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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - The 30th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Assembly was convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on January 28 and 29 2018. Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director led our delegation in a series of engagements at the Summit that included attending the Summit proceedings and a number of bilateral discussions with AU Heads of States, Ministers and representatives of government.

Dr. Kanem’s engagement was an important opportunity to further strengthen UNFPA’s partnership with the African Union, particularly in supporting continuity of the AU’s 2017 theme on “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth” and its related Roadmap. The 2017 African Union theme of the year was the first in recent years to be backed by a substantive roadmap. UNFPA has worked closely with the AU to support national level planning and adoption of the roadmap – a contribution that was strongly acknowledged by Heads of State and Government.

UNFPA’s engagement at the summit was an opportunity to reassure African Union Heads of State and Government that UNFPA still prioritizes its work on the continent and will work to strengthen the excellent relationship and legacy left behind by Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. For this Summit, UNFPA was especially invited by the Office of the President of Ghana, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in his capacity as AU Champion on Gender and Development Issues. In this regard, UNFPA provided support to a high level event hosted by the President that focused on the need to accelerate the ratification of the Maputo Protocol (Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa). The event also coincided with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and provided a great opportunity to emphasize the three transformative results of the UNFPA Strategic Plan and the link with the African girl who must be empowered to reach her full potential.

In addition to the Summit, the UNFPA Executive Director participated and spoke at a breakfast meeting hosted by the President of Guinea and outgoing Chairperson of the African Union, H. E. Professor Alpha Conde. The meeting was aimed at increasing the representation of women in senior leadership positions within international organisations. This event featured the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, Presidents of Chad, Ghana, South Africa, Vice President of Zambia, Ministers and other representatives from AU Member States, the African Union Commission (AUC) and other high-level dignitaries. Dr. Natalia used this platform to further underscore UNFPA’s commitment to lead the charge of investing in women and girls, including in their health and wellbeing, guaranteeing their human rights, as critical measures towards meeting the African Union’s Agenda 2063 that outlines the “Africa We Want” and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Executive Director noted UNFPA’s support to the UN Secretary-General’s initiative to ensure gender parity at senior levels within the UN and will continue to work towards this.

Dr. Natalia Kanem also held a number of bilateral meetings with Heads of State and Government and Representatives where she highlighted the need to continue with the implementation of the AU Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend beyond 2017, as committed to by the AU Assembly. The Executive Director also shared the transformative results of UNFPA’s Strategic Plan and invited Africa’s leaders to work closely with the agency in taking this forward.

As 2018 marks the 5th anniversary of the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development (AADPD) and considering that 2019 will mark 25 years since the ICPD Programme of Action, Dr. Natalia Kanem also used the opportunity to invite governments to work with UNFPA during the important review that will be taking place throughout 2018 all over the world, including at the continental level in Africa.