The National Population Council (NPC) has developed an eight-year Strategic Plan (2017-2024) to direct the programmes and activities of the organisation. Developed through an elaborate collaborative and consensus-building process, the plan is to provide strategic answers to key challenges facing the operations of the NPC in delivering on its mandate as contained in the act establishing the council. At a validation workshop held in Accra, Prof. Stephen Kwankye of the Regional Institute for Population Studies (RIPS), University of Ghana, said the process involved the staff and management of the NPC, eminent personalities who, in the past and present, had had working relations with the NPC, as well as key stakeholders and development partners in Ghana. Rationale for strategic plan Prof. Kwankye, who is one of the consultants who developed the plan, said the NPC’s strategic plan adopted for implementation over the period 2006-2008 had since ended, yet no new strategic plan had been put in place. “For a period of almost 10 years, therefore, the NPC has operated without a strategic plan,” he stated. He said after a little more than two decades of implementation of the 1994 Population Policy, there had been both successes and challenges that called for strategic programming of activities to sustain the gains and address the weaknesses and challenges observed. Furthermore, he said, a national adolescent and reproductive health policy adopted in 2000 (revised edition, 1994) to address the challenges early sex and childbearing posed to the development of young people in Ghana was being coordinated by the NPC for implementation and, therefore, required a new strategic thinking to address the issues involved. Again, Ghana’s population dynamics provided very clear indications of the onset of a demographic dividend evidenced by a population structure that was characterised by a steadily reducing proportion of children’s population and an expanding population in the economically active ages between 15 and 64, while at the same time the population was showing signs of ageing as life expectancy increased, he said. “There is a huge youthful population (youth bulge) that is economically active that needs to be invested in and tapped for the nation’s development. This means that the NPC has to review its strategies to be able to contribute towards harnessing the benefits of the demographic dividend Ghana is witnessing currently,” Prof. Kwankye added. He also pointed out that the socio-economic and policy environment in the country was undergoing changes following the coming to an end of the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the adoption, in their stead, of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to which Ghana had committed itself. “At the same time, there are new and emerging issues that have engaged regional and global dialogue relative to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including issues of homosexuality, lesbianism and trans-gender rights. There is the need to craft a new strategic plan to evolve mechanisms to address these issues within the socio-cultural context of Ghana, while containing regional and international conventions to which Ghana has assented and committed itself,” he said. Successes Some indications of achievements so far, Prof. Kwankye said, included steadily declining fertility, which is currently at a plateau, having reduced from 6.4 children per woman in 1988 to 4.2 in 2014. He said that had translated into the altering of the broad-based population pyramid from about 45 per cent of the population of less than 15 years in 1984 to 38.3 per cent in 2010. Infant and under-five mortality rates had also reduced between 1988 and 2014. While infant mortality rate had reduced from 77 per 1,000 live births in 1988 to 42 in 2014, under-five mortality rate had declined from 155 to 60 per 1,000 live births between 1988 and 2014 and contraceptive prevalence rate was recorded at about 23 per cent in 2014, compared to just about five per cent in 1988, he added. Weaknesses He said there were, however, some weaknesses and challenges that remained barriers to the attainment of some of the objectives and set targets that required to be addressed. Prof. Kwankye noted that socio-cultural beliefs and practices continued to militate against some population programmes, such as family planning and the adoption of small family sizes by couples. “There is also the paradox of steadily declining fertility without a corresponding rise in contraceptive usage, which calls for research to unravel the speculations regarding the factors that are actually driving Ghana’s fertility decline, such as a possible increase in the rate of abortions or changes in marital patterns,” he added. He indicated that one of the steps had been to revise the population policy to incorporate new and emerging issues engendered by the changing population and its related implications for national development, hence the need for a new strategic plan to address the issues within the context of the changing socio-economic environment. Direction of plan The thematic areas that the NPC will focus on in the implementation of the new strategic plan include advocacy for high-level political commitment for population-related programmes, coordination of population-related programmes, integration of population into development planning, harnessing the benefits of the demographic dividend and young people’s sexual and reproductive health. Others are enhancing the socio-economic status of women, research and information provision, data management, resource mobilisation, technical support and capacity building in population and information and communications technology. The successful implementation of the strategic plan will require a strong partnership with all stakeholders in population, both in the public and the private sectors, including Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) operating in the country and the development partners. Commitment The Executive Director of the NPC, Dr Leticia Adelaide Appiah, said both the council and secretariat would demonstrate total commitment towards the full implementation of the strategic plan. She called for support from the government, the development partners and all stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of the plan throughout its eight-year period.
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