|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Commission on Population and Development
8th Meeting (AM)
Population Commission Wraps Up Debate amid Calls from Civil Society to Embed
Credible, Cohesive Policies in Strategies for Youth
Young People Not Consumers of Scarce Resources, but Creators of Economic Growth;
Investing in Education is Investing in National Security, Prosperity, Say Speakers
The nearly week-long debate in the Population Commission heard Member States, experts and United Nations agency heads weigh in on the spectrum of concerns facing adolescents and youth, with the hope reinforced today that efforts made to embed credible, cohesive policies into global, national and local strategies were an investment in youth certain to yield positive results.
Broad agreement emerged from the nearly 20 non-governmental organizations that spoke today for Governments to invest in the education and welfare of their nation’s youth. Among them was the representative of Familia de Guadalajara (VIFAC), who urged that the youth population not be seen as consumers of scarce resources, but as “creators of economic growth that will lead the world into a brighter future”.
States should bear in mind, said the representative of the World Youth Alliance, that people were the “engine” for development and that adolescents and young people played a crucial role in that process. About one-third of the population in developing countries was under 20 years of age, and among the unemployed, 40 per cent were youth. Incomplete education led to poverty and she urged Governments to invest in education and vocational training.
Similarly, the representative of the International Association of Applied Psychology said that education, empowerment, and entrepreneurship were fundamental to adolescents’ mental and psychological well-being, as that enabled them to become productive members of their communities and societies. It was critical to ensure access to decent work. Without it, youth were vulnerable to poverty, trafficking, armed conflict, socio-political unrest and drugs.
Taking that point event further, a representative of the Bahá’í International Community said Government investment in education was “no less than an investment in the stability, security and prosperity of the nation of itself”. She said formal education must go beyond the exclusive aim of helping young people secure gainful employment. Incorporating the concept of service to one’s community into formal educational structures was a crucial component to that security and prosperity.
However, education needed to be based on the needs of children and adolescents and not be censored by parents or guardians, the representative of Fokus – Forum for Women and Development asserted. Also, because young people often did not have access to money, she said it was vitally important that health services for adolescents be free of charge. “Even in rich countries, free services, including contraceptives free of charge”, made a big difference.
However, the representative of Endeavour Forum Inc. felt a “propaganda campaign agenda” was under way by some wealthy non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies to “push comprehensive unrestrained sexuality education into nations” for young children aged 10 and up, in which early sexual activities, multiple partners, same-sex philosophies, experimentation and masturbation were encouraged. “This is totally unacceptable and inappropriate for children,” she said, contending that that type of comprehensive sexuality education only led to more sexual promiscuity and fuel more epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases.
Presenting the report of the Secretary-General on Programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2011 was Cheryl Sawyer, Population Affairs Officer, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Among other things, she noted that, ideally, the Division’s materials should be available to all those who needed them, including users who could not afford to pay. “The Internet goes a long way towards meeting that need,” she said, stressing the important role of electronic media tools.
Also today, the Commission elected, by acclamation, Sergio Rodriguez dos Santos of Brazil from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States as Vice-Chair, thereby completing its Bureau for the session.
Speaking today on the programme implementation and future programme of work of the secretariat in the field of population were the delegates of Indonesia, Norway, United States and China.
The representative of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) also spoke on the matter.
Representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also contributed to the debate: Action Canada for Population and Development; Amnesty International; Soroptimist International; Center for Reproductive Rights; Fundacion para Estudio e Investigacion de la Mujer (FEIM); Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues; Red Mujeres: Desarrollo, Justicia y Paz; Endeavour Forum; World Mission Foundation; Equidad de Genero: Ciudadania, Trabajo y Familia; Red de Salud de las Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe; and AARP.
The Commission will meet again to conclude its forty-fifth session at 3 p.m. on Friday, 27 April.
The Commission on Population and Development met this morning to continue its general debate on national experiences in population matters: adolescents and youth. It would also consider implementation of the programme of work in the field of population in 2011 and the future programme of work, for which it had before it documents E/CN.9/2012/7 and E/CN.9/2012/CRP.1.
(For additional background information and official documents for the session, please see the website: www.un.org/esa/population/cpd/cpd2012/cpr45.htm)
Introduction of Reports
CHERYL SAWYER, Population Affairs Officer, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced two reports of the Secretary-General related to the work of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The first, Programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2011: Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (document E/CN.9/2012/7) was an account of the activities of the Division in six sections addressing fertility and family planning, mortality, migration, population estimates and projections, population and development and population policy. The sections covered the entire spectrum of demographic issues and their interrelations with development, including policy issues.
The second report, Note by the secretary General on the Proposed strategic framework for the period 2014-2015: subprogram 5, Population, of programm 7, Economic and social Affairs (document E/CN.9/2012/CRP.1) contained the proposed programme plan for the activities of the Population Division during the 2014-2015 biennium, and would be submitted to the Committee for Programme and Coordination for review.
Concerning the first report, Ms. Sawyer said that the strategic framework for 2010 to 2011 charged the Division to strengthen the international community’s capacity to address population issues and to integrate population factors into the development agenda. Three goals were identified: facilitating the review of progress in the international community’s implementation of its commitments; enhancing awareness, knowledge and understanding on the full range of population issues; and improving the accessibility of population information and data for all stakeholders. The Population Division fulfilled those obligations in a variety of ways, including, among others, producing the Secretary-General’s report on the theme of the Commission’s annual session and reporting annually on three indicators of universal access to reproductive health: adolescent birth rate, contraceptive prevalence, and the unmet need for family planning.
Continuing, she noted that what the Population Division was known for was the production of fundamental knowledge on population issues, with its output being utilized by stakeholders in Governments, academia, and civil society around the world. “This line of work goes on continuously,” she said, and resulted in, among others, the publication of “World Population Prospects” and “World Urbanization Prospects”. The 2010 Revision of World Population Prospects, published in 2011, received widespread attention as world population surpassed 7 billion in October 2011. She also noted that in 2011, there were a total of 11 databases available on the major demographic themes.
Concluding, she addressed the goal to improved access to the Division’s work, stating that its materials should ideally be available to all those who needed them, including users who could not afford to pay. “The Internet goes a long way towards meeting that need,” she said. However, the Division was also utilizing the “wall chart”, where information for all countries could be quickly accessed. In 2011, eight wall charts had been produced, covering such issues as contraceptive use, abortion policies, fertility policies, world population, mortality, rural and urban population and international migrants.
Statements on implementation of programmes
Commending the work of the Population Division, SUDIBYO ALIMOESO ( Indonesia) said publications put out by the Division and use of such information and statistical data was made so much easier today because of the constant improvement being made to multimedia tools that provided access to those publications. Population dynamics were heavily influenced by climate change. However, policymakers did not take particular note of the correlation between the two. Their knowledge in that area appeared very limited. As a result, population dynamics were not treated as a significant factor in policies and programmes on climate change.
Indonesia was beginning to develop a greater appreciation for the link between the two and was moving towards incorporating population issues into the climate change policy framework, he said. Indicators on population dynamics that could be easily collected and presented at the micro or local level needed to be developed and more widely disseminated. In many countries, heads of districts and their subordinates had authority as the main policymakers for development at that level. What that meant was that successful action on internationally agreed development commitment, such as the Millennium Development Goals, was determined by the comprehension and performance of those local leaders.
HELGE BRUNBORG, Senior Adviser, Statistics, Norway, commended the Population Division for its work in 2011, especially in light of the lack of a Director and two Deputy Directors. However, he expressed concern that such important positions had remained vacant for so long. Turning to the Division’s output, he drew attention to the wall chart on fertility policies and the web pages that continued to improve and become more “user-friendly”. The introduction of stochastic projections was also a welcome improvement, although he questioned whether users would understand the concepts and be able to utilize them.
He said that his delegation supported the proposal to move the presentation to the Commission of the bi-annual demographic estimates and projections the year as soon as they were first published. That would facilitate inclusion of the most recent projections in the Commission’s report. Last year, the projections had been made available to the general audience a few weeks before the Commission met, but not formally to the Commission.
THOM McDEVITT ( United States) joined other States in commending the work of the Population Division, namely, its job of ensuring that population issues remained high on the global agenda and of enhancing awareness in the international community and among Member States of progress made in implementing the Cairo agenda.
The delegate highlighted several initiatives of the Population Division, two of which were in the area of mortality and health. First, the Division had issued a report on sex differentials in child mortality, highlighting the importance of estimating gender-specific child mortality rates to better inform programmes aimed at improving childhood survivorship and to feed into the work of the United Nations inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. In November 2011, the Division had organized an expert group meeting on “Mortality Crises” to look more closely at the treatment of natural disasters, famine, violence, and non-communicable diseases in its population estimates and projections.
Both initiatives, said the delegate, should improve the Division’s estimates and projections and serve as the foundation for better understanding of the role of adolescents and youth in today’s global “demography” and in the coming decades, and for assessing levels and trends consistent with progress in implementing the Cairo outcome and Millennium Development Goals.
HU HONGTAO ( China) commended the Commission’s work in light of a stringent budget and vacancies in its leadership. He acknowledged the Commission’s assistance to his country, and noted that the software was available in six different languages. That, he said, was a significant contribution to implementing efforts towards achieving the goals of the 1994 Cairo Programme of Action, particularly in his region. He looked forward to the anniversary of the Cairo Conference, and hoped that the work accomplished would provide scientific basis for the implementation of strategies for addressing issues of population and development.
PAULO SAAD, Chief, Population and Development Area, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said that his division was taking an active part in preparing for the international conference in 2014 on the Programme of Action. There had been an intensive focus in his region on the issues of population and development in recent years, with a series of activities that had reviewed census results and looked at the institutional concerns of the socio-economic issues of Latin America.
He said that his division had disseminated — through capacity training for officials, planners and researchers, activities and workshops — information on demographic and population development. In 2011, the Curso Intensivo Regional de Analisis Demografico, an intensive regional course reviewing data on population and development in the region, was given for Government agencies, academia and regional organizations to enhance understanding of the complex issues of population. During the last biennium, more than 3,900 days of technical assistance had been offered through his division on population issues and concerns.
ALICIA ZAREEY of Bah á’ í International Community called attention to the education in service community, which the Bahá’í community considered central to the transformation of the individual and community life. The future of today’s society was dependent on the design of educational programmes for youth. Therefore, formal education needed to go behind the exclusive aim of helping young people secure gainful employment. Education needed to assist youth in developing their capacity to contribute to the spiritual and material prosperity of their communities. Concluding, she said the investment Governments made in education was “no less than an investment in the stability, security and prosperity of the nation of itself”.
MIN HUEI TZENG, World Youth Alliance, stressed the crucial role played by adolescents and youth, and called on Member States and all stakeholders to bear in mind that people were the greatest resources. About one-third of the population in developing countries was under 20 years of age, and among the unemployed, 40 per cent were youth. Noting that incomplete education led to poverty, she emphasized the importance of education, including vocational training, and called on Governments to invest in people, who were “engine” for development.
JOSH CRADDOCK of Vida y Familia de Guadalajara (VIFAC) said that as a pioneering institution in Mexico for pregnant women in distress, his organization dealt with providing quality health care and promoting education for young women. Noting that with declining fertility rates over the next 40 years that would result in 53 per cent of the world’s population over the age of 60, and in light of rising costs of national health programmes, he urged that contraception not be the primary focus of health care. Rather, he stated, Governments needed to ensure community participation in health policy planning, especially with regard to long-term care of the elderly. Further, he pointed out that the report of the Secretary-General focused on sexual education at the expense of basic education, which raised living standards and guided development. He called for educational programmes in favour of life-planning skills, and healthy lifestyles, and urged that youth not be seen as consumers of scarce resources, but as “creators of economic growth that will lead the world into a brighter future”.
ORIANA LOPEZ URIBE, Action Canada for Population and Development, told the Commission the world could wait no longer for commitments to be made towards improving the lives of adolescents and young people. The rates of unsafe abortions among young women and adolescent girls and the number of maternal deaths due to unsafe abortions were unacceptable. Those numbers would only be reduced if Governments were committed to the health and the rights of women. Why, then, she asked the Commission, were adolescent girls and young women still living under constant threat of stigma, discrimination, violence and were disproportionately affected by harmful traditional practices? Action Canada’s presence, she said in conclusion, was here to hold Governments accountable to their commitments and promises.
HARPREET PAUL, Amnesty International, called on the Commission to top its agenda with the right to sexual and reproductive health as an integral part of the lives of adolescents and youth. Those rights impacted all aspects of a young person’s life. Further, the Commission must ensure protection of sexual and reproductive rights as human rights, as well as access to comprehensive sexuality education, information and services for adolescents and youth, and the removal of legal, policy and cultural barriers, including the requirement of parental and spousal consent for young people, particularly young women, to exercise their rights.
ANJA SLETTEN, Fokus – Forum for Women and Development, said that there was solid evidence today about what promoted adolescents’ health and what reduced risks. Comprehensive evidence-based sexuality education gave young people tools for a better life and more responsible decision-making in intimate relations. Such education should be based on the needs of children and adolescents and not be censored by parents or guardians. Because young people had poor access to money, it was vitally important that health services for adolescents be free of charge. “Even in rich countries, free services, including contraceptives free of charge”, made a big difference in the use of those services and health outcomes, she said.
LOIS BEILIN, Soroptimist International, urged that if nothing else was taken from the Commission’s meeting, the word “sustainable” should echo in the minds of all participants. To truly achieve sustainable development and to use that model to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Governments could not ignore the critical role of women and girls or the resources they needed to fully participate in society. Speaking on behalf of nearly 90,000 women worldwide, in 125 countries, she asserted that a higher quality of life for all people could be the aspiration only when women were recognized as equal partners. That underpinned eradication of poverty and hunger and women’s empowerment. That was not optional but “unquestionably necessary”. She called upon all stakeholders to realize previous commitments towards gender equality, implement policies and programmes which provided women and girls with a secure environment and access to education, and ensure that they had access to resources that ensured sustainable livelihoods.
JOHANNA FINE, Center for Reproductive Rights, stated that nearly half of global deaths resulting from unsafe abortions in 2003 occurred among adolescents and young women under the age of 25, and the leading cause of death for 15- to 19- year-old girls in the developing world was complications from pregnancy and childbirth. The Convention on the Rights of the Child advised States to promote the best interests of youth, based on their own evolving capacities. That standard recognized the maturity and ability of youths to make their own decisions. In that regard, youths and adolescents had the right to access confidential and non-discriminatory sexual and reproductive health education, information and services. She urged the Commission to adopt a strong resolution on adolescents and youth “grounded in the reproductive rights set forth in the [ Cairo] Programme of Action”, and called upon States to establish and implement effective accountability mechanisms that ensured that adolescents and youth had the ability to exercise those rights.
MABEL BIANCO, Fundacion para Estudio e Investigacion de la Mujer (FEIM), emphasized the importance of access for adolescents and youth to comprehensive sexuality education, saying that such a learning opportunity was not guaranteed in many countries, particularly in developing nations. Home was an unsafe place in many developing countries. Girls were sexually abused and raped at home by family members and even by parents. Adolescents and youth were not taken care of by health services, which, she said, often “come too late”. Access to information and comprehensive sexuality education was key to prevent sexual abuse, forced pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and even deaths.
CORANN OKORODUDU, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, said that with 721 million adolescents worldwide between ages 12 and 17 representing future citizens and future leaders in their communities and nations, it was crucial for Governments to provide them with education, training and work experience. In that way, those youths would be prepared to fully participate in the economic, social and political arenas. Towards that goal, she urged Governments to invest in the promotion of gender equality, human rights and social justice among adolescents; the provision of mental health services and social protection for them; and the evaluation of programmes and policies that promoted adolescent development to ensure achievement of sustainable development.
JUDY KURIANSKY, International Association of Applied Psychology, emphasized the three “E’s”, namely, education, empowerment, and entrepreneurship, which were fundamental to adolescents’ mental and psychological well-being and enabled them to become productive members of their communities and societies. It was crucial for them to have access to comprehensive sexuality and reproductive education, in order to break the myths about sexuality, such as the belief in Sierra Leone that old people who limped had had too much sex. Touching on the effects of natural disasters, such as the recent ones in Haiti and Japan, she said adolescents were left orphaned, homeless and depressed. It was essential, therefore, that they be provided with emotional support. Generally, youth must have access to decent work; otherwise, they were vulnerable to poverty, trafficking, armed conflict, socio-political unrest and drugs. Her organization had co-developed a multi-stakeholder model “Girls Empowerment Programme”, where 40 girls from local villages in Africa participated in a residential camp for a week, receiving life skills and entrepreneurship training.
DIANA IBARRA, Red Mujeres: Desarrollo, Justicia y Paz, said that there were gaps in the perspective presented by the Cairo Programme, with not enough attention and efforts paid to enriching the emotional and internal aspect of the sexual life of adolescents and young people. Legislation, politics and mass media were stereotyping youth sexuality. However, what was lacking were tools to construct dialogue and strategies that enabled intelligent decisions. The consequences of that inattention in emotional development resulted in a persistence of emotional violence, forced marriages, and bullying. She said budgetary allocations must be ensured for services that addressed emotional life.
DENISE MOUNTENAY, Endeavour Forum Inc., said “there is a propaganda campaign agenda” by some wealthy non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies to “push comprehensive unrestrained sexuality education into nations” for young children aged 10 and up, in which early sexual activities, multiple partners, same-sex philosophies, experimentation and masturbation were encouraged. “This is totally unacceptable and inappropriate for children,” she said, contending that that type of comprehensive sexuality education would only lead to more sexual promiscuity and fuel more epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases.
ADAEZE OKIKA, World Mission Foundation, said that her organization was aware of the need to transform policies, which reflected a commitment to the sexual well-being of adolescents and youth into action among Africans. Her organization’s global project, My Sisters’ Health Initiative, worked to encourage adolescents to make moral decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. She urged, among several points, that education and awareness programmes extended to young people who were not in school settings, through the establishment of rural support centres, and that the Commission expanded access to “reproductive protective commodities” that prevented HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and reproductive infections.
GABRIELA GARCIA, Equidad de Genero: Ciudadania, Trabajo y Familia, expressed concern about the welfare of adolescents and youth in Mexico and noted their lack of representation in public decision-making, which led to policies unfriendly to them. Her country faced high unemployment, which resulted in many youths having no income, as well as increases in, and even deaths from, teenage pregnancies. To combat those ills, her civil society group was seeking to reach out to the most marginalized population. But there was still much to be done, including comprehensive institutional approaches.
NATALIE HERNANDEZ ARIAS, Red de Salud de las Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe, supported the programme of work of the Commission and referred to the International Conference on Population and Development that recognized women’s rights as the key to development. Since the Cairo Conference nearly two decades ago, efforts in that area were still met with opposition from conservatives, as well as serious barriers, especially to information and comprehensive sexuality education. She urged Member States to further implement their commitments, adding that the future of adolescents and youth was in the hands of Governments.
KATHERINE KLINE of AARP which she described as the leading non-profit membership organization for people 50 and over in the United States, noted that fewer workers were entering the workplace to support larger numbers of retirees, and Governments were shifting fiscal responsibilities for the elderly to individuals. Facilitating those shifts would be critical in responding to demographic change as younger people cared for their elderly family members, and older people raised their grandchildren, as both parents entered the workforce. If older workers were not integrated into the workforce, the number of workers would shrink, driving up costs and restricting economic growth. Retaining older workers also strengthened the tax base and alleviated pressure on public pensions and health-care systems. Younger and older generations had much in common, as both sought maximum flexibility with schedules and placed a premium on work-life balance.
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