World Population Day 2017

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A condom can be used for many purposes! Here: as a hat decoration. Photo: UNFPA.

Yesterday was World Population Day. The Ambassador attended UNFPA’s (United Nations Population Fund) celebrations with the theme “Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations”. Keynote speaker of the day was khun Mechai Viravaidya, popularly called Thailand’s Condom King.

Family planning is not only a fundamental human right that empowers individuals, especially women and girls, and helps save the lives of women and newborns, it is vital to economic prosperity and nation-building in the world.

In Thailand, Mechai Viravaidya has been an especially important figure and leader in the field of public health, education and community development. Since 1974, khun Mechai has initiated community-based family planning services, innovative poverty reduction and rural education programs, large-scale rural development and environmental programs, as well as ground-breaking HIV/AIDS prevention activities throughout Thailand and Southeast Asia. His family planning services have contributed widely to the decline in children per family from seven to under two since 1974, and the HIV/AIDS mobilization has saved more than 7.7 million lives.

The panel discussion that followed khun Mechai’s speech focused on the urgent need to invest in family planning, maternal and newborn health care. “A person’s ability to plan the timing and size of her or his family closely determines the realization of other rights, with a huge impact on the health and well-being of women, girls and newborns as well,” explained Yoriko Yasukawa, Director of the UNFPA Asia-Pacific Regional Office based in Bangkok. “Unfortunately, it’s a right that many have had to fight for, and still requires vigorous advocacy and broader support – especially at a time of rising political and sociocultural conservatism that seeks to restrict people, especially women, from freely deciding whether and when and how many children to have.”

Norway has for a long time played a leading role in the work to promote global health and education – focusing on young girls. Norway is one of the largest donors to gender equality and women's health efforts.

At a time when this agenda has come under pressure, joint efforts are of paramount importance. This is why Norway fully supports and joins the She Decides initiative, and also increases the contributions to sexual and reproductive health and safe abortions by roughly 10 million euros.

This additional contribution comes on top of already substantial Norwegian investments in girls’ and women’s health, education and rights. This way, it is possible to help ensure that organizations working to promote safe abortions and reproductive health can continue this important work internationally.

The additional funds will partly be used to increase support to the UNFPA and their work with reproductive health issues for women living in poverty, crisis and conflict. Also selected NGOs will be invited to apply for funding.