Why the Holy See Won’t Participate in “Nairobi Summit on ICPD25”

The Holy See, Vatican City, Rome
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Since October 24, the Holy See, the Vatican-based jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholicism under the Holy Father made it known to the Kenyan Government that it will not be participating in the commemoration of 25 years since the last International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) took place, a three-day event dubbed ICPD25 slated to take place in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi from November 12.

“The Holy See cannot support the “Nairobi Statement on ICPD25: Accelerating the Promise,” reads the conclusion of the Press Release dated November 8, which the Holy Father’s Representative in Kenya and South Sudan, Archbishop Bert van Megen has shared with ACI Africa.

In the Press Release, while the Holy See acknowledges efforts behind ICPD25 including the choice of Africa as the meeting venue, the Vatican-based entity explains why it had to decline its participation in the widely publicized event expected to bring together thousands of delegates from across the globe.  

Essentially, the Holy See has described as “regrettable” the decision by the organizers of ICPD25 “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”

The Holy See has highlighted two “controversial and divisive issues” included in the ICPD25 program that seem misplaced among priorities of such a global convention and has declared, “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.”

Highlighting comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) by the Holy See reinforces recent declarations by various Catholic leaders in Africa, particularly in Ghana where Catholic Bishops have denounced CSE, terming it a way of introducing homosexuality in the West African nation.

The time expended on the so-called reproductive rights, the Holy See thinks, could be better utilized on more critical issues including “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 fact that ICPD25 is being convened “outside of the United Nations frames” is, according to the Holy See, “also regrettable.”

This is regrettable, the Holy See explains, because while the Nairobi Summit seems to preclude “transparent intergovernmental negations,” the kind of consensus reached at the meeting will be “misleading.”

Therefore, “The Nairobi Summit” cannot be deemed a meeting requested by the United Nations or held under its auspices,” the Holy See has announced.

The Holy See also regrets that there were not “substantive and substantial consultations” in preparing for ICPD25 and “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.”

On Thursday, November 7, the Holy Father’s Representative in Kenya disclosed to a section of Kenyan legislatures under the Catholic Members of Parliament Spiritual Support Initiative (CAMPSSI) who paid him a courtesy call the Holy See’s decision not to take part in ICPD25, a member present at the meeting told ACI Africa.

At the meeting, the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya cautioned the Kenyan politicians, in reference to the Nairobi ICPD25 Summit, to “beware of the concepts and coded words used in such a summit which mean a lot different from the surface meaning,” ACI Africa not notified after the meeting.

The words to be cautious about during ICPD25 include “diversity, rights, inclusivity, being merciful, being humane,” among others, the Nuncio is quoted to have told the Kenyan legislators and further cautioned, “Once Kenya opens the door to the discussion of sexual health rights, it will never be able to close it. And the human mind is capable of getting used to the most evil things if they are too often discussed.” 

The stance by the Holy See is consistent with that by the Kenya Christian Professionals’ Forum (KCPF), a Kenya-based Christian entity that has planned, with support from Catholic Bishops in Kenya, a parallel conference to counter ICPD25.

On Friday, November 8, the Catholic Bishops in Kenya under their umbrella body, Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed their concerns with regard to the themes to be covered during ICPD25 conference.

“We do not believe that these (ICPD25 themes) are the issues that truly concern the development of women and humanity at large,” KCCB Chairman, Archbishop Philip Anyolo stated at the Friday Press Conference.

In words that echo the stance by the Holy See regarding ICPD25, the Catholic Bishops in Kenya have discredited the planned summit stating, “Any meaningful summit will be expected to focus on a program that target actions that will uplift women and children living in extreme poverty, migration, among others.”

The Bishops have termed the topics to be discussed at the ICPD25 as going against “our African culture and our religious heritage.”

“We view this agenda as an intent to corrupt our youth and enslave them to foreign ideologies for example same sex unions and active homosexual activities,” Catholic Bishops in Kenya stated Friday, November 8.


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]