ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT SALUTES ACHIEVEMENTS OF POPULATION FUND AS STATES MARK THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF UNFPA

27 October 1999
GA/9643

ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT SALUTES ACHIEVEMENTS OF POPULATION FUND AS STATES MARK THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF UNFPA

27 October 1999

Press ReleaseGA/9643

ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT SALUTES ACHIEVEMENTS OF POPULATION FUND AS STATES MARK THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF UNFPA

19991027

Advances in Women's Empowerment Noted, Need For Increased Financial Resources Stressed by Speakers

As the General Assembly met this morning to commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), its President, Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), said that the Fund's practical contribution was visible in many parts of the world, and was helping to build integrative reproductive health programmes, enlarge partnerships and promote full recognition of women's rights and their contribution to development.

He said women had inserted themselves into the mainstream of development, and their voices were being heard as never before in the corridors of government, business, the professions and other key areas of human activity. Those were all important developments thanks to UNFPA's leadership and initiatives. The Fund had worked hard to ensure that its programmes and projects were locally owned and managed by the beneficiaries themselves. Working closely with governments and non- governmental organizations (NGOs), it had developed relationships based on trust and mutual cooperation. Over time, population management had become widely accepted as an element of development planning.

Since the establishment of UNFPA, he said, countries had made considerable progress in understanding population issues and in seeking solutions. That was due to the unstinting labour of thousands of men and women all over the world. They had worked tirelessly to improve health care, raise educational standards, particularly those of rural women and girls, and introduce population and development policies. Their efforts had reduced the toll of poor health and improved the quality of life for people. Better health and education meant more and wider choices. Everyone had the right to reproductive health. Health education, education and population policies were now effectively included in public policy discussions.

Dr. Nafis Sadik, Executive Director of UNFPA, delivering an address on behalf of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said the Fund's record of achievement had been built on three pillars -- good information, good programmes and good understanding. Due to the Fund's work over 30 years, there were now significant increases in national capacities to plan ahead, to incorporate population policies into development planning and to take sound socio-economic decisions. The Fund had also been a close partner in helping developing countries to put effective programmes in place

General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9643 40th Meeting (AM) 27 October 1999

She said that while it would be desirable to say that all problems had been solved, there was one area – resources -- where performance had flagged. If the resources envisaged at Cairo could be mobilized, then the international community would be in a much better position to attain the progress sought. On behalf of the Secretary-General, she saluted UNFPA for the great service it had rendered to humankind.

The representative of Burkina Faso (speaking on behalf of the Group of African States), said UNFPA had played a vital role in providing technical and financial assistance to many areas in Africa, implementing the goals of the Programme of Action of the International Conference of Population and Development (Cairo, 1994). Moreover, it had promoted the role of women and helped African States to define their population strategies. Among the Fund's achievements were the adoption of a law to fight female genital mutilation, the implementation of health policies and the promotion of women rights. It had also helped to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. However, many African countries still needed UNFPA’s help to attain the goals of Cairo. He therefore called upon contributors and donors to increase financial resources to the Fund.

The representative of Peru (on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group of States) said there had been important progress in the living conditions of the majority of the countries of the Latin American and Caribbean region. However, indicators reflecting the reality of life for women revealed that 50 per cent of Latin American and Caribbean women had suffered some kind of domestic violence. Moreover, maternal mortality rates continued to be high within the region. The situation of youths was also worrying. One third of girls under 20 had already had their first child. That did not allow them to finish their schooling, perpetuated their social condition and seriously restricted their opportunities for personal development.

Also this morning, the Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Fund, introduced by the representative of Guyana. It noted with appreciation the positive contributions that the Fund and its dedicated staff had made during its 30 years to the promotion of better understanding and awareness of population and development issues.

Statements were also made this morning by the representatives of Uzbekistan (on behalf of the Asian Group), Bulgaria (on behalf of the Eastern European Group), Italy (on behalf of the Western European and Other States Group), and United States (as host country).

The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. to begin its consideration of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly meets this morning to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the operations of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). It had before a related draft resolution (document A/54/L.18)

By the terms of the 29-Power text, the Assembly would congratulate the UNFPA on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of its operations. It would note with appreciation the contributions made by the Fund and its staff in promoting better understanding and awareness of population and development issues. The Assembly would also note with appreciation UNFPA’s contributions in improving the quality of human life and in extending systematic and sustained assistance to developing countries, and countries with economies in transition, in undertaking appropriate national programmes to address population and development needs.

The co-sponsors of the text are Australia, Belgium, Benin, Cameroon, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Guyana, Haiti, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States.

Statements

THEO-BEN GURIRAB (Namibia), President of the General Assembly, said since the establishment of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 1969, countries had made considerable progress in understanding population issues and in seeking solutions. That was due to the unstinting labour of thousands of men and women all over the world. They had worked tirelessly to improve health care, raise educational standards, particularly those of rural women and girls, and introduce population and development policies. Their efforts had reduced the toll of poor health, and improved the quality of life for people. Better health and education meant more and wider choices. Everyone had the right to reproductive health, and more and more people could exercise that right. That, in turn, would result in smaller families and slower population growth. Health education, education and population policies were now effectively included in public-policy discussions. The 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development was a watershed occasion, and a pathfinder for a new approach, opening up new opportunities for integrated development strategies for governments and citizens of the world. At the General Assembly special session on population and development, 185 countries had reaffirmed support for the Cairo Programme of Action and added new benchmarks to its continued implementation.

He said the focus of population challenges had shifted from controversy to consensus over UNFPA's 30 years. The Fund's practical contribution was visible in many parts of the world. It was helping to build integrative reproductive health programmes, enlarge partnerships and promote full recognition of women's rights and their contribution to development . Women had inserted themselves into the mainstream of development, and their voices were being heard as never before in the corridors of government, business, the professions and other key areas of human activity. Those were all important developments, thanks to UNFPA's leadership and initiatives. The Fund had worked hard to ensure that its programmes and projects were locally owned and managed by the beneficiaries themselves. Working closely with governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), UNFPA had developed relationships based on trust and mutual cooperation. Over time, population management had become widely accepted as an element of development planning

He said that the recent national and international event, marking the day of the six billionth human being on the planet, proved that the international community was not merely concerned with numbers but with individual human lives in its efforts to balance population growth with economic growth. That was in line with the message from Cairo -- that both population and development issues affected individual, national and global interests. Today it was possible to acknowledge population growth as a factor that influenced development. Moreover, countries could deal with population increase, together with emerging demographic issues such as migration and ageing, as components of integrated population policies. States could now give due priority to reproductive health care, including family planning, as part of an integrated health-care system; to education for women and girls, as part of an integrated education service; and to gender issues in all aspects of development policy.

International institutions were now beginning to better understand the role of health, education and gender in national development, and they were prepared to support those causes. On the question of resources, he said it was important to recognize that private foundations had given generously to promote international population and development goals. He urged other such institutions to emulate that example. Dr. Nafis Sadik, Executive Director of the UNFPA, had earned a global reputation as an untiring crusader for international understanding and support for population, particularly in the area of gender equality. That was the kind of leadership the international community must demonstrate in tackling the social issues on UNFPA's agenda. In doing so, it must ensure that such efforts did not ignore respect for the human rights of all the world's six billion people, as well as the national interests of States.

NAFIS SADIK, Executive Director of UNFPA, delivering an address on behalf of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said the Fund was one of the leading success stories of the United Nations in the last half century. Although the initial controversy over the Organization's involvement in population issues had not altogether abated, there was also a long record of achievement. That achievement had been built on three pillars -- good information, good programmes and good understanding. At UNFPA's inception, most developing countries had only rudimentary systems for collecting and analyzing population data as a basis for policy. Due to the Fund's work since then, there were now significant increases in national capacities to plan ahead, to incorporate population policies into development planning, and to take sound socio-economic decisions.

The Fund had also been a close partner in helping developing countries to put effective programmes in place for voluntary family planning and integrated reproductive health programmes. When coupled with economic growth, improved education for women and girls and other factors, the result had been a decline in the average number of children per family from 6 to 3 during the 30 years of UNFPA's efforts. That, in turn, meant more choices for women; decreased pressure on the environment; slower and more balanced population growth; and better living standards in general. The special session of the Assembly, just four months ago, to review the implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action showed that Member States were still committed to the goals of the conference. That political will must be built on.

She said UNFPA had been very effective in forming alliances within and outside the United Nations. That had led to greater cohesion and better use of resources. The Fund was also quick to realize the indispensable role of civil society, and had worked closely with NGOs, as well as the private sector. While it would be desirable to say that all problems had been solved, there was one area where performance had been lacking. If the resources envisaged at Cairo could be mobilized, then the international community would be in a much better position to attain the progress sought. On behalf of the Secretary-General, she saluted UNFPA for the great services it had rendered to humankind.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso), speaking on behalf of the Group of African States, said that UNFPA’s overall record was positive even though problems and obstacles had sometimes hampered progress and caused doubts. Population control in Africa represented a challenge of titanic dimensions, exacerbated by instinctive rejection of family-planning methods. Hence the uncontrollable increase in Africa’s population. That had had a great impact on the promotion of sustainable development. Moreover, inter-ethnic conflicts, low levels of education, the marginalization of women, unemployment and refugee flows had all compounded the continent’s problems.

However, despite those difficulties, UNFPA had played a vital role in providing technical and financial assistance in many areas, implementing the goals of the ICPD Programme of Action in cooperation with regional institutions, civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Moreover, it supported African States by promoting the role of women and helping governments to define their population strategies. Such endeavours had made it possible for most African governments to build national capacities for implementing their population and development policies.

Among UNFPA’s achievements were adoption of the law to fight female genital mutilation, widespread implementation of health policies (in particular for young people), promotion of women rights and the raising of awareness about HIV/AIDS.

However, many African countries still needed UNFPA’s help to attain the goals of the Cairo Conference. He therefore called on donors and on the international community to increase financial resources to UNFPA.

ALISHER VOHIDOV (Uzbekistan), speaking on behalf of the Asian States, said that during the past three decades most governments had managed to lower child and maternal death rates, improve indicators of life expectancy and increase the number of children attending elementary and high schools with the help of the UNFPA. That was due to the fact that the Programme of Action adopted by consensus at the Cairo Population Conference of 1994 had had a significant impact on the international community.

Discussion of population problems had become an inalienable part of the global dialogue on issues of economic and social development, and was part of the process of policy formulation in many countries. Since the adoption of the Programme of Action in Cairo, many Asian States had carried out and continued to carry out efforts to improve their policies and programmes in the field of population and development. He noted, however, that financial and economic factors, natural disasters and local conflict had created obstacles to the implementation of the Programme. Rates of maternal and child death in some Asian countries remained high, due to the adverse economic situation of women, lack of access to maternity services, and insufficient access to reproductive health and family planning services. Those countries were also concerned with the expansion of the practice of the smuggling of migrants, especially women and children, who were then exposed to violence, compulsory work and sexual exploitation.

He noted that the organization's 30th anniversary had coincided with the approach of a new millennium and the birth of the six billionth citizen of the world. Those symbolic events should encourage everyone to make more active and effective efforts to assure that present and future generations would live in a better world, free of the problems now challenging the international community.

VLADIMIR SOTIROV (Bulgaria), speaking on behalf of the Eastern European States, said that despite lack of adequate funds, UNFPA had raised awareness about population issues and helped countries in the Eastern European region find solutions to their population problems.

Under the leadership of Dr. Sadik, UNFPA had become the undisputed international leader on population issues and had been the driving force behind the Population Conference in Cairo in 1994. Its success was due to its careful attention to detail, its quick response to the needs of countries and the close working relations it built with government agencies as well as civil society. That approach had had a profound effect on people in the Eastern European region; he hoped UNFPA would continue to give support to the peoples and governments there.

As a result of the work of UNFPA, 60 per cent of women all over the world now had access to reproductive and family planning services. The fertility rate had fallen and population growth had slowed down. But despite such successes, much remained to be done. In the new millennium, the UNFPA was getting ready to update its programme to meet new challenges, including empowering women and educating children. He hoped the UNFPA would continue to be revitalized and to set examples as a model institution.

MANUEL PICASSO (Peru), speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States, said the countries of his region were undoubtedly in good shape to execute the agreements made in Cairo. There had been important advances in the living conditions of the majority of countries of the Latin American and Caribbean region. Significant socio-economic transformations had led to relatively sustained rates of economic growth and to some improvement in the welfare situation of individuals and in basic social services. Furthermore, the sustained access of the population to education and the incorporation of women into the labour market had led to marked changes in family formation patterns. The majority of country programmes acknowledged institutional reinforcement and decentralization of services as priority measures in the implementation of reproductive health services. Many countries had incorporated new actors, acknowledging the tasks performed by NGOs, particularly women and youth organizations, and the rest of civil society.

However, various poverty indicators pointed to ethnic and gender disparities, which were also reflected in limited access to basic health and education services. The indicators reflecting the reality of life for women underlined, among other things, that 50 per cent of Latin American and Caribbean women had suffered some kind of domestic violence. Moreover, maternal mortality rates continued to be high within the region. Equally worrying was the situation of young people. One third of girls under 20 had already had their first child, which did not allow them to finish their schooling, exposed them to a perpetuation of their social condition, and seriously restricted their opportunities for personal development.

He said, in conclusion, that despite the many achievements, the Latin American and the Caribbean situation required sustained technical and economic support from the international community. He reiterated the appeal for increased support from donors for the region, in general, and for population issues, in particular.

FRANCESCO PAOLO FULCI (Italy) speaking on behalf of the Western European and Other States Group, said that the linkage between population and development had first been acknowledged at the Cairo Conference of 1994. Today, the mission statement of UNFPA enshrined the laudable goals of improving the quality of life and stabilizing world population. The UNFPA provided leadership and advocacy in the field of population and development and helped governments formulate and implement population policies and programmes. Moreover, it supported developing countries by providing practical development assistance, forging partnerships and mobilizing resources.

He said that UNFPA had played a remarkable role in helping developing countries and countries with economies in transition implement population and development strategies. It had also done commendable work in the population census area and in building capacities to collect, process and maintain basic population data in programme countries.

The Western European and Other States Groups commended UNFPA for promoting the empowerment of women, gender equality, women’s reproductive health and rights, and male responsibility. The 5-year review of the Cairo Programme of Action showed that almost two thirds of Member States had introduced policy or legislative measures to promote equity and equality of women, in areas including inheritance, property rights, employment and protection from gender-based violence, such as female genital mutilation. Among its many significant achievements, he stressed that UNFPA had helped to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and other similar diseases, both through its own programmes and as a co-sponsor of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

BETTY KING (United States) said over the past 30 years, “an unshakeable worldwide consensus” had emerged that underscored the linkages between population and development. For the first time, governments had agreed that family planning, safe motherhood, support and guidance for youth, empowerment of women and other related areas were closely linked to the provision of adequate food, water, education, sanitation, shelter and other primary health services. The new consensus had moved from a demography-centred to a democracy- based approach to stabilizing global population growth. She added that the UNFPA was acting as the vanguard of the global partnership.

The United States was proud of the role it played in the founding of the UNFPA, she noted. Since then, the organization’s work had been critical in ensuring that women and their families were at the heart of collective economic, social and political development efforts. With the support of the UNFPA, governments had been doing a better job of meeting youth’s needs. And because of UNFPA, governments had been better able to build lasting partnerships with non- governmental organizations (NGOs). It was also largely responsible for the development of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action, which focused on meeting the needs of individual men and women.

SAMUEL R. INSANALLY (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, introduced the draft resolution. He said it could be seen that the document enjoyed wide support among member countries of the G77 and its constituencies, as well as from other Member States, which were even now adding their signatures to the text. He said that before the end of the day, he was certain even more States would come forward as co-sponsors. The underlying purpose of the resolution was clear and uncontroversial. He commended the significant achievements of the UNFPA in addressing the important areas of its mandate, and called for increased international support for the Fund.

Five years ago in Cairo, he recalled, all States had committed themselves to firm objectives in addressing the challenges of population and in the interest of a peaceful and stable world. A pledge had been made, at that time, to reach a target of $5.7 million in 2000. That would have been a landmark in international cooperation, on issues that were sensitive and susceptible to different perspectives and priorities. However, it did not look as if that target would be easily met, since there had been an anticipated shortfall of $3.5 million in contributions -- resulting in a one-thirds reduction of scheduled activities. Consequently, the target of halving global poverty by 2015 would be elusive. The international community must ask itself whether it was doing enough to tackle the plague of social ills. Failure to live up to commitments would create doubts about the value of negotiations undertaken to find common solutions to common problems.

He said that population issues were at the heart of sustainable development. The sponsors of the resolution were satisfied that the UNFPA was dedicated to full implementation of the Cairo Programme. However, the Fund must be provided with adequate resources. With a gap of almost $5 billion between current commitments and the target of $7 billion set for 2015, its future could hardly be seen as assured. Therefore, as they gathered to celebrate UNFPA’s thirtieth anniversary, States should resolve to honour the obligations undertaken at Cairo.

Action on Draft

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution on the thirtieth anniversary of UNFPA (document A/54/L.18) without a vote.

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For information media. Not an official record.