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Remarks by Mr. Kamal Malhotra United Nations Resident Coordinator at World Population Day Celebration 2019

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Event: World Population Day Celebration 2019

Date: 11 July 2019

Venue: Au Co Cultural Theatre, 8 Huynh Thuc Khang, Hanoi, Viet Nam

  • Your Excellency Mr Uong Chu Luu, Vice Chairman of the National Assembly;
  • Dr. Nguyen Viet Tien, Permanent Vice Minister of Health;
  • Mr Nguyen Xuan Dinh, Vice President of the Central Committee of the Viet Nam Farmer Union;
  • Mr. Nguyen Doan Tu, Director General of GOPFP;

Representatives of line ministries, government organizations, embassies, donor agencies, international and local NGOs, youth representatives, the private sector, civil society organizations, the media and my fellow UN colleagues; ladies and gentlemen;

I am greatly honoured to be addressing you, on behalf of the United Nations system in Viet Nam, to commemorate the most important day in the UNFPA calendar. Let me at the outset thank the General Office for Population and Family Planning (GOPFP) for hosting and organizing today's celebration.

World Population Day is celebrated across the world on 11 July to focus global attention on some of the most pressing population issues of our time. And today we mark World Population Day with the theme of "25 years of ICPD: Accelerating the Promise".

Ladies and gentlemen,

2019 is a landmark and exciting year for the United Nations Population Fund, the UN agency with a mandate on ensuring the best international practices on sexual and reproductive health. UNFPA turns 50 this year – a very special birthday. And the ICPD Programme of Action, which guides the work UNFPA does, turns 25. This is a happy coincidence and calls for a double celebration!

ICPD, of course, stands for the International Conference on Population and Development, which took place in Cairo in 1994. That was when 179 countries – including Viet Nam - came together to forge a Programme of Action on Population and Development. For the very first time, sustainable development was grounded in individual rights and choices, and the achievement of sexual and reproductive health for all.

While the ICPD Programme of Action was revolutionary, marking a major paradigm shift in population and development, it wasn't born out of the blue.

In the 1970s, many governments, NGOs and development institutions began supplying an increasing quantity of reliable contraceptives to enable women to better manage their own fertility. But achieving targets – numerical targets - was the primary goal of many early family planning programmes, and this often compromised the quality of reproductive health services and, at times, violated the rights of women.

By 1994, however, a global consensus had emerged that women had a right to make their own decisions about whether, when and how often to become pregnant, and have children in safe environments.

ICPD built on that by clearly demonstrating how reproductive rights and sustainable development are mutually reinforcing. ICPD called for voluntary and rights-based comprehensive reproductive health care, including family planning, rather than fertility-controlled targets.

By placing individual rights and choices firmly at the centre of development, ICPD reflected the principles of the United Nations Charter, as well as the pillars of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the bedrock of all that the UN stands for.

The ICPD recognizes that reproductive health and women's empowerment are intertwined, and that both are necessary for the advancement of society.

Distinguished guests,

Now, since its signing in 2015, Viet Nam – along with the rest of the world – has embarked on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, underpinned by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. The Agenda and its Goals seek to achieve a life of dignity for all, in order to truly leave no one behind.

On behalf of the UN system, let me affirm our commitment to continue to be your partner in the full achievement of the ICPD Programme of Action, which is one of the pillars on whose success the 2030 agenda depends.

UNFPA has set its sights on three ambitious aims for 2030:

  • Zero maternal deaths;
  • Zero unmet need for family planning; and
  • Zero gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls.

All three are based on a foundation of high-quality population data. Data is crucial to ending the invisibility of those who have been left furthest behind. Our commitment to leaving no one behind means everyone must be accounted for, so everyone can be reached. We are very happy to inform you that the preliminary results of the 2019 Census on Population and Housing have been disseminated this morning by the General Statistics Office, with technical support from UNFPA, so my colleague Astrid Bant, UNFPA Representative, is there for that important event.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This November, UNFPA is convening governments, civil society and other supporters, at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, co-sponsored by Kenya and Denmark, where UNFPA will seek additional commitments to complete the unfinished business of ICPD - to help ensure no one is left behind in achieving sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.

Women and girls are counting on us to finish the unfinished business of rights and choices for all. We must honour our commitment – acknowledge the new realities, address the new dangers and embrace the new agenda.

The United Nations in Viet Nam is fully committed to supporting the Government in ensuring that universal access to health, including sexual and reproductive health, will become a reality for all. But, we cannot do this alone. Government, parliamentarians, the private sector and civil society must join forces to make it happen.

And we need young persons, including those of you here today to be involved strongly in this effort. We often hear that "young people are the future" – but how often do we truly involve young persons in helping shape their own futures?

This includes providing genuinely comprehensive sexuality education at a young age, serving as a foundation for sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights – including family planning.

Together, by building partnerships between the government and civil society in Viet Nam and globally, we can build a future where zero is the only acceptable number: zero maternal deaths, zero unmet demand for family planning, and zero violence and harmful practices against women and girls.

Investments in sexual and reproductive health, including family planning today are investments in the health and well-being of millions of girls, women and young persons for generations to come. I urge the Government of Viet Nam to increase its investments in this area.

Thank you. I wish you all good health, happiness and success on this World Population Day – and always.

Thank you! Xin Cam On!