Asia-Pacific countries recommit to building more inclusive, equitable societies
Senior officials representing governments from across Asia and the Pacific today recommitted their countries to putting people and their rights at the heart of development, noting that gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as the concerns and needs of older persons, youth and migrants were indispensable to more inclusive, equitable and sustainable societies.
Organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Midterm Review of the International Conference on Population Development (ICPD) saw participants review progress and gaps in implementing the ambitious Programme of Action adopted in Cairo in 1994. Going forward, delegates also identified priority actions to address a broad set of population-related challenges, as well as new and emerging trends.
A summary of the discussions highlighted that, while the region had experienced a reduction in both income and multi-dimensional poverty, as well as seen an improvement in life expectancy, poverty in some countries had in fact increased.
Participants also recognized declines in maternal and infant mortality as some of the major health achievements across the region, with several delegations attributing these reductions to improved access to quality maternal and child health care.
The link between human rights, sexual and reproductive health, and the achievement of the Programme of Action and the Sustainable Development Goals was underscored throughout the meeting with several countries highlighting their commitment to universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, including voluntary family planning, and to eliminate all forms of discrimination in the provision of these services.
Migration was a key issue during the three-day gathering, as countries highlighted the benefits of remittances and other contributions of migrants, including women migrant workers. They, however, noted the need for more comprehensive migration data.
Overall, the commitment to achieving gender equality was encouraging as participants shared good practices, policies, and legislative changes that were undertaken to advance gender equality, including strengthening institutional mechanisms for gender mainstreaming.
At the close of the meeting, Deputy Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Mr. Kaveh Zahedi said, “Over the course of our deliberations, we have rightfully recognized the achievements of the region. However, we have also seen that at a time of unprecedented economic growth, some of our most vulnerable communities are being left behind.” He added that “Reaching those who are furthest behind requires an increase in investments in people, including in essential health-care services. It also requires shining the spotlight on those being left behind with better data and information to support policies and help monitor progress in implementing the ICPD Programme of Action.”
Asia-Pacific Regional Director of the United Nations Population Fund Mr. Bjorn Andersson said, “ICPD has served as a foundation for the work UNFPA does in our region and globally.” He further noted that “This week, member States have demonstrated their strong commitment to the Programme of Action, making evident that ICPD is integral to the 2030 Agenda. Countries clearly recognize that without achieving ICPD, we cannot achieve the SDGs. ICPD, which turns 25 next year, is truly more crucial and relevant than ever.”
The Chair’s summary will inform the global review of the ICPD Programme of Action at the 52nd Session of the Commission on Population and Development in New York in 2019.
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