UN Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
with support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)

94-09-08: Statement of Eritrea, H.E.Semere Russom




The electronic preparation of this document has been done by the

Population Information Network(POPIN) of the United Nations Population

Division in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme




                                    The International Conference

                                    On Population and Development


                                    September 5 - 13, 1994

     Mr. Chairman,

     Honourable Delegates,

     Ladies and Gentlemen,

     The International Conference on Population and Development must be

applauded for the pioneer work that it has set in motion to address one

of the crucial challenges to our global society in the 21st century. The

recognition of the symbiotic relationship between development and

population; the need to rationalise patterns of production and

consumption so as to ensure sustainable development for future

generations; and in particular the emphasis that the draft document

attaches to vulnerable groups in society: especially, the empowerment of

women; the social safety net for the elderly; the protection of

indigenous groups as well as the drive to ensure access to universal

primary education and health care are all worthy ideals that the

international community must strive to realise through mobilisation of

the necessary resources.

     But while these derivative issues may elicit broad consensus and

support. we are inclined to believe that there are differing views and

approaches in regard to the central theme of population growth and

appropriate demographic policies that the draft document advocates.

     Spiraling population growth in the developing world will certainly

remain to be a cause of grave concern in as much as it continues to

outstrip economic growth. Family planning and the plethora of supportive

measures - public education on reproductive health, reduced maternal and

child mortality rates, higher expectation of life etc. - that the draft

document recommends will not however furnish a real and lasting panacea

to the problem at hand. The fact of the matter is that this approach is

skewed, focusing as it does on the various symptoms rather than the

fundamental malaise of underdevelopment .

     In the case of Africa in particular, it is debatable whether

reduced population growth will mitigate its growing mariginalisation in

the global economic order and accelerate its development. Africa enjoys,

on the whole, considerable comparative advantages in terms of

territorial expanse and natural endowments. Its population density -

even taking into account current rates of fertility - is and will remain

low in relative terms for the foreseeable future. The appalling poverty

and deprivation that stalks the continent is not certainly due to

overpopulation and it will not be eradicated if family planning were to

be introduced through attractive palliatives and public education

programmes and practiced by 60-65% of the population (the target figure)

instead of the current rate of 10-15%. The scourge of ethnic conflicts,

massive Internal and external population displacement, and, widespread

deprivation will not be healed by the most prudent and comprehensive

demographic policy.

     In the event, what is required is a much bolder and holistic

approach that addresses and tackles the real causes of underdevelopment.

Existing imbalances in the terms of international trade must be adjusted

to promote rapid and sustainable development in the countries that are

lagging behind and in which the economic gap is widening. Technological

transfer must be encouraged particularly in the critical productive

sectors rather than on few areas - such as those for producing generic

drugs - apparently selected because they promote the agenda of

demographic management. The effectiveness and scale of external

assistance must be increased substantially to extricate these countries

from perennial dependence and help them stand on their feet. We believe

that the donor community is uniquely placed to meet this challenge at

this opportune moment.

     Furthermore, it is a matter of historical reality that population

stabilisation is likely to be achieved as a byproduct of rather than an

antecedent to overall development. Entrenched cultural and social

barriers to family planning can only be dispelled in proportion to

societal progress in all aspects of life. The various programmes

associated with family planning, and, especially the social safety nets

for the elderly, public education programmes for adolescents,

empowerment of women etc. cannot be implemented on a sustainable basis

from external funding. Internal development would be essential and

indeed a pre-requisite for an undertaking of this scale. In brief, the

answer does not lie in a compartmentalised and piecemeal approach but on

a comprehensive and innovative approach to the crucial issue of

development in the Third World.

     Thank you

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