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11 April 2019

It is my great pleasure to address the opening of the launch of the 2019 State of the World Population Report themed “Unfinished business: the Pursuits of rights and choices for all”. On behalf of the United Nations System in China, I congratulate the United Nations Population Fund and the National Health Commission for organizing this launch with a broad participation of representatives from government agencies, academic and research institutions, civil society organizations, women and young people of different age and social groups.

The year 2019 is critical for the work UNFPA does for improving the lives of women and youth in China and around the world. It marks several milestones: 50 years since UNFPA began operations around the world, 40 years of cooperation between UNFPA and China, and 25 years since the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) was held in Cairo. Today’s State of World Population Report launch is part of UNFPA’s country level commemoration of the above-mentioned anniversaries in 2019.

UNFPA was established when world population reached 3.6 billion with the average fertility level of six births per woman, and when there was a growing concern of overpopulation of the planet. Since its inception in 1969, UNFPA has led the multilateral effort to help women in developing countries to overcome socio-economic and cultural barriers to their reproductive rights and choices.  This effort gained a new momentum in 1994, when a Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development was endorsed in Cairo.

It is a historical document in its recognition that reproductive health and rights, as well as women's empowerment and gender equality, are cornerstones of population and development dynamics.

Since 1994, that Programme of Action has guided UNFPA programmes in 155 countries and territories. UNFPA was not alone in this journey, in fact, collective actions of civil society organizations, governments, development institutions and partners over the last 25 years have unlocked opportunities and possibilities for women and girls around the globe. In this report, you will find many inspiring and exciting stories of the global advocates who have dedicated their lives to fighting for reproductive rights and choices for women.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reinforces these principles with the aim to achieve universal sexual and reproductive health and rights by 2030. While we have made enormous progress in transforming the Programme of Action’s vision for rights and choices for all into reality, yet we still have a long way to go.

Hundreds of millions of women today still face economic, social, institutional and other barriers that prevent them from making their own decisions about whether, when, how often and with whom to become pregnant. Rights and Choices are not yet a reality for all people everywhere. For instance:

  • Every year, more than 300,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth because they do not have real choices in maternal health care; and
  • Every day, tens of thousands of girls are forced into marriages and are expected to start bearing children at puberty. They have no choices about any aspect of their lives. 
  • In developing countries, there is an estimated 214 million women who are at risk of unintended pregnancy because their reproductive choices are limited. 
  • Rights are now at risk even in countries with low birth rates as governments incentivize childbearing.

For all countries, making the most of existing gains, overcoming obstacles, and embracing a better future, including the one envisioned in the 2030 Agenda, start with fulfilling their ICPD commitments. These include putting people first by upholding their sexual and reproductive rights and choices. To finish the unfinished business of the ICPD and to move realistically towards realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Goals, most countries can build on their recent achievements.

However, more efforts need to be made by governments to keep the promises they made at the International Conference on Population and Development, with special attention to reaching those left behind: the young, the poor, the displaced, and people with disabilities among others. National legal systems should commit to put people first by upholding their sexual and reproductive rights and protecting them from child marriage and gender-based violence. All health systems should define and deliver an essential package of universally available, integrated, high-quality sexual and reproductive health care services, including adolescents.

UNFPA’s 50th anniversary and ICPD’s 25th anniversary present a unique opportunity for the global community to build on the ICPD framework and fully commit to realizing a visionary agenda.  We must pay attention to population dynamics, recognize the diverse challenges faced by different countries at various stages of development, and ground policies and programmes in respect for, and fulfillment of, human rights and the dignity of all individuals.

The launch of the 2019 State of World Population Report provides a good platform for us all to reflect on the past experiences and discuss policy options to inform our future efforts for making rights and choices a reality for all.

I wish you a successful deliberation and thank you all for your attention!