Four laureates – from Iran, the United States, Algeria and Malaysia – today received the United Nations Population Award at a ceremony in New York.
“Today, we celebrate outstanding contributions to the awareness of population questions or to their solutions,” Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told participants.
“And we recognize individuals and institutions who, through their work and achievements, are at the forefront of human progress and development,” she added.
Dr. Hossein Malek Afzail of Iran, Allan Rosenfield of the United States, Le Comité National de Population of Algeria, and the National Population and Family Development Board of Malaysia shared this year’s Award.
Praising their accomplishments, Ms. Migiro noted that the awardees are “leaders not only on population issues, but also in our race to the Millennium Development Goals, especially the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger,” referring to the eight global development targets to be achieved by 2015.
For the first time in its 17-year history, the Award is being bestowed upon four laureates – selected by the Population Award Committee, which is administered by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and comprises 10 Member States elected by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) – instead of two, one each in the individual and institutional categories.
Dr. Rosenfield, a Columbia University professor, co-wrote a seminal paper on maternal death and as a result, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation established the Averting Maternal Death and Disability programme which supports projects in 50 countries.
Dr. Afzali works in Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education, and has helped design strategies to improve health procedures, particularly adolescent health, reproductive health and family planning.
In the institutional category, the Algerian National Population Committee was honoured for its advocacy for a strategic population policy in Algeria, and the National Population and Family Development Board of Malaysia has pushed for socio-demographic research and monitors population trends to create awareness among policymakers.
“Their work highlights the importance of empowering people in the most basic areas of their lives: planning or managing pregnancies, limiting unsafe abortions, practicing responsible sexual behaviour and reversing the deadly tide of AIDS,” Ms. Migiro said at the ceremony. “These are the most crucial milestones on the road to prosperity. They remain the ultimate measures of human progress.”
In another address, the Deputy Secretary-General underscored that much remains to be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“Some progress has been made, and there are clear signs of hope,” she said yesterday in New York, in an address to the 20th annual meeting of the Academic Council on the United Nations System.
“But we still have a long way to go to fulfil the vision underpinning the Millennium Development Goals – a vision of a world with less poverty, hunger and disease; with greater survival prospects for mothers and their infants; with better educated children; with equal opportunities for women; and with a healthier environment,” she added.
She observed that Governments have already made “impressive commitments” to support the attainment of the MDGs, and she said that “concerted action now” is crucial in such areas as poverty, health, and education, among others, as this “may mean the difference between success and failure in achieving these critical targets.”
Ms. Migiro stressed that rapid progress is a definite possibility when backed by “firm commitments, sound strategies and adequate financing.”