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25 Years Since ICPD Highlights Need for More Rapid Progress

Thursday, July 11, 2019

SRHR in Focus

By Jackie Edmond

Chief Executive, Family Planning 

Reproductive health and gender equality are now centre-stage in the conversation around population and development. It’s not always been that way.

Back in 1994, it was a radical move when representatives from 179 governments around the world (including New Zealand) gathered in Cairo to discuss some of the most pressing issues of the time: population and development.

At the conclusion of this Cairo Conference, the “Programme of Action” was published. This document was remarkable by stating that "reproductive health and gender equality are essential for achieving sustainable development.” This assertion has been a crucial element in development thinking since 1994 and efforts to address population and development.

Today – 11 July – is World Population Day. This year’s the focus is on those goals still unmet from the 1994 meeting. In the 25 years that have passed since the initial meeting, these issues have only grown in importance and urgency. Globally, we continue to face huge challenges around population growth and development. We are moving rapidly to a global population of 8 billion people, a remarkable figure given that just a century ago there were a mere 1.9 billion. More regionally and much, much closer to home, massive challenges have emerged since this historic conference and have now reached a fever pitch.

The Pacific region is often overlooked around issues of population and development due to its geographic isolation and dispersed population. Unfortunately, inhabitants of several Pacific island nations acutely experience the unmet goals laid out in the ICPD’s Programme of Action. For example, in South Tarawa in Kiribati 50,000 people live on narrow atoll, with a population density that rivals Tokyo or Hong Kong. In other countries, populations are widely dispersed, making the provision of sexual and reproductive health care difficult to accomplish. For example, in Vanuatu, a country with a population growth rate of 2.1% per year, the majority (80%) people live in rural locations many of which are difficult to reach. This raises the cost of service provision and creates significant barriers for those who are seeking reproductive health services and commodities such as contraceptives. Lacking these critical services means that those living in these countries are often unable to make pro-active choices about when and whether they want to have children.

While most Pacific island nations do not have the population numbers that often capture international attention, it is critical that we do not forget the needs of those who live in these countries as they are experiencing the challenges of population and development in their everyday lives. Later this year the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), along with the governments of Kenya and Denmark, will host a conference to review and accelerate progress on the goals which have yet to be achieved. We must highlight the ways that the Pacific region has been neglected with respect to these goals and the role of New Zealand in helping to fulfil these critical gaps of information, education, services and commodities.

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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