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Unfinished Endeavors to Implement the Vision of the International Conference on Population and Development in China — the First Consultation on ICPD30 Successfully Held in Beijing

Time: 2023-11-16 AUTHOR: Text by Che Lulu and Tang Mengjun, Photos by UNFPA SOURCE: CPDRC

The International Conference on Population and Development (the "ICPD"), held in Cairo, Egypt in 1994, stands as a landmark event in the global realm of population and development. Its profound and far-reaching impacts have reverberated across international, regional, and national levels, shaping the discourse on population and development. On the occasion of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the ICPD, the "First Consultation on ICPD30" took place in Beijing on November 3, 2023. Jointly hosted by CPDRC and UNFPA China, the event brought together over 40 participants, including representatives and experts from the National Health Commission, China Family Planning Association, and research institutions from home and abroad. 

During the opening ceremony, Deputy Director-General ZHANG Xuying of CPDRC, representing Director-General HE Dan, extended congratulations on the convening of the conference and welcomed the esteemed participants. Mr. ZHANG emphasized the substantial changes in global socio-economic landscapes and population dynamics, underscoring the need to review and summarize China's progress over the past 30 years since the ICPD, analyze existing challenges, and better align with the objectives outlined in the ICPD Programme of Action. Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee, the UN Resident Coordinator in China, stressed China's adherence to the principles of the ICPD, highlighting China's notable achievements in health, gender equality, and education that have garnered global attention. With China now facing the demographic trend of an aging population and declining birth rates, he underscored the critical importance of advancing the construction of a Healthy China in the future, particularly in the field of reproductive health, adding that the United Nations system in China will stay committed to promoting relevant research, practices, and South-South cooperation in this regard.  

The concepts, spirit, and principles of the ICPD have profoundly altered the global understanding of population and development. LIU Hongyan, a researcher at CPDRC, highlighted the evolving emphasis on the holistic nature of development goals, from the ICPD to the Millennium Development Goals and further to the Sustainable Development Goals. Professor CHEN Wei from the Population Development Studies Center at Renmin University of China provided a comprehensive overview of the current status of and challenges facing population and development in China. Vice Director JIANG Xiuhua of the Women's Studies Institute of China detailed the progress, challenges, and responses in China's gender equality initiatives. In the review session, Professors GU Baochang and ZHENG Zhenzhen shared their experiences and insights from their participation in the 1994 ICPD, emphasizing the need to defend China's position on the international stage and integrate into global discussions. Associate Professor YANG Fan from the Population Development Studies Center at Renmin University also shared his perspectives and outlined future directions for efforts.  

The protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights stands as a core theme of the ICPD. Director WANG Hui from the Population Research Department of CPDRC discussed China's achievements in safeguarding reproductive health from the perspectives of evolving gender and reproductive norms, as well as contraceptive policies and services. Director LIANG Xiao from the Personnel Department of China Family Planning Association detailed specific measures undertaken by China to transform the family planning network and enhance services, vividly illustrating the youth health initiatives undertaken by the Association.  

TANG Mengjun, Director of the International Cooperation Department at CPDRC, summarized China's successful practices and experiences in implementing the ICPD Programme of Action: maintaining comprehensive policy-making in population and development, prioritizing a people-centered approach, staying abreast of the times, and continually refining population policies. WANG Ying'an, Director of the Data Laboratory at CPDRC, introduced China's sustainable development philosophy and actions in areas such as poverty alleviation, energy, urban construction, and climate change, underscoring the pivotal role of population in sustainable development. Professor FENG Qiushi, Deputy Director of the Centre for Family and Population Research at the National University of Singapore, said that challenges such as declining birth rates, aging populations, smaller family sizes, rapid migration, and swift urbanization pose significant challenges to future population and sustainable development.  

During the review session, HU Hongtao, former Director of the International Cooperation Department at the National Health Commission and Senior Advisor on South-South Cooperation, emphasized the importance of effectively narrating China's stories and conveying its experiences. HONG Ping, Inspector at China Family Planning Association, highlighted the need to enhance cooperation across multiple sectors, integrate and leverage various resources, promote international exchanges, and truly build a community with a shared future for mankind. Further insights were provided by ZHANG Bingzi, Director of the Population and Employment Research Office at the Department of Social and Cultural Development Research of the Development Research Center of the State Council. She stressed that China's participation in multilateral cooperation should prioritize cross-cultural dialogues in order to foster communication and understanding across different discourse systems.  

In conclusion, YANG Jinrui, Deputy Director of Population Surveillance and Family Development Department at the National Health Commission, delivered a summary of the conference. He concluded that the event effectively reviewed the positive impacts of the ICPD and ICPD Programme of Action on China's population development over the past 30 years, spanning areas such as sexual and reproductive health, gender equality, and women's health. Since the 1994 ICPD, he said, China has been dedicated to implementing a series of recommendations outlined in the ICPD Programme of Action, incorporating population and development into national development plans, and making remarkable strides in realizing most of the goals set by the conference. Presently, China's population development exhibits characteristics of declining birth rates, aging population, and regional population differentials. In the forthcoming years, he added, China must comprehensively understand and appropriately address the new challenges in population development, while advancing relevant work in education, fertility, employment, elderly care, and regional coordinated development.  

This event deeply explored China's measures and achievements in implementing the principles of the ICPD, analyzed future opportunities and challenges, and provided valuable insights for the Chinese delegation's participation in the Seventh Asian and Pacific Population Conference.