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Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar – The ICPD is a precursor to attaining most of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. This was the key message stressed by the Vice President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, U Myint Swe, as he presided over the commemoration of the 2019 World Population Day, held in Nay Pyi Taw.

“To reach most of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, it is important to understand the sexual and reproductive rights for women,” the Vice President said. “Family planning has many positive impacts for social development, namely: it promotes human rights, helps reduce poverty and hunger, ensures equal access to health, education and promotes gender equality,” he added.

On 11 July 2019, Myanmar joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Population Day under the global theme of “25 Years of the ICPD: Accelerating the Promise.” The event had high level representation of up to eight (8) government ministers and various other senior government officials from government departments associated with key elements of the ICPD, as well as members of the diplomatic community and development partners.

In his opening speech, the Vice President highlighted some of the gains Myanmar has made in the implementation of the ICPD. “Since the ICPD started, Myanmar has committed the agreements and has also implemented many of the plans. The Ministry of Health and Sports, through its many programmes, has been successful in the reduction of maternal mortality, form 282 maternal deaths in every 100,000 live births in 2014 as reported in the Census to about 178 maternal deaths in 2015-2016 as reported from the Myanmar Demographic and Health Survey. The figure in 1990 was 453 maternal deaths.”

The Vice President further noted that Myanmar has developed the first National Policy on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights that will be launched soon this year. The country committed to the Global Family Planning 2020 in 2013, and that contraceptive prevalence rate among married women in Myanmar increased from 16 percent in 1991 to 51 percent in 2015-2016 according “But there are is still more to be done.” He added.

Delivering his remarks on behalf of the United Nations system in Myanmar, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Knut Ostby, stressed that the ICPD and the Sustainable Development Goals are mutually reinforcing. He stated that the theme for this year presents an opportunity for government and all stakeholders to take stock of what has been achieved so far in the last 25 years of the ICPD, while at the same time challenging everyone to fully commit and further accelerate the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action.

The Resident and Humantarian Coordinator noted that although progress has been made in in reducing unmet need for family planning in Myanmar, “still up to two million women and their partners cannot exercise their human right to plan their families. This leads to unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal and infant death, and it limits women in their education, work and career choices. This is part of the unfinished business that everyone need to address as part of the commitment to the ICPD and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Mr. Ostby said.  

“We need to keep our foot on the gas pedal in order to sustain and accelerate the momentum for attaining the goals of the ICPD and, by extension, the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda.” He added, further stressing: “We need to renew our commitment to ensuring that every woman, girl and young person in Myanmar, regardless of geographical location or other socio-economic characteristics, is able to access comprehensive sexual reproductive health services; and that they are free from gender based violence and any other forms of violence.”

The programme of the day also included a panel discussion consisting of senior officials from Ministries of Health and Sports, Finance and Planning and the Department of Social Welfare.  Other panelists included a youth representative and directors of Marie Stopes International and the Gender Equality Network.

Facilitated by Director from the Department of Population in the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, the panel discussion recognized the changes that have taken place in Myanmar since 1994, including the shift of society’s perception of sexuality as a taboo topic to Myanmar’s commitment to FP2020 and the rolling out of Comprehensive Sexuality Education. Panel members recognized that a lot more needs to be done, particularly in the areas of legal frameworks for the elimination of violence against women and girls, and investing in young people for Myanmar to benefit from the potential demographic dividend, and the importance of ensuring adequate financial resources support the lifecycle approach to ageing, women and girls and youth. 

Several videos containing voices of diverse groups of people in Myanmar were also played to the audience at the event. Interviewees in the videos highlighted “What’s changed?” and “What is the unfinished business?” in Myanmar, in regard to the promises of the ICPD. A video produced by APRO on the ICPD was also played, with Myanmar subtitles.  

Commenting on this year’s commemoration, the UNFPA Representative for Myanmar expressed UNFPA’s gratitude for the high level government representation at the event. “The high level representation by government officials at today’s event demonstrates how seriously Myanmar considers the theme for this year, and this is unprecedented,” He said. 

Mr. Balakrishnan further added: “It is also pleasing to note the participation of private sector service providers, gender equality networks, young people, among others in the event today. The United Nations in Myanmar was also highly represented. This is important in making stakeholders appreciate the human-centred nature of the ICPD and the need for multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder engagement in fulfilling the promises made in Cairo.”

The World Population day is commemorated on 11 July every year. This year, with the theme “25 Years of the ICPD: Accelerating the Promise”, the event has uniquely been embedded with the celebration of 25th anniversary of ICPD, the revolutionary International Conference on Population and Development, which marked a fundamental shift in global thinking on population and development issues.

For the detail of UN Resident and Humantarian Coordinator speech,