International Conference on Financing for Development

Department of Public Information - News and Media Services Division - New York
Monterrey, NL, Mexico
18-22 March 2002

20 March 2002


With illiteracy and ill health still the norm for half the world, one sure way of dealing with those problems was investing in women -- that was an investment with guaranteed high returns, said the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) at a press conference this morning in Monterrey.

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said that today's paradoxical world was defined by the fact that the 10 richest nations individually were richer than the 10 poorest nations combined. That must be resolved. Today, women and men lived and suffered the consequences of poverty, malnutrition , chronic ill health, exposure to communicable diseases, and maternal mortally, and 40 million were living with HIV/AIDS.

She said it was possible to end poverty, at least, extreme poverty. "We all knew what needed to be done and, to a large extent, how to do it." And the root causes were beginning to be understood. For example, it was clear that economic poverty had social roots. Achieving the desired goals would lay a foundation for eradicating poverty, but resources were needed.

Throughout the Fund's decades of work, certain lessons had been learned, including that when women were empowered and educated, and in good health, the benefits derived did not go to them alone, but also to their families, communities and nations, she said. The UNFPA had had some success in terms of deciding the number and spacing of children, the main aim of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.

She said that $17 billion was to have been mobilized in 2000 for population activities, but, so far, only $11 billion had been raised. And, while the developed countries had not reached 50 per cent of their share, the developing countries had attained 80 per cent from domestic resources to meet their commitments.

Turning to official development assistance (ODA), she said the decline must be reversed, since failure to meet the agreed target would set back achievements and increase the gap between poor and rich. In Monterrey, leaders should pledge more support to women and free them from poor health and lack of education. "Investing in women is investing in change and in the future", she said.

Asked how the gender issue fared in the context of the Monterrey consensus, Ms. Obaid said the outcome text had reflected the issue of women's rights in some three or four places, so there was some attention being given to those issues. It should also be remembered that the Millennium Summit goals, such as decreasing maternal mortality and preventing HIV/AIDS, including minimizing the effect on women, must be implemented.

She added that, in some African countries, for every man who was infected with HIV/AIDS, six to eight girls were infected. In general, resources should be mobilized so that women, in real terms, were not excluded from the agenda, whether in terms of education, health or HIV/AIDS prevention.


Press Conferences
Conference News