Ambassador Enrique Manalo elected 55th Chair of UN Commission on Population and Development

by Ricky Rillera

A wide view of the room as Natalia Kanem (on screens), Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), opens the 54th session of Commission on Population and Development | UN Photo by Eskinder Debebe

NEW YORK – Immediately following the closure of the 54th session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD) on April 23, Ambassador Enrique A. Manalo of the Philippine Mission to the United Nations was elected Chair of the 55th session to be held at its next annual meeting. He succeeds Ambassador Yemdaogo Eric Tiare of Burkina Faso.

Ambassador Enrique A. Manalo | Photo DFA

The Commission is composed of 47 Member States elected by the Council for a period of four years based on geographical distribution. It met typically every two or three years until 1994, after which it has met once a year.

The 11 Member States from the Asia-Pacific Group endorsed the candidacy of Ambassador Manalo. Andrei Nicolenco of the Republic of Moldova was elected Vice-Chair representing the Group of Eastern European States. The African States, Latin American and Caribbean States, and Western European and Other States groups deferred the nomination of their candidates for vice-chairs to a later date.

This year’s meeting of CPD ran from April 19 to 23. Participants examined the interlinkages between population, food security, nutrition, and sustainable development. The Commission’s debates will inform the preparations of the Food Systems Summit, to be convened by the United Nations Secretary-General in September 2021.

Top officials of the United Nations delivered their opening statements, which began with Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. The keynote speaker was Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck of Bhutan.

During the CPB’s general debate, several panels and high-level experts on the Secretary-General’s reports, on the 2021 food systems summit, and on population, food security, nutrition, and sustainable development delivered their presentations virtually. Member-States and several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) representing women, medical, political scientists, the clergy presented their statements.

In his remarks during its 54th session on April 23, Ambassador Manalo welcomed the adoption of the resolution on “Population, food security, nutrition, and sustainable development.” He said that the Philippines recognizes the document “as a testament to the strong commitment of UN Member States to protect and advance the gains of the Programme Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.” Also, as the Philippines’ “shared resolve towards attaining the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, amidst and despite the unprecedented challenges that have been imposed on us by the pandemic.”

He added that his country’s delegation has actively engaged “in highlighting our government’s key policies and programs to improve agricultural productivity, enhance competitiveness of farmers, end food hunger and achieve food security.”

“We are committed to providing every Filipino access to quality health care, nutrition services and family planning through the implementation of the Universal Health Care Law and the Reproductive Health Care Law,” he said. “We are pleased to see that, in general, this outcome document is reflective and supportive of our national development priorities, specifically on population, food security, nutrition and sustainable development.”

Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua | Photo via Wikimedia

Karl Kendrick Chua, Acting Secretary of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), also delivered his remarks on April 20. He said that the government’s goal is “to give every Filipino access to quality healthcare, nutrition services, and family planning, through the implementation of the Universal Health Care law and the Reproductive Health law.”

“Key policy reforms have enabled us to improve agriculture productivity and food security,” he said. He informed the Commission that the Philippines had enacted the Rice Tariffication Law in 2019 “to bring down rice prices for the benefit of all Filipinos especially the poor, improve the country’s food security, and enhance the productivity and competitiveness of rice farmers.”

However, he acknowledged that “while falling over the years, malnutrition in the country remains high. As of 2019, 5.8 percent or around 600,000 children under five years old are wasted, 19 percent or 2.1 million are underweight, and 28.8 percent or 3.2 million children are stunted.”

To address this situation, Chua said the administration implemented the First 1,000 Days Act, which institutionalized a national feeding program in public daycare, kindergarten, and elementary schools. “Through this,” Chua said, “we aim to further reduce the prevalence of stunting among children under five years old as we factor in the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to food security and nutrition.”

According to Chua, the creation of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Zero Hunger which President Rodrigo Duterte established, ensures a “whole-of-government approach to eradicating hunger and achieving food security. “Reforms to promote sustainable consumption and production are embodied in the Philippine Action Plan for Sustainable Consumption and Production.

He concluded his remarks and said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges we are facing in securing food, nutrition, and good health for all Filipinos. Overcoming this unprecedented crisis requires stronger collaboration.”

For its 55th session, the Commission will focus on the theme of “Population and sustainable development, in particular, sustained and inclusive economic growth,” an area that corresponds to the development priorities of the Philippines and the goals of the country’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

At that time, according to its provisional agenda, the general debate will include:

(a) Actions for the further implementation of the Programme of Action of
the International Conference on Population and Development at the
global, regional, and national levels;
(b) Population and sustainable development, in particular, sustained and
inclusive economic growth.

The Commission on Population and Development, established by the UN Economic and Social Council, plays the primary role of monitoring, reviewing, and assessing the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development at the national, regional, and international levels.

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