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94-09-12: Statement of Gambia, H.E. Mrs. Fatoumata C.M. Tambajang

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 AS WRITTEN





FINAL COPY

REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT





CAIRO, 5 -13 SEPTEMBER, 1994





STATEMENT BY

THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF HEALTH, SOCIAL WELFARE AND

WOMEN'S AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA

MRS. FATOUMATA C. M. TAMBAJANG



12 SEPTEMBER, 1994.





Mr.President;

Your Excellencies;

Honourable Ministers;

Representatives of Inter-Governmental Organizations;

Representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations;

Distinguished Delegates;

Ladies and Gentlemen:



 It is with profound pleasure and honour that I am given the privilege

to address this important Conference on Population and Development, a

Conference which represents our commitment to similar conferences held

in Bucharest and Mexico in 1974 and 1984 respectively.



 Please allow me to start by congratulating His Excellency, President

Hosni Mubarak on his well-deserved nomination as President of such an

important International Conference on Population and Development (ICDP).

There is no doubt that this Conference is opportune and that it marks a

landmark in our African history and willingness to rise to the

development challenges of our continent. My delegation, comprising high

level Government and NGO officials join me in wishing you success in the

deliberations of the Conference.



 I would like to seize the opportunity to thank you on behalf of the

Government of The Gambia, for the wonderful hospitality of the

Government and people of this great land of Egypt; the cradle of

civilization, accorded to us since our arrival in Cairo.



 We recognize and appreciate the commendable efforts of your Government,

those of Dr Nafis Sadik, Executive Director of UNFPA and Secretary

General of the ICPD with the Secretariat for turning what seems to have

been a dream at the onset into reality. Your Excellencies, distinguished

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been following with great interest this

transparent Conference with your candour and objectivity. I thank every

one of you for taking the bull by the horn to set the prospective world

human development agenda for the 21 st Century..



 Your Excellency, distinguished representatives and delegates, we gather

here today to discuss the Draft Plan of Action that will guide

population related interventions in the next twenty years in the light

of the serious challenges high population growth is posing in our

endeavour to attain socio-economic progress throughout the world. Even

though population  increase for some countries may lead to increases in

the size of their national cake, the population growth usually

supersedes the economic growth implying that the share of the cake will

be smaller and smaller as the trend continues.



It is an impeccable fact that the world's population currently estimated

at 5.7 billion and growing faster than ever is leading us to the cross-

roads of serious socio-economic development crises. The world population

growing at 93 million per annum, implies that as I speak, nearly 200

persons are added to this planet per minute who should have inalienable

fundamental rights such as shelter, food, clothing, education and other

services.



 According to the United Nations, it took 123 years for world population

to increase from I billion to 2 billion, succeeding increments of I

billion took 33 years, 14 years and 13 years respectively. The

transition from the fifth to the sixth billion, currently under way, is

expected to take only 11 years and to be completed by 1998. Your

Excellency, I cannot agree more with Dr Nafis Sadik, when she remarked

"we meet at a time when, driven by unprecedented growth in human

numbers, and wasteful consumption, many of the basic resources upon

which future generations will depend for survival are being depleted,

when environmental pollution is intensifying and when widespread poverty

and social and economic inequality persists".



 Dr. Sadik's wise words are loaded and they represent formidable

challenges for us as facilitators of development and implementation of

appropriate global and national actions.



 Your Excellency, distinguished representatives and delegates, the

economic and demographic situation of Sub-Saharan Africa to which The

Gambia belongs, is not encouraging. According to estimates, it will take

only 35 years for this region to double its population. In the last

decade, population growth has superseded economic growth by I per cent.

This situation is being further aggravated by debt servicing,

unfavourable pricing of our export commodities and the unfavourable

world economic environment. The Government of The Gambia adopted an

Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) in 1985 with the objective of

addressing the macro-economic imbalances in the economy. Despite the

positive results of this programme after five years of implementation,

it had negative impact on the standard of living of Gambians.



 In 1990 the Government launched a Programme for Sustained Development

in collaboration with the development partners in order to consolidate

the gains of the ERP and mitigate the social effects of the adjustment.



 The population of The Gambia as indicated in the 1993 Census Provisional

Report is 1,025,867. With a land area of 11,000 sq kilometres, the

country has a population density of 93 persons per sq kilometre - the

fourth highest in Africa. The population has grown by an average of 4.1

per cent per annum between 1983 and 1993. The rate of natural increase

accounted for 2.9 per cent of the growth and net international migration

1.2 per cent.



 Mr President, if this growth rate persists, my country would double its

population every 17 years. It could be noted that the rate of natural

increase is disproportionately high given the size of the country.

However, the main contributing factor responsible for this unprecedented

increase in the size of the population is high levels of fertility

combined with falling mortality levels. The total fertility rate is

currently estimated at 6.00 live births per woman, whereas Infant

mortality and Maternal mortality rates are 90 and 10.5 per 1000 live

births respectively.



 The high rate of rural - urban drift is another great concern for my

Government. The out flow has contributed towards aggravating congestion,

deteriorating sanitary conditions, increasing unemployment and its

effects on youth, and excessive pressure on social infrastructure in the

urban areas. It has also resulted in labour shortages in the rural

areas.



 Mr President, the inter-relationship between population and development

has received and continue to receive increasing attention in the context

of not only Gambia's development, but Africa as a whole. Both Africa's

Priority Programme of Economic Recovery (APPER) and the United Nations

Programme of Action for Economic Recovery and Development (UN-PAERD)

call for the adoption of an integrated population and development

planning approach. In 1989, the Council of Ministers of Permanent

Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILLS) also

adopted the Njamena Plan of Action on Population and Development in the

Sahel which recommended the initiation and adoption of population

policies by member countries.



It is the recognition and appreciation of population factors in socio-

economic development that led the Government to initiate the formulation

of a comprehensive Population Policy in 1988, with the main objective of

slowing down population growth and ensuring a balanced spatial

distribution of the population. The first step in the policy formulation

process was cooperation and collaboration among various agencies

concerned with population issues. Consultations were also made through

workshops at national and divisional levels with a view to ensuring that

the policy document is culturally and socially acceptable to the Gambian

people.



 After reaching a consensus on the elements of the policy, Government in

1992, promulgated the National Population Policy for Socio-Economic

Development which emphasizes linkages between population and other major

social and economic issues.



 As a clear demonstration of political will, a Population Commission,

chaired by the President of The Gambia was established for the

coordination of the Policy. A three-year rolling programme framework was

prepared to guide population activities for the period 1994/5-1996/7.

The programme is built around six major components: Enhancing maternal,

child and reproductive health; mainstreaming of women and youth;

strengthening the population information system; information Education

including Religious education and Communication; The Local Initiative

Fund as a participatory development initiative under the Strategy for

Poverty Alleviation; Migration; and Population Policy Implementation.



 Mr President, Health is a fundamental right of all citizens and my

Government recognizes the promotion and protection of the population's

health standards as essential ingredients to sustainable economic and

social development. As a signatory to the Alma-Ata Declaration of 1978,

Primary Health Care now forms the backbone of our health care programme.

My Government has also embarked on the Bamako Initiative, a strategy

that fosters the active participation of the communities in the

decentralization, management and financing of the health services.



 My Government is also committed to the National Plan of Action for the

Survival, Protection and Development of Gambian Children which is in

response to the targets/goals set at the World Summit for Children in

1990. However, contraceptives are not given to unmarried girls below the

age of 18 years without the consent of their parents. Abortion is

illegal in the Gambia except in cases where there is sufficient evidence

that either the mother or the child's health is endangered. Although, my

Government recognizes the principle that all couples have the right to

decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children

and to have the means to do so, abortion is not recognized as a method

of family planning.



 Mr President, the need for a holistic approach to population and

development planning necessitated my Government to formulate other

population related policies/action plans such as: The Health Policy,

Strategy for Poverty Alleviation, The Environmental Action Plan,

Education Policy and Family Planning Policy.



 The Government recognizes the critical role women can play in the

development process and it is against this background that a National

Women's Council and Bureau were established in 1980 with the objective

of ensuring policy and programmes responsiveness to  gender roles and

needs with a view to ensuring equity and gender balance.



 In the recent political development of The Gambia, I am pleased to

inform you that the Government of The Gambia has made a breakthrough in

increasing women's leadership in the development process by appointing

four female ministers, including my humble self, for key sectors of the

economy, namely; Education, Youth Sports and Culture, Information and

Tourism as well as Health, Social Welfare and Women's Affairs.



 A significant progress has been made in the efforts to enhance the

status of women and their families regarding access to basic education

and vocational training, information and communication, maternal and

child health care, agriculture and commercial credits. You will agree,

Mr. President that the education is a critical component in the

empowerment of women as it enables them to participate effectively in

the decisions that affect their lives. In this connection, girls

education is recieving an increasing priority of my Government under its

new Education Policy. My Government launched a multi-disciplinary and

participatory Women in Development Programme ((WID)) to respond to the

complex needs of women through safe motherhood, productive capacity

building, programme design and management.



 The Government will continue its efforts to meet the formidable

challenges of women and their families in the years to come. Mr.

President, as we move towards the closure of the 20th Century and

formidable challenges that lie ahead of us in the 21 st century, my

Ministry has been facilitating the preparation for the World Social

Summit and Fourth World Conference on Women to be held in 1995. I can

assure you that The Gambia will prepare substantive and accurate report

on our women's achievements and constraints and will continue to develop

and implement appropriate strategies for further enhancement of their

status.



 Mr President, allow me, once more, before I conclude, to extend my

delegation's tribute and my personal recognition to Dr Nafis Sadik, ICPD

Secretariat and the Preparatory Committee for their excellent work in

the organization of the Conference and production of the Draft Programme

of Action. My Government has carefully reviewed this Draft Programme of

Action, but lack of clarity on a few issues made it impossible for an

equivocal stance on all aspects of the document. As soon as

clarification is received, our position on them will be taken.



 Mr President, my Government is fully committed to the Kilimanjaro Plan

of Action and the Principles and Objectives of the Dakar/NGor

Declaration. We accord an unconditional supports to over 90 per cent of

the draft Programme of Action. I am delighted to note that my delegation

has contributed positively to the discussions on the finalization of

this document and I hope the final document will be acceptable to all

delegates.



 Mr President, the implementation of this 20 year Plan of Action

requires political will and commitment to mobilize the required domestic

and external resources for the effective implementation of the Plan. In

this regard, we are happy to learn that a number of countries have

pledged further support for population programmes. We can assure them of

our effective cooperation based on the fundamental principles of sound

governance and mutual accountability for desired results.



 Mr President, distinguished representatives and delegates, I would like

to express my Government's appreciation to the United Nations and its

Secretary General, Mr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, UNFPA, World Bank, IPPF

and other development partners for their invaluable assistance to

population activities in The Gambia.



 In conclusion, Mr President, I would like every one to join me to

diffuse the world's super population bomb which is on the verge of

ignition. If we allow this bomb to explode, it will be devastating for

all mankind. May Allah Almighty guide us in steering the ship in the

right direction in the interest of humanity.



 I thank you for your indulgence !


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