UNITED NATIONS POPULATION INFORMATION NETWORK (POPIN)
UN Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
with support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)

94-09-08: Statement of Malta, H.E. Dr. Louis Galea

ISO: MLT

 

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             DELEGATION OF MALTA ICPD - CAIRO 1994



        INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT





ICPD CAIRO

 5-13 September, 1994



                                Address

                                  by

                          Hon Dr Louis Galea

             Minister for Home Affairs and Social Development



8 September 1994



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Address by Hon. Dr. Louis Galea, Minister for Home Affairs and Social

Development, MALTA, to the International Conference on Population and

Development, Cairo, Egypt-pt - September 1994.



 Mr. President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,



 First of all allow me, on behalf of my Government and my delegation, to

express our sincere and deep appreciation to President Mohammed Hosni

Mubarak and the Egyptian Government for hosting this important

conference and for the excellence of the traditional hospitality which

the people of Egypt have extended to all of us. We have now drank the

waters of the Nile and, if I remember correctly, an old Egyptian saying

tells us that they who drink of the waters of the Nile shall return to

Egypt. We certainly hope to do so. Our thanks go, too, to you Mr

Chairman, to Dr. Nafis Sadik and, through her, to the Secretariat of the

Organizing Committee of the ICPD, as well as to all the members of the

Prep.Comm Meetings who worked so hard to produce the draft document for

this Conference.



 If we were visitors from outer space approaching this blue-green planet

and trying to view it in a holistic perspective, we would be interested

in the condition of the human inhabitants, who like to call themselves

the "dominant" species of the planet. Would we see a prosperous planet,

where human suffering and mental and physical impoverishment has been

steadily declining in proportion to the increasing sophistication of

human technology and communications? Ladies and gentlemen, we would not.



 Instead we would see a promising ecosphere dominated by one intelligent

species to its own detriment and to the detriment of a number of other

species and ecosystems. We would see the bulk of humankind not as

prosperous but, in the main poor. We would be informed that out of over

five billion persons, over three billion have an average per capita

income of only 350 dollars per year. With 350 dollars a year not much of

the technological medical artistic, and educational opportunities of an

advanced species are accessible at all. Indeed we would be justified to

conclude that this beautiful planet is a planet of the poor.



 Many of us gathered here for this conference have already drawn

attention to the serious anomalies that exist in the relation of

underdeveloped and developing societies to the natural environment,

local and global. The environmental pressures caused by underdevelopment

coupled with massive population, the marginality and low productivity of

the natural environments of these peoples, and their particular

contribution to environmental degradation - these are all issues of

global concern



 Needless to say, the developed and more sophisticated societies are

great contributors per capita when it comes to the consumption and

spoilage of the limited bounties of the income populations, coupled with

wasteful, dangerous, and environmentally unfriendly technologies, have

already over-exploited both domestic and foreign resources.



 All of us are rightly trying, and must try harder, to improve the

social, health and economic conditions of the disadvantaged millions, to

empower them to liberate themselves from the poverty trap, both for the

sake of social justice and also for the sake of the decreased fertility

rates that accompany socio-economic advancement. We are also aware that

this will, in turn, result in greater demands on the resources of the

planet, resources the renewability of which is seriously limited. It is,

therefore, imperative that we plan for an orderly balance between

population growth and sustainable socio-economic development.



 Underlying many of the diverse factors involved in wars of tribe

against tribe and nation against nation, there has been territorial

acquisitiveness and terterritorial aggression which we prefer in our

minds to associate with packs of wolves rather than with our own species

and our own selves. This unpalatable truth means that the great

population pressures being forecast until the middle of the next century

could, unless coupled with the required socio-economic development,

continue to increase large scale violence in one way or another.



 Inequity in the global distribution and utilization of resources of the

planet is a major concern of my country, and we feel it should be the

major concern of all states. One principal reason for the crisis of

Population vs Resources on this planet has been certain forms of

ownership of resources, and certain political and economic incentive

systems involved in their exploitation. It is these forms of ownership

and these incentive systems which have directed and invested powerful

human technologies into shortsighted rapaciousness, instead of into more

rational approaches to resource management.



 Our country has successfully put forward at the United Nations one of

the solutions to these problems of ownership and incentives. This

solution was the concept of the Common Heritage of Mankind - a concept

which not only was endorsed by the United Nations, but gave rise to the

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. To a certain extent

this was a result of the application of the concept of the Common

Heritage to the resources of the seabed and the open seas.



 The Population s Resources crisis, ladies and gentlemen, is to a large

extent a problem of inequitable distribution and management of

resources. Re-ordering our legal and political relationship to these

resources, as in the legal formula of the Common Heritage of Mankind,

will go a long way towards overcoming the crisis.



 We not only have a global responsibility for population - which is why

we are here today. We also, and perhaps even more importantly, have a

global responsibility for global resources. We, as the human race, must

ensure that these resources are managed by using a global perspective

and according to global needs.



 Our species on this planet now needs, for its very survival imaginative

concepts such as the Common Heritage of Mankind, and the concept of the

Rights of Future Generations. It needs also appropriate and effective

new global institutions. In the wars and disasters of recent years

everyone has seen how weak is our global needs.



Our species on this planet now needs, for its very survival, imaginative

concepts such as the common Heritage of Mankind, and the concept of the

Rights of Future Generations. It needs also appropriate and effective

new global institutions. In  the wars and disasters of recent years

everyone has seen how weak is our global institutional and political

readiness and power of constructive intervention. At the same time we

are also seeing the immense potential and indeed the ultimate

inesitabitity of such effective international machinery. mankind is no

longer a collection of tribes and nations. It is a single organism that

has expanded to fill and transform the whole ecosphere. Parts of it are

still acting inharmoniously with other parts, but we must find the

concepts and the mechanisms necessary to stop this with adequate

urgency.



 Malta had a unique success in limiting population growth in the

nineteen-sixties. There was out-migration at the time, but there was

also a radical drop in the average number of children borne per family,

which cannot be attributed to emigration. Demographers have concluded

that the change came about as a result of the general education and

changed role of women, who at that time started to become fun

participants in family decision-making and started to get jobs outside

the home. One aspect which proved to be a key influential element was

the counselling work and the educational campaign of an organization

devoted to responsible parenthood - the Cana Movement. This was a

Catholic organization. And it is interesting to note that no Government

intervention was necessary in order to bring down the fertility rate. An

enhanced role for women, the sending of an girls to school, and the

general social development of women were enough to control population

growth without direct State intervention in fertility regulation. Since

then we have amended our Constitution, ratified the Convention Against

all forms of discrimination Against Women, established National

Machinery for the promotion of equality of women with men, changed our

Family Law fully to respect this equality, and implemented a sense of

socio economic, educational and political measures to empower women to

maximize the fulfillment of their dignity and role in our society.

Demographic transitions from high to low fertility are now happening at

a faster rate.



 But Governments can also anticipate demographic changes and to some

extent enable their societies to accommodate an unusually large

demographic class with dignity even in the absence of great national and

natural wealth In many developing countries the new demographic class is

young children and youth. In our own country, with its ageing

population, the new demographic class is that of older persons. Although

such policies demographic policies are not very common, we have had such

a policy in respect to ageing in Malta and it has been quite successful.



Our country has even felt its international obligations on demographic

issues. Malta's contribution in this demographic issue of ageing goes

back to the 60's when the then Minister responsible for social affairs

called the attention of world leaders at the United Nations to this

issue. Other countries joined and endorsed Malta's appeal and the

momentum culminated in the setting up of the World Assembly on Ageing in

Vienna in 1982. Following this, we took up the ensuing Action Plan, and

set up an International Institute on Ageing in Malta. The Maltese

Government, with the cosperation of UNFPA, continues to contribute

considerably to the running of this Institute, which acts.



 However, if we are visitors from outer space taking a global

perspective, and if we are compassionate beings with the well-being of

persons and planets close to our heart, we will immediately realize that

something is very wrong. The human race appears to be acting too slowly

to its new global and planetary awareness that came through

universalistic religions and philosophies and flourished recently

through the communications revolution. The species has not managed its

own size and has not managed its own socioeconomic-demographic-

technological systems in order to put them into some minimal overall

harmony with the necessarily complementary systems of the rest of the

planet.



 One of the overall reasons for this deficiency is no doubt that the

global challenge is quite new - it is not several generations old, and

human institutions and systems have to have time to operate rationally

on a global scale, or on a local scale with global awareness. Even the

very notion of sustainable development is hardly a generation old. Time-

scales of events that are taking place, however, are not on the side of

mankind.



 The problem we are collective}y facing today is to a large extent a

problem of the type of socio-economic development and resource

distribution and utilization that has taken place in the last few

decades on this planet - and is large}y still taking place.



 Both a cause and an effect of this type of development has been a

certain discord, a disharmony, of the human race with itself at the

spiritual and cultural levels - an alienation from our real roots. We

sometimes feel that it is one of the taboos of modem times that mention

of this subject is not permitted on certain occasions. I hope that this

crucial conference in Cairo is not one of them. It has been the unbroken

wisdom of past and present generations that both the human person and

reality in general have dimensions that extend beyond the incomplete

materialistic model of the universe.



 This is a perspective that Moslems, Christians, Hindus, and members of

almost any major religion ultimately subscribe to. It is in fact the

spiritualities of world religions, and the insight of enlightened and

compassionate persons, that have thrown light on these underlying

realities and on the means for attuning oneself to them.



 The decision-makers of the human race ignore this dimension only at

great risk to the human species as a whole and to the biosphere. Because

apparently it is precisely alienation from this dimension that has been

a major feature (probably both cause and effect) of the dehumanizing

forms of development that have been taking place.



 We also know that if one cuts oneself off from this dimension the

result is insecurity, selfishness, acquisitiveness, insensitivity,

disharmony, alienation. We do know that cut off from this source, we

easily consider others as basically Other, basically separate, basically

not-L not-We. In the past was slaves, women, and minorities. Today it is

our poor, our immigrants, our fetuses.



 We believe that insensitivity to this dimension of human life and of

nature has been a major cause of the crucial environmental and social

crises facing the mankind today. It is part of the problem. Please, let

us not try to make it part of the solution - it cannot be done. The

solution cannot be to ignore our poor and ignore the starving children,

to keep our young girls uneducated, to exhaust our non-renewable

resources or to abort our own human fetuses and kill our own unborn

children on a massive scale. Let us get this clear - these are not

solutions, they are symptoms of the same problems that have led us to

the population-and-development crisis of today.



 Committing crimes against humanity will not be a sound basis for

establishing the future of the human race. The national legislation of

our own country, ladies and gentlemen, reflects our culture and our

respect for human life in that it forbids the taking of human life,

including abortion. We cannot agree to methods of birth control or

population control that result in early or late abortions. We are

against abortion and especially against internationally-promoted and

state-promoted abortion as a means of controlling population, and we are

obliged to oppose such resolutions at this Conference, as also to oppose

the use of language which may be interpreted in this manner.



 We also insist that the international and national promotion of methods

for regulating fertility should not be such as to violate deeply-held

beliefs of local culture and religion. These cultural and religious

beliefs should, however, be mobilized in a genuine and non-manipulative

manner in order to accelerate development and eradicate poverty, reduce

the need for more children for social security purposes, educate young

women, promote women's health, improve health services, and so on.



 We also hold firm to the notion of the family as the basic unit of

society, and we were pleased to see that, following this intervention of

the Maltese representative at the Prep Comm meetings, this has been

entrenched in the draft document before this Conference.



 Mr Chairman. It is a matter of great regret that a charge of hypocrisy

is sometime levelled at those who, out of deeply held beliefs and

conviction, take a stand on matters relating to the sanctity of life, on

family values, and on the role and inalienable rights and

responsibilities of parents in the upbringing and educations including

sex education, of their children. We strongly believe that sustainable

development cannot truly be achieved without the bonding force of these

values.



 We are now belatedly realizing that we have just emerged from forty

years of sterile ideological warfare. We must exert great care not to

repeat similar mistakes.  Ideological and simplistic philosophies which

seek to foster gender discord and claims to a monopoly of caring for

women's or children's health and well-being have no place in a world

which at one and the same time is becoming one global village with so

many deeply-rooted complex cultures to which we all tend to cling to

safeguard our respective identity in our shrinking world. In a

Conference where we are an promoting women's empowerment, a

paternalistic, or maternalistic, attitude strikes a discordant note. As

President Mubarak and Mr Boutros Ghali eloquently put it, we need to

cultivate a spirit of solidarity, of mutual respect, of compassion, of

tolerance and conscience. These are the values that should guide us.



 We are apparently still discovering what it really means to be fully

human on a limited planet For the sake of both present and future

generations, may our delegates and experts present here today

courageously promote a wholesome and dignified future for the human race

based on equity and compassion.


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