News

Sowing the seeds of population debates

10 June 2014
This august gathering comes at a time when the country had witnessed many important demographic changes over the last 20 years.

For the first time, the Government of Nepal, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and other key non-governmental strategic partners teamed up to bring demographers, policy makers, academicians, researchers, development practitioners, and other relevant stakeholders in one place. Around 250 participants shared a common platform for three days (June 5-7) during the First National Population Conference and explored, discussed and advocated issues around population dynamics and its inter-linkages to other development sectors.

Under the theme "Communicating Population for Development Planning" the conference was organized for the first time in the century-old history of Nepal's censuses. For the UNFPA Nepal Country Office, one of the main organizers, the conference was an action-packed gathering where 7 key topics, 72 papers and 36 posters were presented following a thorough and rigorous selection process.
 
The august gathering came at a time when the country had witnessed many important demographic changes over the last 20 years due to declining fertility and mortality rates, increasing life expectancy, increasing age at marriage and rising migration and urbanization. Realizing this metamorphosis and the importance of population as cross-cutting issue, the meeting was inaugurated by the Right Honorable President of Nepal himself. President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav called the conference ‘a historic event' and congratulated the organizers for hosting it during a critical time of Nepal's transition to a republic.
 
As the Head of state, he shed some light on its importance. The International Conference on Population and Development agenda, the Millennium and post Development Goals, Population Perspective Plan of Nepal and periodic development plans are still valid and require more investments to meet the goals, he said. "Migration, adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights, maternal and child health, gender-based violence, social inclusion, family planning are the major areas that require further research, additional investments and collective efforts to improve the situation."
 
 
He also further said that we also need to communicate our efforts and achievements effectively to people, policy makers and the international community in order to build an environment of trust. Never before in the country's history have policy makers realized why development cannot be separated from population. That is why Minister for Health and Population Khaga Raj Adhikari, Vice-Chair of the National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr Govind Raj Pokhrel, Member of the NPC Dr. Yagya Bahadur Karki (Senior Demographer) and MoHP Secretary Dr. Praveen Mishra didn't give the conference a miss.

The event was another opportunity for UNFPA Nepal to collaborate with the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), Central Department of Population Studies/TU; Population Association of Nepal; CREHPA; Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN), PSI Nepal and Marie Stopes International on ICPD issues to shape the ICPD beyond 2014/post-2015 agenda. As Nepal is drafting its first ever National Population Policy as well as updating its 1991 National Health Policy, UNFPA Nepal is advocating that key aspects of population dynamics such as fertility, migration, demographic transition, ageing, Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health, family planning and gender-based violence receive due attention. Population dynamics, particularly in the context of inequalities, will have major influence on development processes as well as inclusive and balanced growth in the coming decades, said Jamie McGoldrick, UN Resident Coordinator for Nepal, addressing the inaugural session of the conference. "They also challenge the capacity of countries to achieve broad-based development goals. This is why population dynamics have to be a central part of the post-2015 development agenda," he maintained.

The conference was a long-conceived idea of UNFPA Nepal. In the face of socio-political upheavals and demographic transition in recent decades, supporting the MoHP and CDPS/TU and other local partners was a top priority for UNFPA Nepal. Moreover, as the country is drafting its new constitution this conference is very timely. "The rich discussions of the conference around evidences will provide valuable impetus to the constitution and population policy drafting processes," said UNFPA Nepal Representative Giulia Vallese addressing the closing session. "We are pleased to collaborate with national stakeholders to engage with experts, young researchers, policy-makers and development practitioners to bring about changes in people's lives, especially women and people of marginalized and vulnerable populations."

In the three-day conference, passionate presentations from national and international scholars were on: Fertility; Migration; Population Ageing; Population, Gender and Development; Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights; Maternal and Child Health; Access to Reproductive Health Services; Family Planning; Abortion and Abortion Research. HIV and AIDS; Population, Poverty and Development; Sexual Health Behavior and Practices; Demographic Methods, Age-Sex Structure and Demographic Dividend; Population, Health and Nutrition; and Gender Based Violence were the other themes.

Stressing how the conference is of significant importance to the government's plans, NPC Vice-chairman Dr. Pokhrel, addressing the concluding ceremony, expressed his commitment to incorporating the conference's major outcomes and recommendations into the planning body's plan and programmes. He requested a policy brief from the organizers which would containing key recommendations and outcomes, research findings, good practices as well as the key issues around population and sustainable development that would need to be taken into account when formulating policies and plans. A side event on young people was also organized during the conference by UNFPA, UNICEF and FPAN, where awe-inspiring conversations between government officials and youth were exchanged.