United Nations Population Fund

Enabling Choices: Population Priorities for the 21st Century 02 july 2013

UNECE Regional Conference Geneva, July 1-2, 2013

The high-level regional conference Enabling Choices: Population Priorities for the 21st Century, held on 1-2 July 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland, was organized jointly by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and hosted by the Government of Switzerland.

The conference marked the culmination for the UNECE region of a process aimed at reviewing the implementation of the Programme of Action (PoA) adopted by the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in 1994 in Cairo, Egypt. Its objective was to assess the progress made in implementing the ICPD PoA in the region, highlight lessons learned and successful approaches, and make recommendations on the further implementation of the ICPD PoA in the UNECE region beyond 2014.

The review process in the region included the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Survey, as well as a regional report based on the Survey results and a study of population trends and policies in the region. It also included three thematic consultations corresponding to the three thematic sessions of the regional conference, as well as consultations with civil society, young people and parliamentarians.

The regional report summarizes information on legislation, policies, programmes and strategies adopted and implemented by UNECE Member States in relation to the ICPD PoA. Overall, the report confirmed the PoAs continuing relevance for achieving inclusive social and economic development, prosperous societies and environmental sustainability, based on gender equality and the respect for human rights. It indicates that significant progress has been made in policy development and programming.

The analysis shows that societies can prosper under conditions of slow or no population growth and ageing if they adapt their institutions and equitably invest in peoples education, health and employment opportunities independently of gender, age and origin. Still, the region faces many barriers and challenges in developing peoples full potential. These include unacceptably high differences in mortality and morbidity between countries and between groups within countries, an incomplete agenda of gender equality and womens economic empowerment, political leadership and participation in decision-making, large inequalities in access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, discrimination and social exclusion of migrants, minorities and other disadvantaged groups, and increasing inequalities in access to employment and income opportunities which affect particularly young people.

The conference consisted of five sessions. The opening plenary session included a keynote speech by Ms. Tarja Halonen, Former President of Finland, followed by an intervention by young people on their vision and priorities for the region, and by the presentation and discussion of the UNECE report on the outcome of the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Survey in the region. Three thematic sessions were dedicated to the following topics: Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development; Families and Sexual and Reproductive Health over the Life Course; and Inequalities, Social Inclusion and Rights. Each thematic session commenced with a keynote presentation and two discussant interventions, and proceeded with statements by delegations and discussions on the respective topics. Young people presented the Call to Action adopted by the Regional Youth Forum held in Istanbul in May 2013. A panel session on Partnership and International Cooperation for advancing the ICPD agenda beyond 2014 also took place during the conference.

Participants included representatives of governmental authorities, including high-level officials, academia, civil society organizations and youth, as well as members of national parliaments. Experts representing relevant UN agencies and other international and regional intergovernmental organizations also participated. In total, over 300 participants from 44 UNECE Member States attended the conference.

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