As CSOs, we laud Government for the launch of the new Population Policy

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Dr Rose Oronje
Dr Rose Oronje

By Dr Rose Oronje

 

The launch on Thursday June 6 2024 of the Sessional Paper No. 1 of 2023 on Kenya National Population Policy for Sustainable Development (new Kenya Population Policy), a document that will guide Kenya’s efforts towards sustainable development marks an important milestone. I thank the National Council Population and Development (NCPD) and the Government of Kenya for employing an inclusive and participatory approach that sought the input of Civil society organisations at national level and in our counties, in the development of this important policy.

 

The collaboration between the government and the CSOs has been instrumental in addressing the multifaceted challenges related to population and development and in strongly advocating for the inclusion of population dynamics in efforts toward sustainable development planning and programming. Our partnership is built on a shared commitment to improve the quality of life for all Kenyans. 

 

Civil society actors, through their presence at international, national, and grassroots levels, play a crucial role in the implementation of population policies. Among others, we bring to the table specialized expertise, innovative approaches, evidence to inform policy and practice, community engagement, and the ability to mobilize resources to complement the efforts of the Government of Kenya.

 

As part of the Population and Development Stakeholders forum convened by NCPD, the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP), and other civil society organizations have actively contributed to the formulation, advocacy, and implementation of policies and programs that address key population issues.

 

Over the years, we have seen the tangible benefits of this collaboration. Through joint efforts, we have enhanced access to family planning services, improved maternal and child health outcomes, and empowered communities with knowledge and resources. 

 

We have also ignited the conversation linking population dynamics and environment and climate change, and are boldly addressing the triple threat of HIV, teen pregnancies, Gender-based Violence, and other harmful practices that threaten progress on our efforts to achieve sustainable development goals, including gender equity and equality. Importantly, we have worked together to demystify concerns about population policies, misconstrued by some stakeholders as a population control agenda. 

 

Nothing is further from the truth. In fact, we have collectively made efforts to enable us to view the potential to harness a demographic dividend from our young population that could catapult sustainable development if we strategically invest in our human capital. These achievements underscore the importance of our continued partnership with the government.

 

The new Kenya Population Policy aligns with national and international development agendas, including Vision 2030, the Government’s Bottom-Up Transformational Agenda (BETA), the African Union Agenda 2063, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) commitments. 

 

It emphasizes the need for a high-quality life for all Kenyans, with specific objectives aimed at maximizing human capital (including implementing Kenya’s commitments to harness the demographic dividend for accelerated economic growth), promoting an integrated approach to population, environment, and development challenges, and harnessing opportunities from international migration while minimizing associated risks. 

 

As we mark 30 years after the landmark 1994 ICPD commitments, these objectives align with the rights-based approach to population and development outlined in the ICPD agenda. 

 

Civil society remains committed to supporting the government in achieving the aims of this policy. We pledge to continue our efforts in awareness creation, increasing citizen engagement, providing evidence to support the policy’s implementation (including the evidence needed to enhance domestic investments in key development sectors), and strengthening broad-based support for population and development initiatives. As we applaud improved population and development indicators in the last decade at the national level, this policy provides a platform to reinvigorate our collective action, including ensuring that we do not leave any communities behind in our counties. 

 

One critical aspect of our work is ensuring that the voices of the most vulnerable are heard and addressed. This includes women, children, persons with disabilities, and marginalized communities. By working closely with these groups, we can better understand their needs and challenges and jointly develop and implement targeted interventions that promote equity and inclusiveness.

 

Importantly, we must recognize the importance of adapting to emerging and under-addressed challenges such as climate change, urbanization, and health pandemics. The new Kenya Population Policy addresses these issues comprehensively, and it is our collective responsibility to implement measures that mitigate their impact on our population. Civil society organizations will play a key role in advocating for and implementing sustainable practices that protect our environment and promote public health.

 

In all these efforts, the role of data and research cannot be overstated. Evidence-informed decision-making is at the heart of effective policy design, implementation, and monitoring, evaluation, and learning. 

 

Civil society organizations have been instrumental in generating and disseminating data and information needed to inform policy and program choices, design, and implementation. We will continue to support the government in this endeavor, ensuring that our strategies are informed by credible and up-to-date information.

 

The launch of this policy is a testament to the power of partnership and collaboration. It is a call to action for all stakeholders to unite in our efforts to achieve a sustainable future for all Kenyans. 

 

We look forward to continuing our work with the government, development partners, and the community at large to build a prosperous and equitable society. And civil society, we want to specifically thank UNFPA and USAID among other development actors for supporting AFIDEP and other CSOs on population and development initiatives.

The writer is the Kenya Country Director of the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP)  

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