Population, Development, Governments and YOU!

By Jose Maria “Lloyd” Nunag Member, Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, and Steering Committee Member of APA
30 Apr 2019

Cairo, Egypt 1994 - The International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action (ICPD PoA) was born, a few months after I was born.

As a young person from the Philippines attending the Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development (APMDPD) for the first time last Nov. 26-28, 2018, I would have felt lost in the process if I haven’t had some background reading about the ICPD PoA and it’s history. The main question that draw me to know more about the process is the ‘WHY?’ - WHY do we have this ICPD PoA and WHY is it important for US to be involved in the process and make our governments ACCOUNTABLE?

Now, as a starter, the Midterm Review is convened pursuant to the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration of 2013, which served as the 20-year regional review of the implementation of the ICPD PoA. Given the relevance of the population and development nexus for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, this meeting provided an opportunity for member States to take stock of progress in the implementation of the Ministerial Declaration, identify emerging issues that will have implications for sustainable development in the short- and medium-term, articulate a regional perspective and influence the global debate.

ICPD PoA in the Philippines In this article, I will be a little biased and will mainly focus on the country where I am from, the Philippines - summarizing it into 3 main points:

1. Review of progress towards the implementation of the ICPD PoA, the key actions for its further implementation and the recommendations

The Philippine government recognizes the interrelationships of population and sustainable development which translated into policies and programs with the aim of achieving population outcomes within the principles of human rights and informed choice. The Philippines’ national population policy was established 50 years ago and currently implemented through the Philippine Population Management Program and has been in conjunction with the ICPD PoA principles.

Moreover, it was also recognized that there are political and cultural factors that continuously challenged the Philippine government efforts to implement the ICPD PoA. Would this include patriarchal ideology, violence, stigma and discrimination, religious fundamentalism, regressive policy and legislation and lack of accountability and monitoring mechanisms? Furthermore, is it a people-centered sustainable development that they’re aiming?

2. Population dynamics and inequality

The basic principle of Agenda 2030 ‘To leave no one behind’ in the Philippines was highlighted as a mantra for the Philippines’ development initiatives. There’s a heavy emphasis on poverty as the root cause of inequality in accessing basic social services including sexual and reproductive health care.

However, more than this, when we talk about ‘population dynamics and inequality’, I think it is more appropriate to hear and know more about the condition of key populations/ marginalized and vulnerable groups in the country especially the following: adolescents and young people, women and girls, persons with disabilities, migrants, indigenous peoples, people who use drugs, sex workers, people living with and affected by HIV and people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and sex characteristics. Does the government try to shy away from talking and prioritizing these marginalized groups?

3. Advancing gender equality and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights

Universal healthcare coverage including universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights was reinforced as a priority agenda. The principle of informed choice and voluntarism, comprehensive sexuality education was also noted. It can be derived that the Philippine government has a focus on focus on primary healthcare system strengthening - this is good.

However, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) are more than just health issue, it is a human rights issue. Where do we put violence against women & LGBTQIA+ community and unsafe abortion? Should we start being more intersectional in our approach towards achieving the ICPD PoA? How about training of the health-sector for human rights based and gender sensitive services? Should we expand laws and policies to reduce unsafe abortions and increase access to safe abortion as well as provide post abortion care? Let’s think about that?

Moving forward

In implementing the ICPD PoA, we should seek to enlarge individual rights by adopting policies that are human rights-based and gender responsive. However, for several years now, it has been a trend in global level negotiations that there is apparent lack of consensus to push further the implementation of ICPD PoA- this in return has become a significant barrier in pushing for much-needed international partnerships and cooperation in realising the promise of leaving no one behind. We should not move away from the language that was agreed 25 years ago in Cairo.

Progress not retrogress. Inclusion not seclusion.

Want to be involved?

In order for us to engage effectively, we need to understand the ICPD PoA work plan going forward. In this way, we can engage constructively and support the development of programs, policies, and laws in relation to the full implementation of ICPD PoA.

Hence, we should urge our governments to remain committed to the promotion, protection, and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the ICPD PoA. We must ensure that no one is left behind and that the human rights of ALL are fulfilled.

The next session (52nd) of the International Conference on Population and Development is in New York this 2019.

What can you do?

1. Reach out to (national or international) civil society partners involved in the ICPD process.
2. Reach out to national government officials who are leading the process.
3. Attend consultations (for civil society organisations specifically).
4. Monitor the writing process of the reports and documents and see whether there is space to influence this.

You can start by learning more about the 52nd ICPD. Or, feel free to reach out to [email protected] and we’ll try to connect you with the right people involved in the process!

TOGETHER, we will work to ensure that NO ONE IS LEFT BEHIND.