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Global experts brainstorm on sustainable development in Accra

BY: Rosemary Ardayfio
Dr Natalia Kanem speaking at the conference. Also in the picture are from left: Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Prof. George Gyan-Baffour, Dr Heather Cameron and Mr He Zhaohua
Dr Natalia Kanem speaking at the conference. Also in the picture are from left: Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Prof. George Gyan-Baffour, Dr Heather Cameron and Mr He Zhaohua

Ghana is hosting the third China-Africa Conference on Population and Development to discuss population data management and sustainable development within the context of South-South cooperation.

For the next three days, global experts, advocates, government officials, policy makers and researchers will share ideas and experiences on population data and universal access to reproductive health as key drivers of sustainable development.

Organised by the National Population Council, the Ministry of Planning and the UNPFA, with support from the China Population and Development Research Centre and the China Population Association, the conference has the theme: “25 years of ICPD: Population data management and universal access to reproductive health as key drivers of sustainable development”.

Strengthen partnerships

Opening the conference, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, said the forum was an opportunity to share what was best in the various developing countries and strengthen partnerships and commitments around issues of population management to improve the lives of the people.

He indicated that the availability and use of timely and reliable data were indispensable for planning, monitoring and evaluation of programmes and for measuring progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Prof. Frimpong-Boateng stressed that data management was of great importance to developing countries as they worked towards achieving the SDGs, amid challenging demographic realities.

SDG and ICPD agendas

In a keynote address, the Executive Director of the UNFPA, Dr Natalia Kanem, said the conference provided a unique platform to advance both the SDGs and the ICPD agenda.

He said China’s economic growth and experience in sustainable development were unique in terms of scale, reforms and governance, noting that as the world’s second largest economy, China had experienced an annual growth rate as high as 9.5 per cent over the past four decades.

“There are quite a number of lessons to learn from the Chinese experience, which vividly illustrates the opportunities that can be created by the demographic transition.

If combined with appropriate economic reforms, investment, social development policies and stability, this can be an important source of sustainable economic growth,” Dr Kanem said.

The UNFPA, she said, was currently mounting an ambitious and strategic effort anchored on three zeros: zero unmet need for contraception, zero preventable maternal deaths and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices.

“Like the SDGs, we have set our sights on achieving each of those results by 2030,” she said, adding, however, that “to make progress, we need partnerships at every level that leverage our respective strengths to maximise our collective impact”.

She announced that the UNFPA, together with the governments of Kenya and Denmark, would be convening the Nairobi Summit on ICPD 25 this November to re-energise the global community, breathe new life into the ICPD agenda and sustain and amplify the gains made since 1994.

Progress

The High Commissioner of Canada in Accra, Dr Heather Cameron, observed that although progress had been made on the issues of gender equality and health, rights and the well-being of girls and women, many of those needs and rights remained elusive for far too many people worldwide.

“We need to better understand the needs and gaps in order to deliver programmes and services that reach those most in need, including those in fragile or humanitarian settings or those who are marginalised in their societies,” Dr Cameron urged.

She said Canada was taking action globally to make gender equality a reality for everyone everywhere and reiterated that the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced earlier this month that the government of Canada would raise its funding to reach $1.4 billion annually by 2023 to support women and girls’ health around the world.

South-South cooperation

The Deputy Director-General, Department of International Cooperation, National Health Commission, China, Mr He Zhaohua, noted that Africa and China, combined, formed one-third of the world’s population, hence progress of development in the two areas was critical to the achievement of the SDGs.

For example, he said, because of the size of China’s population, political priority was given to family planning as a vehicle for achieving the development goals of the country.

He stated that China and Africa had collaboration through South-South cooperation and emphasised the need to leverage that to support Africa’s quest for socio-economic development.

In his address, the Minister of Planning, Prof. George Gyan-Baffour, said although the importance of reproductive health had been acknowledged in international agreements, conservative ideology prevented it from receiving global attention.

He said the meeting would outline best practices and present research findings that would provide direction for reaching the targets for the SDG goals in the stipulated time.