The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) enjoins other National Government Agencies, institutions, the academe, and other developmental partners in the celebration of the World Population Day (WPD) 2019. It will be celebrated on July 11 with the global theme of “25 years of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

WPD, which seeks to focus the attention on the urgency and importance  of population issues, was established by the then Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989, an outgrowth of the interest generated by the Day of the Five Billion, which was observed on July 11, 1987.

This year’s World Population Day calls for global attention to the unfinished business of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), a 1994 meeting in Cairo, where 179 countries recognized that reproductive health and gender equality are essential for achieving sustainable development. The countries agreed that population policies must empower couples and individuals — especially women — to decide the size of their families and enable them to decide by giving them the necessary information and services to carry out their decisions.

A revolutionary Programme of Action (POA) which called for women’s reproductive health and rights to take center stage in national and global development efforts was then adopted. It called for all people to have access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including voluntary family planning, safe pregnancy and childbirth services, and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It also recognized that reproductive health and women’s empowerment are intertwined, and that both are necessary for the advancement of society.

“The full and equal participation of women in civil, cultural, economic, political, and social life, at the national, regional and international levels, and the eradication of all forms of discrimination on grounds of sex, are priority objectives of the international community,” the POA affirmed.

The ICPD POA firmly established that the rights and dignity of individuals, rather than achieving the desired population, were the best way for individuals to realize their own fertility goals. Furthermore, the governments also acknowledged that these rights are essential for  global development.

Today, ICPD often refers to the “global consensus that reproductive health and rights are human rights, that these are a precondition for women’s empowerment, and that women’s equality is a precondition for securing the well-being and prosperity of all people.”

Since the adoption of the ICPD POA in 1994, our country has persistently worked to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as gender equality and women empowerment. There was also a dramatic shift on the discourse on population and development from reducing population growth rates to focusing on the rights and health and well-being of individuals.

The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law incorporated the ICPD’s definition of reproductive health. It is with this notion that empowering a woman is key to achieving reproductive health.

Since its passage in 2012, the RPRH Law has improved the availability and access to health and social services, especially to the Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA) in the country. And yet many are still not able to enjoy fully the benefits of these development programs.

Thus, it is imperative for everyone — leaders, policy makers, institutions, non-government organizations, and others — to work together hand in hand to implement the ICPD POA and make reproductive health and rights a reality for all Filipinos.

As part of the celebration, POPCOM-I will be conducting the “Kapihan sa Ilocos,” a press conference to be held on July 10, 2019 in San Fernando City, La Union. The presscon shall focus on ICPD and the progress that has been made 25 years later since its founding. (By: POPCOM)