UNECE member States reconfirmed their commitment to implementing the Programme of Action adopted at the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the ICPD Beyond 2014 Chair’s Summary at a regional review conference in Geneva on 1-2 October 2018.
“The overwhelming view of the conference is a clear recognition of the continued relevance and value of the ICPD Programme of Action, and a renewed commitment to what it stands for,” said UNFPA Regional Director Alanna Armitage at the closing.
“We need this commitment, so that societies in our region are well prepared to adapt to the challenges of demographic change, such as population decline and population ageing. Policy responses need to be designed in a way that embraces the diversity of individual needs and aspirations over the course of life. We must leave no one behind, “said Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of UNECE.
“Member States also reaffirmed the centrality of the ICPD Programme of Action in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said Ambassador Deyana Kostadinova, Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the UN in Geneva, who chaired the event together with Irina Kostevich, Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Belarus, and Ambassador Rosemary McCarney of Canada.
Ahead of the ICPD’s 25th anniversary in 2019, over 250 delegates from 40 UNECE member States, as well as civil society and youth representatives and regional and international organizations, gathered in Geneva for the conference, organized by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
One of the key themes emerging from the conference was the need to increase investments in individual capabilities and ensure human rights, including reproductive rights, and gender equality throughout the life course to respond to the population dynamics affecting the region.
In a region marked by low fertility, population ageing and complex migration movements, strengthening the human capital of society and creating enabling environments for all is key for achieving stability, well-being and prosperity, speakers said.
Investing in people and their capabilities pays off also in terms of fertility, evidence presented at the conference showed. In the low-fertility environment, countries ranked high on the Human Development Index also have higher fertility levels, as people are more confident to establish families. There is one exception: high development countries where traditional gender norms have not been shifting fast enough towards more gender equality generally continue to have very low fertility levels.
Countries in the region have made significant progress in achieving sexual and reproductive health, as maternal mortality and adolescent pregnancy are on the decline, and comprehensive sexuality education is increasingly recognized as fundamental for empowering young people to stay healthy and safe.
But delegates noted that regional and national averages obscure major inequalities between and within countries, in what one speaker referred to as the “flaw of averages.”
In the eastern part of the region, in particular, the HIV epidemic is growing fast, women rarely use modern contraceptives, cervical cancer rates are up to ten times higher, and young people often do not have access to comprehensive sexuality education.
And within countries, vulnerable groups such as minorities, including the Roma, people living with disabilities, migrants and refugees, and LGBTQI persons and a range of key populations still face significant barriers to sexual and reproductive health.
Several participants also raised concerns over the emergence of regressive laws and policies threatening to undermine gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights, and over the shrinking space for civil society.
There were powerful calls throughout the conference for ensuring all young people are able to receive comprehensive sexuality education, in line with international technical guidance.
As gender inequalities persist in all spheres of public and private life across the region, participants called for greater efforts to speed up progress towards gender equality.
Speakers mentioned inequalities in workforce participation, earnings, access to leadership positions, and work-family balance as key areas requiring attention. They also urged progress on eradicating gender-based violence and harmful practice such as child marriage and gender-biased sex selection.
Several speakers stressed the importance of gender equality for addressing the population challenges the region is facing. A more equal distribution of childcare and household duties between men and women, for example, was mentioned among the factors contributing to an environment in which people feel confident to realize their fertility intentions.
Participants welcomed the report “Fulfilling the Potential of Present and Future Generations,” which gives an overview of major trends in the region, and they expressed support for a new regional Monitoring Framework designed to track progress in implementing the ICPD Programme of Action and the SDGs (read more).
The regional review report, together with the report of the proceedings of the conference and the rapporteur’s summary, will be transmitted to the UN Commission on Population and Development as the region’s contribution to the full review of ICPD+25 in 2019, and will also inform the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development in 2019.
All conference materials can be found here: http://www.unece.org/pau/icpd25.html