During that brief span on Monday, ICFP conference organizer Jose “Oying” Rimon II bumped into the CEO of a European NGO, a representative of a social enterprise NGO in Uganda and a USAID officer who just flew in from South Sudan. “That just tells you the breadth and scope of the people coming,” says Rimon.
Just a day before the world’s largest family planning conference begins here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a palpable excitement is building, says Rimon. More than 2,000 people had already registered by noon Monday, November 11, with 3,000 to 3,200 participants from more than 120 countries anticipated.
“The world should expect a coming together, a celebration of ‘we are family planning.’ It’s a convening of top people in the field never seen before, including 30 government ministers from all over the world,” says Rimon, deputy director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The Addis Ababa conference builds on two previous international family planning conferences. The first took place in Kampala, Uganda in 2009 and was followed by the 2011 conference in Dakar, Senegal. And last year’s London Summit delivered another major boost to the family planning community.
During a brief respite from final preparations at the resplendent African Union Conference Center, Rimon reflected on the conference’s significance. “In a sense, it’s quite historic. You a have conference of family planning in the African Union center building itself. It’s both historic as well as symbolic of the traction and importance that has been given to family planning only in the last few years.”
Despite the common perception globally that family planning has lagged behind in sub-Saharan Africa, Rimon says there has been tremendous progress in some African countries—including ICFP host country Ethiopia—comparable to some of the early successes in Southeast Asia.
Joining the government leaders and family planning experts participating in ICFP will be Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The community is so inspired by the kind of courage and forward thinking and leadership that Melinda Gates has provided on this issue,” says Rimon, adding that people are eagerly anticipating her address to the conference on the morning of Wednesday, November 13.
“It’s easy for some people to think that this is just another conference, but truly it is not because what you’re seeing is the continuation of the global momentum. It was seeded in Kampala, uplifted in Dakar and accelerated in London Summit.”—Brian W. Simpson