This week on Monday and Tuesday (16th & 17th May) EPF and its French NGO partners (Equilibres et Populations and Mouvement Français Pour le Planning Familial) organized a Global Parliamentarians’ Summit entitled “Girls and Population: the forgotten drivers of development”. The event was hosted at the French National Assembly by EPF Vice-President Hon. Danielle Bousquet, and it brought together more than 60 parliamentarians committed to population and development issues from around the world, and from across the political spectrum.
The summit featured presentations and speeches from a range of prominent representatives of international organizations and the French Government. Speakers included French Ministers in charge of Cooperation (Hon. Henri de Raincourt) and Solidarity and Social Cohesion (Hon. Roselyne Bachelot), as well as UNFPA Deputy Executive Director Mari Simonen, World Bank Gender and Development Group Director Mayra Buvinic, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, IPPF Director-General Gill Greer, and Women Deliver President Jill Sheffield.
"Parliamentarians represent the people," Jill Sheffield, president of Women Deliver said during her speech at the Parliamentarians' Forum. "You have the power to shape policy and make laws that benefit girls and women, the power to be accountable and make others accountable for the deaths of mothers and newborns, the power to decide on budget allocations on maternal and newborn health, and the power to advoccate for MDGs 4 and 5 and make other policymakers understand the importance of saving the lives of girls and women."
It also featured detailed presentations from eminent academics, such as Professor Malcolm Potts (from the University of Berkeley’s School of Public Health) and Professor Jean-Pierre Guengant (from the Institut de Recherche pour Développement). High-profile activists from the public sphere spoke too, such as maternal health advocate (and former supermodel) Christy Turlington Burns (President of Every Mother Counts) and Georgia’s First Lady Sandra E. Roelofs (WHO Goodwill Ambassador for the health-related MDGs).
Two days of intense and thought-provoking sessions and workshops enabled all participants to share and discuss ideas relating to the vital role that girls and young women play in population dynamics and development as a whole. They heard messages of horror of the indignities suffered by girls and young women across the world; but they also heard messages of hope from people who are achieving real results on the ground. And common conclusions were identified and articulated: that there can be no more cost-effective way to drive development than investing in the developing world’s 600 million girls and young women. As Aïcha Bah Diallo, from the Forum of African Women Educationalists said, “Investing in women will give a boost to health, education, the economy and democracy. It will also promote peace and stability.”
On the summit’s closing day the parliamentarians in attendance worked to draw up a common declaration to the leaders of the G8 and G20, ahead of the G8 Summit in Deauville later this month. The document shows these leaders the importance and urgency of investing in the developing world’s most vulnerable and its most valuable asset, and the influence it will have on global population.
In the coming days the presentations given by speakers will be uploaded to www.epfweb.org.