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Population dynamics and the Sustainable Development Goals: the importance of monitoring progress in the UNECE region

Understanding population dynamics is essential as societies around the world strive to achieve the ambitious and holistic Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Taking a human-rights based approach – seeing the individual, their needs and potential – beyond the mere numbers of population trends is a fundamental part of this process.

Long before the SDGs were adopted – and in many ways paving the way for them – this was the trailblazing approach taken by the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo back in 1994. Its bold 20-year Programme of Action set ambitious goals for the empowerment of individuals to exercise their rights to access to health care services, including sexual and reproductive health care (as addressed in SDG 3), education across the life course (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), decent work (SDG 8), social protection (SDG 1) and equality and social inclusion (SDG 10). It set a vision for everyone to grow, learn, work and live in an environment free of violence and discrimination, enabling every individual to realize their potential across the life course and for no one to be left behind.

Taking this vision forward in response to the need to strengthen action in the UNECE region, UNECE and UNFPA partnered in developing a tailored regional monitoring framework to assess progress and challenges in countries’ ongoing implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action – which by 2014 was extended beyond its original 20-year time frame.

The monitoring framework for the ICPD was developed as a tool that draws on and contributes to SDG monitoring. It was designed to not require any additional data collection but draws on existing databases. More than half of the 79 indicators included are SDG indicators for which data is already or soon expected to be collected in the UNECE region. With its thematic focus on ‘Population dynamics and sustainable development’, ‘Families, sexual and reproductive health over the life course’ and ‘Inequalities, social inclusion and rights’, the framework directly contributes to monitoring progress towards SDGs 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16 and 17.

The monitoring framework also draws on data from Voluntary National Reviews of national and subnational progress towards the SDGs, in addition to country and regional reports on a range of agreements and action plans in the areas of development and human rights, as well as academic research.

2019 will mark the 25th anniversary of the ICPD Programme of Action. The ICPD+25 review in the UNECE region conducted in 2018 has applied the monitoring framework for the first time. The results of this review will be presented at the ICPD+25 Regional Conference Enabling Choices: Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development on 1-2 October 2018 in Geneva. 

The findings of the UNECE Regional Report on ICPD+25, alongside the 2018 UNECE Regional Conference deliberations, will inform the 52nd Session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development in 2019. They will also support the broader review of countries’ progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The UNECE Monitoring Framework for the ICPD Programme of Action beyond 2014 was developed as part of the joint UNECE-UNFPA project ‘Enhanced integration of population dynamics into development planning: follow-up to the International Conference on Population and Development in the UNECE region’ in 2017-2018. Valuable guidance and inputs were provided by a group of experts composed of representatives from national statistical offices, academia and civil society from different parts of the UNECE region.

UNECE Monitoring Framework for the ICPD Programme of Action beyond 2014

Photo credit: Kyrgyzstan (family photo): © UNFPA, Kyrgyzstan