“We still see the immense wisdom of putting women and girls at the centre of economic and social development.”
— Dr. Natalia Kanem at the opening of the 55th Session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD)
— UNFPA (@UNFPA) April 25, 2022
Population, poverty, economic growth
Commission Chair Enrique A. Manalo said that efforts to slow population growth, decrease poverty, realize economic progress, protect the environment and reduce unsustainable consumption and production are all mutually reinforcing.
With poverty and inequality gaining renewed attention amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the insights outlined in the Programme of Action agreed upon at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt are as relevant today as ever.
Although the world’s challenges are not caused by population growth, they are compounded by it, making it more difficult to tackle, he said.
Rebecca Grynspan, head of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), warned that a systemic debt crisis is unfolding for billions in the developing world – with inflation at a multi-decade high and civil unrest brewing in all corners of the world.
Meanwhile, progress towards realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been severely hampered as inequalities are rising.
She drew attention to the world’s large generation of young people, as well as women, voicing hope that their innovative ideas will help reverse these negative trends.
‘Gathering storm of adversity’
Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed agreed that the pandemic lent a fresh urgency to the challenges being discussed by the Commission. COVID-19 kept boys and girls out of school, increased the burden of care work — especially for women — and exacerbated gender-based violence.
At the same time, the world remains far off track on the goal of eliminating hunger and malnutrition by 2030, and the numbers of people affected by hunger are projected to increase by tens of millions as the war in Ukraine causes food and energy prices to skyrocket.
“In the face of this gathering storm of adversity, we must come together as an international community,” she said, adding, “we urgently need to renew the social contract to rebuild trust and social cohesion.”
High stakes for women, girls
Meanwhile, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) chief Natalia Kanem said that COVID-19 has made painfully clear the need for massive investments in family planning services and national health systems that are universal, resilient, data-driven and adequately staffed.
“Lack of bodily autonomy and reproductive choices continue to block women’s path to equality and full participation in economic life,” she said, expressing concern over declining funding for population-related matters – especially sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights – as countries shift their priorities amid the pandemic.
“We cannot afford further reversals – the stakes for women, girls and young people, and for their societies, are far too high.”