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The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Regional Office for West and Central Africa (WCARO) is organizing a regional consultation on the essential role of ending unmet family planning needs in capturing the Demographic Dividend (DD).

The world is committed to achieving universal access to family planning (FP) by 2030. However, much remains to be done to make this objective a reality, especially in West and Central Africa. Indeed, in the region, the rate of use of modern contraceptive methods is 18% among married women and the unmet need for modern contraceptive methods is over 24%. 

Thanks to the tireless efforts (UNFPA) in high-level advocacy, it is encouraging to note that Africa has decided to build on the conceptual framework of the demographic dividend for its march towards the "Africa we want in 2063" and the achievement of sustainable development goals.

In this consultation, UNFPA's regional office will bring together key stakeholders at the Radisson Hotel in Dakar, Senegal, from 15 to 17 October 2019, to raise awareness of the importance of ending unmet need for family planning in order to benefit from the demographic dividend in order to achieve the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030. 

This regional consultation also aims to identify and align impact-oriented actions to accelerate progress towards eliminating unmet family planning needs in West and Central Africa, within the overall vision of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

Twenty-five years ago in Cairo, in 1994, at the ICPD, 179 governments adopted a visionary Programme of Action that aimed to ensure the health and rights of women and girls, as well as to promote their empowerment. 

Family planning empowers women and girls, enables them to pursue education and employment. It is essential for poverty reduction, gender equality and the reduction of pregnancy-related mortality. Leaders at the ICPD called on all countries to "strive to make available to everyone a full range of safe and reliable family planning methods. 

Access to voluntary family planning has increased significantly since 1994. In the least developed countries, the prevalence of modern contraceptives has more than doubled among women in couples who wish to avoid pregnancy, from 15 to 37 per cent. Yet access to modern and reliable family planning is far from universal.  

Today, in developing regions, more than 200 million women who want to avoid pregnancy still do not use safe and effective family planning methods. The reasons for this gap range from a lack of access to information or services in this area, to a lack of support from their partner or community. 

This unmet need persists and has a negative impact on women's ability to build a better future for themselves, their families and their communities through sustainable development in the region, including the exploitation of the demographic dividend.  

The expected outcomes of this meeting will be a shared vision and commitment to end unmet family planning needs as a basis for achieving Action 2030 and in support of the ICPD vision on universal access to sexual and reproductive health services in West and Central Africa. 

The Dakar consultation will bring together more than 130 participants with a range of stakeholders from government, donors, youth, civil society, the private sector and UNFPA's 23 country offices.