Filippo Nimbi interviews Pedro Nobre, President of the World Association for Sexual Health (2017-2021)
F.N.: The WAS congress in Mexico City was a great success. Congratulation! What are your best memories and results you bring back with you as the president from this edition?
P.N.: The WAS Congress in Mexico was a great example of a common achievement. I have never been in a WAS Congress (and my first congress was in Hong-Kong 20 years ago) with such a high level of involvement at the political level. The second figure of the Mexican Government addressed a great speech in defense of sexual health and rights in Mexico at the Opening Ceremony. Moroever, we had the active participation of some of the higher level representatives of the global organizations (UNFPA, UNESCO, IPPF, WHO, etc.) https://www.was2019.org/
Also, with over 1500 participants from more than 70 countries of the five continents (see map below) and almost 1000 presentation this was the second most attended and participated congress of the WAS history (thanks to the very hard work of the Local Organizing Team – FEMESS – and the WAS Scientific Committee).
Moreover, the Mexico City Congress Sexual Pleasure Declaration https://worldsexualhealth.net/declaration-on-sexual-pleasure/, was a landmark of the congress, which was only possible because of the fantastic work of so many colleagues from within and outside WAS (including work conducted during the congress). The Sexual Pleasure Declaration is a huge collective achievement that is gathering wide attention across the world.
Now it is time to start working for the WAS Cape Town Congress in 2021. This is already historic since it will be the first WAS Congress ever in Africa (see picture of the WAS AC team below).
F.N.: Where are we with the integration of sexual medicine, sexual health and advocacy? Which are the most urgent steps in this process?
P.N.: This is a very important question. One of the major strategic goals of the World Association for Sexual Health is exactly to build bridges between scientific knowledge of the multidisciplinary aspects of sexuality (including sexual medicine, clinical sexology, socio-cultural aspects of sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, sexuality education, gender studies, etc) and sexual rights. WAS mission is to “promot sexual health through the world by developing and supporting sexology and sexual rights for all”. Therefore an integratige approach and dialogue between the differerent disciplines dedicated to the study of sexuality, as well as a proactive attitude toward the translation of scientific knowledge to promote sexual health and well-being and sexual rights is a central aspect of our strategic action.
In this line, the partnership between WAS and ESSM as well as ISSM and the other regional societies of sexual medicine around the world is fundamental. Joining forces and exchanging scientific knowledge in the different domains of sexual health is one first important step (which is now consolidated through the exchange of invited symposia in each other congresses). However, I believe we should go beyond exchanging knowledge and dialoguing on sexual health topics.
In my opinion we could do more togehter regarding the translation of knowledge into actions that really benefit people in this key dimension of human life. In other words develop consistent actions aimed at promoting sexual health and well-being and sexual rights. One recent example is the WAS Declaration on Sexual Pleasure, where we DECLARE that: “Sexual pleasure is part of human experience and subjective well-being. Sexual pleasure is a fundamental part of sexual rights as a matter of human rights, and that the “inclusion of sexual pleasure to meet individuals’ needs, ultimately contributes to global health and sustainable development and it should require comprehensive, immediate and sustainable action”.
A WAS symposium will be hold in Prague during the ESSM meeting around the topic of Sexual Pleasure and why it matters to promote sexual health.
F.N.: Can you give us more examples of the main ongoing projects during your term as president of WAS?
P.N.: In order to be more effective in working toward achieving our main goals and mission WAS is building and strengthen partnership and alliances with global organizations, particularly UN agencies and WHO. This is crucial, since we cannot promote sexual health and rights throughout the world without a strong alliance with the major organizations working in the field.
WAS partnership with global organizations:
WAS has been involved in the UNESCO’s International technical guidance on sexuality education: An evidence-informed approach (2018). Moreover, WAS has participated in a number of activities from UNFPA, UNDP, UNAIDS and UNICEF.
WAS had long history of official relations with WHO and have develop a number of important projects in collaboration including the development of working definitions of sexual health (2002; 2006), a conceptual framework of promoting sexual health, guidelines for sexual counseling, and assisting in the development of the sexual and gender diagnoses for ICD-11. Currently WAS is strengthening the collaboration with WHO, and we are together planning a number of important projects, namely the Global Survey on Sexuality, the Sexual Pleasure and Sexual Health Project, Trans Rights as Human Rights, continued assistance with implementation of ICD-11. Besides, WAS submitted a proposal for the Global Health Survey Measure
https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/03-09-2019-seeking-feedback-to-develop-a-population-representative-sexual-health-survey-instrument a very important WHO project in which WAS is a main partner. In the WAS proposal we argued in favor of the inclusion of understudied dimensions related to sexual health, sexual rights and sexual pleasure.
Furthermore, and following the strong involvement with UN agencies, WAS participated at the Nairobi Summit (ICPD25) to celebrate the 25 years of the Cairo meeting https://www.nairobisummiticpd.org/. This summit was prepared by the UNFPD and was the highest level meeting in the field of Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights at the global level. I was fortunate to be in Nairobi representing WAS and be immersed by the great enthusiasm of almost 10.000 participants working on the field of sexual and reproductive rights and gender equality from all around the world. During the summit I had the opportunity to meet the highest level representatives of UNFPA, WHO and some governmental representatives and discuss strategic partnerships. The conversation with Dr. Natalia Kanem (the UNFPA Director – see picture below) was especially rewarding given the interest expressed from her to establish a partnership with WAS for the organization of the first WAS Congress in Africa.
Finally, one major activity promoted by WAS is the World Sexual Health Day.
In 2010, the WAS called on all their member organizations and all NGOs to celebrate, each September 4th, World Sexual Health Day (WSHD) https://worldsexualhealth.net/news/world-sexual-health-day/ in an effort to promote a greater social awareness of sexual health and sexual rights across the globe.
Since then every year we have been celebrating the WSHD with increasing participation of organizations from regional and country level. The date has been recognized by many global organizations that have joined WAS in promoting the WSHD (WHO, UNAIDS, UNFPD, IPPF, etc.). The strategic goal is to have the WSHD officially recognized by the UN.