquisition of protective assets and agency, particularly among girls and young women, and promotion of gender equitable roles and attitudes
  • Protection from gender-based violence; and socialization in a supportive environment. These are crucial for a successful transition to adulthood.

Being the home of the ICPD, every year Egypt hosts youth representatives from across the world to review achieved progress and challenges in relation to the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action. The ICPD Model emphasizes that in years to come, young people will be crucial to advancing not just the Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda but all social movements.

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This year, the 2-day conference had a total of 120 countries that were represented. The sessions were distributed into 3 sections including;

  1. Adolescent & Youth Reproductive Health Package
  2. Gender Equality and Harmful Practices
  3. Data and Demographic Dividend.

My involvement in the Youth Model ICPD

I have come to the realization that every mission, and appointment is not coincidental. It has a role it plays in the agenda of global dominion. Perhaps if we thought deeper about the common adage “there is a reason for everything”, then we would take seriously the things that happen to us, and the places we are taken to.

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So while at this outstanding conference organized at the JW Marriot, a voting had to happen in which a Secretary General, 3 Deputy Secretary Generals and Rapporteurs were to be chosen. Whoever nominated themselves had to go through the grueling process to convince the rest of the ICPDians on why they deserved the post. It is almost next to impossible to try and convince a people who do not speak, and slightly understand the English Language… When my turn came, I spoke as eloquently as I could, promising the ICPDians to have a more engaging session when I take control as Deputy SG.

I got voted the most, and happened to be leading first session which was the Adolescent & Youth Reproductive Health Package.

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L-R Virna from El-Salvador, Yours Truly DSG from Uganda, Samey SG from Egypt, and Michal from Congo. Vianey and Michal were Rapporteurs

My role as Deputy SG included;

  1. Request country delegations that were prepared/interested/ready to speak on the “Solutions from around the Globe” topic. This would call for country delegates to submit challenges, and recommendations according to their country’s demographic.
  2. Select 15 countries to submit on the topic for 2 minutes.
  3. Announce a one-hour moderated caucus that allows delegates to make short comments on a specific sub-area collected by rapporteurs during country presentations with the help of mentors
  4. Announce the end of the Caucus time, and call for a one hour lunch break

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From the caucus time, here are the commitments that put forward by different country delegations.

While I was DSG, I picked on Uganda, and my colleague submitted a 2 minute presentation on what Adolescent and Sexual Reproductive Health looks like in the Pearl of Africa.

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Asuman Nalolo from Uganda. He works with Plan International Uganda

The recommendations we put forward during the presentation reflected what UNFPA Uganda, and  Reach A Hand Uganda, have done to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services, reinforce a holistic understanding of individuals’ sexual and reproductive well-being, as well as access to education, and services for youths.

These recommendations included;

  1. Collaborative partnerships with the Ministry of Education and Sports to integrate Life Planning skills education into school curriculum.
  2. Integration of Youth friendly services and safe spaces into Public Health centres
  3. Youth counseling, access to family planning and HIV/AIDS services as packages to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.

These recommendations and commitments will be presented at the ICPD Conference in Nairobi that starts today until November 14th . The #NairobiSummit aims at mobilizing political will and financial commitments from leaders to urgently implement the ICPD Programme of Action. #ICPD25

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Every delegate had access to a microphone, and translation. This for me stands out as meaningful youth participation.

My observation while at the ICPD youth Model was that every young person representing their country was heard, and their opinion considered. All challenges and recommendations that were fronted by country representatives were take note of. It would be bias for me to state that organizations, entities and governments could go a long way if they adopted the UN Model of deliberation. However, if you are looking to pick the mind of everyone in the room, you must give them a chance to speak.

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Delegates share what their countries are doing differently

The reason we have youths still demonstrating with placards saying “Our voices are not heard“, is because usually a handful are given chance to speak and “represent” the rest is still and will produce a multitude of discontented youths as long as it goes on.

Day 2 was dedicated to voting for the adoption of the different commitments that were fronted from the caucus meetings on the 3 sessions. Senegal was not comfortable with the way a commitment regarding Gender was stated and therefore rejected the document until it was corrected. Now that is active youth participation. 

Uganda endorsed the report that had the commitments from all 3 sessions. And finally, the passing of the report developed in the lead up to ICPD @25 happened.

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A Kenyan Delegate takes down notes during caucus time.

The 2nd day entailed creative learning that consisted of 5 forms of translating recommendations of Youth Model ICPD into creative forms through five facilitated workshops including Art, Film, Theatre, Dance, and Social Media. Below are some of the activities different workshops got to pull off.

Side events

I figured you might think we were about intensive learning. However, UNFPA Egypt office really outdid themselves in organizing the conference. There were plenty of other events, I almost couldn’t keep up.. (I intend to write a blog on Your guide through Egypt). However for now, here goes.

On the official opening date, Tuesday 15th October, we had a dinner at the Renaissance Cairo Mirage City Hotel. On the night of the first day of the conference, we had a run at the Citadel which is a medieval islamic fort built by Egyptian rulers. It was the seat of government in Egypt and the residence of its rulers for nearly 700 years from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Its location commands such an envious view of the city. It shines with bright playful lighting. The run lasted 5 minutes and the finish line was lined with all sorts of speakers playing Egyptian music

The night of the 2nd night, we had dinner at the JW Marriot’s open space.. And while everyone else was dancing, I was out taking memorable pictures of the Hotel’s curtain draping, wall hangings and art.

On Thursday, we visited the Pyramids (look out for my guide through Egypt Blog Kale).

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And now, allow me sign out… Take care little darlings because the Father who art in Heaven loves you dearly.

Personal Opinion: Is The New Vision Treading Towards Irrelevance?

This week, I was part of a media training organized by the Aga Khan University    (They have Masters Courses that would interest some of you) and while there, I learned from one of the facilitators, Barbara Among that New Vision is selling shares.

Barbara is a veteran journalist whose work encompasses investigative reporting on conflict, human rights, terrorism, politics, business, health and environment. She has worked for the Daily Monitor, The East African, among several other media outlets. She is currently a consultant in media and communications issues.

Barbara shared that the New Vision is said to be owned by the government because the aforementioned entity owns 53.9% of the shares, while 46.1% of these are open for purchase by the public or any interested parties.

However, history lends that the New Vision was fashioned by the Ugandan government in 1986 (after the National Resistance Movement (NRM) seized power), even though the publication initially belonged to the British colonial government under the connotation “The Ugandan Argus”.

Under the new government, William Pike, a young Irish hippy was offered a post In the New Vision which he accepted because President Museveni showed a frivolous drive towards implementing a revolution that was going to change the whole of Africa, not just Uganda. According to Pike, “the NRM had so many good ideas, were principled and they were going to change Uganda and fix a lot of problems that African countries suffer from”. He managed the Paper for 21 years as Chief Executive Officer until 12th October, 2006 when he resigned.

Even though Pike’s articles gave Museveni the chance to expound his pragmatic brand of socialism, they did little in masking Pike’s beliefs. He believed  that a government newspaper should be like BBC, which broadcasts the negative as well as the positive things about British government, not like Radio Moscow or Voice of America that only reports positive things about the government or the country. And so on countless times, the New Vision clashed with government ministers, the president, just like any newspaper. You can’t run a newspaper and not have friction with government, says Pike.

Point to note is that Pike’s articles played a key role in the re-calibration of foreign governments made once the NRM captured power in 1986. The IMF, World Bank and bilateral donors all cantered to help the new president (M7) rebuild a war-shattered economy.

Pike’s relationship with President Museveni started to go down the drain on 3 aspects;

When the journalist started to question why “Incompetent or corrupt ministers were retained in office because of their political constituencies. Smaller and smaller districts were created unnecessarily to cater for particular ethnic groups. Loyalty had become more important than principle.”

When the journalist fronted his view that Museveni should have stood down as President but remained Chairman of the NRM party. The government doe not welcome an remarks that are made towards the political crisis that is life presidency.

Any system depending on a single man’s open-mindedness and insight is doomed to fail; the term “benevolent dictator” is surely an oxymoron. But as a generation of Africans who have grown up knowing only one president or ruling party ask how the revolution came to be betrayed, the issue of how to allay the damage done by multiparty democracy will also need to be addressed.

Eventually, William Pike was forced to resign at the behest of President Museveni. It came to the president’s notice that New Vision’s “Constructive criticism” had crossed the line, was negative and defamatory of the Government. Since Pike had become a favorite, and because he had been there so long to parallel an institution, people demanded to know why he was being forced to resign. The government responded that Pike had been found to be an MI6 Agent.

Pike’s departure was followed by the appointment of Ugandan Government (NRM) spokesman Robert Kabushenga as CEO.

A look into Kabushenga’s history reveals that Vision Group’s CEO was initially actively part of the NRM Administration as spokesman, and during an interview with BBC’s Akwasi Sarpong recently, the president introduced him as a media advisor to the ruling NRM party.

Personal Opinion; Robert Kabushenga was an embodiment of the NRM, and as a media enthusiast, he would fulfill government’s agenda without causing much conflict, or being reminded what the goal is– Make Government look good. 

Unlike The Daily Monitor that welcomes both positive and negative commentary, the New Vision is centred on piling dirt on everyone that opposes the government.

In an article titled “Kabushenga is a liability to NRM” by a Vision reporter, it states that Kabushenga, like the various Uganda media authorities, has failed to do what they are supposed to do, which is accreditation and instead is doing licensing, which is wrong. The writer goes on to insinuate a questionable truth—“ Kabushenga’s problem is part of the larger national problems. As a lawyer, Kabushenga gets appointed to a job requiring someone with a Masters degree or a PhD in journalism, and he opportunistically accepts without appearing to be bothered.

FAKE NEWS

The New Vision has over the time placed itself as a face of fake news, gradually damaging its credibility. As a national newspaper, you would assume that all news would have to have be verified before it is published. Unfortunately, as long as it pleases the government or stands in agreement with the political agenda, it shall compete with several other credible pieces for a front page.

During the training, Barbara shared that the New Vision was down to 23,000 copies from the initial 35,000 copies of national sale.

The possibility of publishing fake news could be to achieve more sales, but also cement their authority since people run to print to verify rumor. But at what cost?

The growing trends of circulation of fake news in Uganda and worldwide is eroding people’s trust in the traditional media, experts have said.

During the media engagement training workshop organized by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre in February this year, Dr. Sam Kamau, a lecturer at Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications said in this era technology competes with researched and authoritative news and that the diminishing value of truth and facts has been declining for a couple of years because people are able to create their own version of truth.

“The production of fake news is often done with financial, political or social motivation. It is created either to influence people’s views, push a political agenda or cause confusion”.

Usually, traditional media has effective gate keeping which social/online media doesn’t have. According to Kamau, traditional media must put in place more mechanism to ensure that they don’t follow temptation of falling for quick news.

“Unfortunately some mainstream newspapers, television in the attempt to struggle for space have fallen victims of spreading fake news. Continuous training, checks on media teams so that they aren’t tempted to run fake stories,” said Ofwono Opondo.

Over the years, the public has complained about different publications that taint their name including the former IGP Kale Kayihura who asked the Vision group to apologize and pay him UGX. 300Million for defamatory comments made about him in relation to the death of AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi. The recent one being an accusation of the flamboyant prophet Elvis Mbonye of de-campaigning the measles Rubella vaccine.

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The kind of direction that the paper has taken would shatter William Pike’s heart. Legacy speaks of the pace he set for it to adopt a BBC semblance. He has said it before and probably would still say “it’s sad that there are now a lot of problems with corruption. It’s sad to think that that original spirit of idealism was not preserved”. To imagine that the government set out to be democratic but has since become very faceted with alot of discrepancy is alarming in the sense.

The leadership at “Uganda’s leading daily” should be questioned on professionalism. It is teeth-hurtful to find out that a national paper belonging to the government has thrown caution to the wind as far as their credibility is concerned. Is Kabushenga doing the job he was appointed to do? Perhaps, are things sliding past him? Very much so. All the best workforce has gradually flown out of the window leaving the institution for their competition. Does his boss like this?– let’s watch for whom this whirlwind will uproot.

Finally, the kicks of a leadership treading towards irrelevance can be seen with when their instigated media people are not doing a worthy job. 

References

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