NOBEL LAUREATE AMARTYA SEN STRESSES EMPOWERING ROLE OF EDUCATION AND NEED TO REFORM SCHOOL CURRICULA, IN ADDRESS TO POPULATION COMMISSION
NOBEL LAUREATE AMARTYA SEN STRESSES EMPOWERING ROLE OF EDUCATION AND NEED TO REFORM SCHOOL CURRICULA, IN ADDRESS TO POPULATION COMMISSION
Commission on Population and Development
5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)
NOBEL LAUREATE AMARTYA SEN STRESSES EMPOWERING ROLE OF EDUCATION AND NEED
TO REFORM SCHOOL CURRICULA, IN ADDRESS TO POPULATION COMMISSION
Commission Also Concludes Discussion of National
Experiences and Population Activities of the UN System
The single-mindedness of Western civilization strengthened separatism in the non-Western world, which could be seen in the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen told the Commission on Population and Development today, as it continued its thirty-sixth session.
Delivering a keynote address, he said no historical justification existed for categorizing science and mathematics as Western science, and religious beliefs as the foundation of the non-Western world. Arab and Muslim societies, in fact, had historically contributed greatly to both science and math.
Categorizing civilizations, he continued, encouraged societies to adopt singular identities, resulting in ill-education and social hatred. Sectarian schools and teaching crude categorizations, making one group dominant over another, led to aggressive and intolerant identification. Greater focus, he stressed, must be given to school curricula worldwide. That did not mean issuing global guidelines, but bringing concerns over content more strongly into public debate.
Mr. Sen also discussed the empowering effect education had on people’s lives. He noted that literacy was vital in finding employment, understanding legal rights, overcoming deprivation and raising the political voice of underdogs. Also, educating women could sharply reduce fertility and child mortality rates, limit family size, and increase their input into family decision-making.
In the exchange that followed, moderated by the Director of the Population Division, Joseph Chamie, Mr. Sen was asked about a myriad of issues, among them, the merits of informal education. There was no substitute for formal training in reading, writing and arithmetic, he replied. Moreover, schools gave children the opportunity to socialize and interact with people of different backgrounds and were important in developing healthy social skills.
Another question pertained to the importance of developing standards for testing and measuring students’ progress in reasoning. Mr. Sen agreed that students’ ability to reason was as important as their ability to read, write and
do arithmetic, but said that measuring that ability was difficult and had to be approached in more complex ways.
Also today, the Commission discussed programme implementation and future programme of work of the Secretariat in the field of population. Speakers highlighted ongoing activities to achieve population goals, as well as the need for new measures to combat persistent challenges.
Vast differences in health and welfare between rich and poor countries and between the rich and poor within countries was unacceptable, said the representative of the World Bank. The Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994) and the Millennium Declaration mapped an effective strategy to link population and reproductive health issues to poverty reduction, education for all, improvements in gender equality, and protection of human rights. The challenge was one of effectively implementing that strategy.
China’s representative stressed that population had remained a serious issue that should not be ignored, despite the dropping fertility rate. His country was facing new population issues, such as ageing, internal mobility and HIV/AIDS. He hoped the Population Division would devise new measures for approaching HIV/AIDS, including analytical reports and up-to-date information for Member States.
Also today, the Commission concluded its consideration of national experience in population matters: population, education and development.
Addressing the Commission today were the representatives of Egypt, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Bangladesh, Uganda, Cuba, Philippines, Portugal, Austria, Spain, Cameroon, Peru, Russian Federation and the United States.
Representatives of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also addressed the meeting.
In addition, statements were made by representatives of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union.
Representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also spoke: International Union for the Scientific Study on Population; International Planned Parenthood Federation; the Committee for International Cooperation in National Research in Demography; the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies; and the International Social and Reproductive Rights Coalition.
The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 4 April, to consider draft proposals, approve the provisional agenda for its next session, and adopt the draft report for the current session.
The Commission on Population and Development met this morning to hear a keynote address by Amartya Sen, 1998 Nobel Laureate in Economics and Master, Trinity College, Cambridge, United Kingdom. It was also expected to conclude its debate on national experience in population matters: population, education and development. (For background information, see Press Release POP/854 of 27 March 2003.)
AMARTYA SEN, 1998 Nobel Laureate in Economics and Master, Trinity College, Cambridge, United Kingdom, said he would examine different ways education expanded human freedom and capabilities, and how enhanced capabilities altered people’s opportunities and gave them more options and greater power in leading their lives.
Schooling, he said, could be central to human development, in general, and human security, in particular, for several distinct reasons. First, illiteracy and innumeracy were forms of insecurity in themselves. The first and most immediate contribution of successful primary education was to directly reduce one form of deep-rooted insecurity. Second, basic education could be vital in helping people obtain jobs. That was critical in a rapidly globalizing world, in which quality control and production according to strict specification could be crucial. The ability of poorer and more vulnerable people to benefit from the opportunities of global commerce was often severely restricted by educational backwardness.
Third, he went on, people’s ability to understand and invoke their legal rights could be limited when they were illiterate. Lack of schooling could lead directly to insecurities by distancing the deprived from ways and means of resisting and overcoming deprivation. Fourth, illiteracy could also muffle the political voice of underdogs, thus contributing directly to their insecurity. Even though democracies could be effective when people were still illiterate, the reach of people’s democratic voice could be much greater when political opportunities were married to social empowerment. Fifth, there was extensive evidence that the schooling of girls could have a strong downward impact on the fertility rate. The use of contraceptives, as well as decisions to have more children, seemed to respond well to the educational level of young women. There was also much evidence that women’s education and literacy tended to reduced the mortality rates of children.
Turning to the issue of social choice, he said many decisions that affected people’s lives were not taken by them individually, but emerged from social processes in which there were several participants. The impact people had on those group decisions could be crucial, and that could be influenced by people’s educational level. With respect to decisions in the family, respect for women’s interest and well-being was strongly influenced by such factors as women’s literacy and schooling. Indeed, even the survival disadvantage of women compared with men in developing countries seemed to drop sharply with women’s education. Being educated and articulate, being familiar with the world outside the home, having friends and allies in the outside world, and having the opportunity of getting economic employment outside the home could be vital in giving young women more voice in joint family decisions.
The influence of young women on family decisions was vast, he continued. Considerable evidence showed that women’s education and literacy reduced child mortality rates and fertility rates. Schooling’s impact on both individual empowerment and social decision-making should not be underestimated. Education not only expanded our capabilities and enhanced our values, it also fostered our ability to reason. Education’s nature and content had a profound impact on a person’s identity and perception of others. In the classroom, students could learn to become more narrow-minded, bellicose and intolerant, as well as more adept at reasoning with judgement and humanity.
Civilization categorization, which tended to ignore the fact that people see themselves in myriad ways, made societies prey to adopting singular identities and were a potent source of ill-education and social hatred. The terrible effects of aggressive and intolerant identification in the world today were cultivated as much by sectarian schools as teaching over-simplified views of history and crude categorizations which make one group dominant.
Western civilization’s single-mindedness, in effect, strengthened separatism in the non-Western world, as evidenced by the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. For example, there was no historical justification for categorizing science and mathematics as Western science and religious beliefs as the only foundation of the non-Western world. Arab and Muslim societies, for example, had historically contributed greatly to both science and math.
Greater attention, he stated, must be given to the curricula content of school education worldwide. That did not involve issuing global orders or guidelines, but bringing concerns over content more strongly into public discussion and debate. Solitary, and allegedly dominant, systems of classification were far more divisive than plural and diverse categorizations that shaped the world as it was today. Respecting the plurality of our identities was key to a harmonious contemporary world.
Questions and Answers
Responding to a question on the merits of informal education, Mr. SEN, while acknowledging its benefits, warned that informal education was often used to discredit formal education. There was no substitute for formal training in reading, writing and arithmetic. History had shown that civilizations could not advance without such formal training. Moreover, schools gave children the opportunity to socialize and interact with people of differing backgrounds and were important to the development of healthy social skills, a function not found in home schooling. He also warned that the advent of information and communication technologies, such as online, could not replace formal education.
As to the effects of social choice and education on fertility rates and security of the human race, he said girls’ education probably had the most profound influence on development. That was due, in part, to the fact that girls’ education had been greatly neglected in the past, thus making its revival so significant.
Regarding the importance of developing standards for testing and measuring students’ progress in reasoning, he agreed that students’ ability to reason was just as important as their ability to read, write and do arithmetic. However, unlike reading, writing and arithmetic skills, reasoning skills were difficult to test and measure numerically. Reasoning had to be measured in more complex ways.
MOHAMED ELFARNAWANY (Egypt) said his country had implemented a new strategy to reform education during the 1990s, which was aimed at modernizing and improving the educational system. The Government had devoted its efforts to improving the logistical and administrative systems, the infrastructure, school management and teacher training. Literacy was vital, he stressed, and basic education the engine for socio-economic improvement. Egypt had made substantial progress in reducing its illiteracy rate. To date, some 663,000 boys and girls had benefited from literacy classes. Reading vans had been sent to rural areas, where literacy had risen to 73 per cent.
Egypt had focused particularly on girls’ education to give them opportunities to participate effectively in society, he said. Those efforts had reduced the gap that existed between boys and girls. The proportion of girls in literacy classes, for example, had reached 73 per cent. Some 6.2 million girls had been educated last year, compared to 7.9 million boys. The country had also adopted a national plan for educating girls in areas that had previously been deprived.
RAMÓN OSIRIS BLANCO DOMÍNGUEZ (Dominican Republic) said ambitious efforts in the Dominican Republic’s education sector had, in the last two years, increased school enrolment from 88 per cent to 93 per cent of children aged six to 13, and from 27 per cent to 35 per cent of children aged 14 to 17. Dominican officials had invested in teacher training, pre-school programmes, information and communication technologies such as virtual classrooms and centralized computer networks, new schools and high-tech polytechnic facilities. As a result, enrolment in higher education rose 32 per cent last year.
A school breakfast programme had reduced malnutrition among school children from 19 per cent in 1995 to 8 per cent in 2002, and encouraged more regular attendance among children of single mothers. National educational monitoring and evaluation programmes had enabled the Government to improve the quality of both private and public education. Population growth had fallen from 2.9 per cent in 1990 to 1.7 per cent in 2000, a result of a declining fertility rate, which fell from 3.4 children per woman to 2.8 children per woman over the same period.
VIRGINIA OFOSU-AMAAH (Ghana) said thanks to commendable progress in the education field during the 1960s and 1970s, elementary school enrolment rose substantially, from 586,000 in 1960-1961 to 2.3 million in 1995-1996, while the percentage of children aged six and up who had never attended school had fallen from 78 per cent in 1960 to 34 per cent in 1992. However, Ghana’s economic woes since the mid-1970s had hindered access to education, particularly in rural areas; national education planning and management; science, technology and vocational training programmes; and HIV/AIDS management and prevention programmes.
The current Education Strategic Plan aimed to rectify those problems. Also, the National Plan of Action on girls’ education was comprised of scholarships for girls, more gender-sensitive school curricula, greater girls’ enrolment in science and technology, and aimed to achieve gender parity in primary and secondary education by 2015.
With the assistance of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Ghana set up a pilot programme in 1994-1996 to integrate population and family life education into school curricula at all levels. The programme, which was institutionalized in the formal and non-formal sectors a year later, had since made students highly knowledgeable about population and family life issues. but had not significantly changed sexual and reproductive health behavior.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said his country had addressed the problem of population control with considerable success. Some of its successes could be measured in terms of reduced population growth and fertility rates, increased life expectancy, and expanded child immunization. The fertility rate had declined from 6.3 in 1973 to 2.9 in 2000. The contraceptive prevalence rate had reached around 54 per cent from about 25 per cent in 1985. The under-five mortality rate had declined from 133 in 1992 to 94 per 1000 in 2000. During the same period, the infant mortality rate had also decreased from 94 to 66 per 1,000 live births.
Education had played a profound role in those successes, he said. Bangladesh had significantly increased the budget for primary, secondary and girls’ education, primary health care and social development. It had substantially enhanced enrolment of children in primary schools, which now stood at 80 per cent. Government efforts were being supplemented by non-governmental organizations through non-formal education, including a programme targeting children between eight and 10 years of age or those who had left or never attended school. Similar programmes were run for adults, with the result that adult literacy had surged from 34 to 64 per cent in a decade.
JOTHAM MUSINGUZI (Uganda) said that socio-economic indices indicated that people in his country still had a poor quality of life. Currently, the country had a population of 24.7 million, a population growth rate of 3.4 per cent per annum, and a total fertility rate of 6.4 children per woman. Both the population growth and fertility rates were high by any standard. In addition, infant mortality was 88 per 1,000 live births, life expectancy was low at 47 years and the literacy rate stood at only 68 per cent.
To address those issues, Uganda had adopted pro-poor policies, such as the 1997 Universal Primary Education policy. As a result, primary school enrolment had doubled by 1999 and tripled by 2002. Today, 7.3 million children or
33 per cent of the population were enrolled in school. Education helped women identify and articulate their rights, and gave them opportunity for employment, as well as a chance to rid themselves of poverty. Women with education were more likely to choose when and how many children to have, as well as to seek health care for themselves and their children. They were also more likely to have smaller families, so they could invest more time in gainful employment and become involved in development activities.
Ms. HERNANDEZ MACHIN (Cuba) said, notwithstanding the country’s dire economic circumstances and trade sanctions, Cuba had developed a strong education sector and a high literacy rate in both urban and rural areas. Cuba was typical of a developing country whose educational advances had positively impacted social variables. For example, it had ended literacy, provided universal schooling at all levels, created pre-school programmes and introduced sexual and reproductive health education, resulting in reduced fertility rates, higher maternal and infant survival rates and better nutrition.
Cuba’s vast education network included computerized learning tools, such as educational videos and software and an educational television channel for children and adult students alike. Health education, particularly related to sexual and reproductive health, in both urban and rural communities, had been instrumental in Cuba’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, and promote family planning and sexually responsible behavior.
TOMAS OSIAS (Philippines) said that little or no education would lead to little or no development. Education was vital for social and demographic progress, sustained economic development and gender equality. No matter how minimal, education empowered an individual to strive for higher development goals for him and his family. His country embraced the more integrated approach to human development that embraced the broadening of human choices.
The literacy rate in the Philippines had improved over the past few years due to an increased number of schools and higher enrolment, he said. Female students were highly represented at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
Women with higher levels of education had lower total fertility rates, and were more likely to use contraception than those with little or no education at all. Educational levels influenced family size, child-rearing practices and marriage age. It also led to higher income levels, opportunities to participate in economic activities, better nutrition and health care, and increased knowledge of family planning methods.
GONÇALO AIRES DE SANTA CLARA GOMES (Portugal) said education and innovative teaching methods were vital tools in coping with the challenges of today’s development and in seizing employment opportunities. His country was paying due attention to those instruments, including in its fight against illiteracy. The final results of the 2001 Portuguese Census confirmed that progress had been made in education. The illiteracy rate had dropped, although it still reflected a significant gender gap due to a higher proportion of older women without basic education. By 2001, the proportion of students completing mandatory schooling had increased by 38 per cent, particularly among women. In 2001, the number of students completing university education had doubled since 1999, with women outnumbering men.
As a country of both immigration and emigration, Portugal maintained a positive approach to migration, bearing in mind the rich contribution of migrants to both their societies of origin and destination. The Government was committed to fully integrating legal migrants into Portuguese society. A new policy had just been approved, which stressed the importance of learning the national language as an instrument for integration and building social inclusion. The country was also committed to development cooperation with countries of origin, as well as to combating the trafficking of illegal migrants.
EVELINE HONIGSPERGER (Austria) said major challenges for education policies today included providing access to education for older generations. Her country had set up an interdisciplinary working group in cooperation with the Austrian National Senior Citizens Advisory Council, aimed at developing a broad concept for educating senior students. That concept must consider changing perspectives with increasing age, personality development and adapting learning techniques to the needs of older people, as well as the learning environment at a higher age. One concrete outcome was an initiative aimed at developing and testing new forms of education for older people on an advanced level in a pilot project supported by the European Union. Those educational programmes would be offered by a new institution –- the Innsbruck Academy for Older Persons -– in cooperation with Innsbruck University.
A research project had also been launched to assess the possibilities and limits of intergenerational learning, she continued. The study aimed to analyse providers and the educational programmes they offered to older people, considering gender, social background and age of scholars, and to investigate the effects of teaching methods. The ultimate goal of the study was to obtain basic data that was needed for further activities in educating older persons. The results would be used in connection with lifelong learning and would draw on existing successful models, trusted concepts and teaching methods to develop future-oriented educational concepts for older learners.
INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain) said the rapid growth of school-age immigrants in Spain necessitated revised education policies and programmes to socially and culturally integrate the newcomers. The 2002 Organic Law of Quality Education guaranteed equal treatment for foreign students and called for specialized programmes for foreign students hindered by language and cultural barriers, aimed at bringing them up to speed with their Spanish counterparts. The Law also offered counselling to foreign students’ parents on Spain’s educational system, educational regulation and education opportunities.
Spain’s 2001-2004 Integral Family Support Plan encouraged family access, particularly in impoverished and marginalized communities, to new technologies and culture, taking into account the fundamental role of the family in a child’s cultural development. Spain was equally supportive of educational advancement in other nations and, in the past several years, had doubled its funding for education initiatives, including post-graduate training, adult literacy and basic education programmes and programmes for indigenous groups.
PASCAL KENGNE (Cameroon) stressed that implementation of sustainable development activities in his country were greatly assisted by education, information and technology. In addition, the country must attempt to make good use of its natural resources and pay particular attention to the environment. Education also made individual advancement possible, particularly for women and girls.
Since the upswing in his country’s economy, there had been a reorganization in funding for education, he said. Emphasis had been placed on reducing rural disparities, as well as those between girls and boys. The private sector had already helped provide educational services and had been encouraged by the authorities. The UNFPA had provided financial and technical support, helping the country to adapt the plans of action of major international conferences, taking into account factors such as HIV/AIDS.
CARMEN-ROSA ARIAS (Peru) said the 2002 National Governance Agreement, which strived for improvements in health, education and public involvement at the community level, guaranteed universal and free access to quality health care, particularly in impoverished communities. It also promoted education as a poverty-fighting tool and guaranteed universal and free access to basic education, as well as promoted civic participation in the political process. Peruvian officials had also designed and implemented programmes for sustainable development, equal opportunity for women in the workplace, and integral sex education.
She stressed the importance of scientific and technological research and development in enhancing a society’s productivity and competitiveness. In 2001, Peru started an applied informatics initiative aimed at improving the education system, especially in rural and border areas. It had created bilingual education programmes for rural and marginalized communities, particularly in the Amazon, where more than 45 dialects were spoken.
The Commission then turned to its agenda item on programme implementation and future programme of work of the Secretariat in the field of population.
Introduction of Reports
THOMAS BUETTNER, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the 2002 Revision of World Population Prospects broke new ground in projections of future human fertility and the impact of HIV/AIDS. For the first time, it projected that future fertility levels in most developing countries would likely fall below 2.2 children per woman sometime this century. By 2050, the Revision projected that three out of every four countries in less developed regions would be experiencing below-replacement fertility.
Regarding HIV/AIDS, the 2002 Revision expected a more serious and prolonged impact of the epidemic than previously, he said. The dynamics of the epidemic were assumed to remain unchanged until 2010, but prevalence levels were then projected to decline in a manner consistent with modifications of behaviour that reduced rates of recruitment into the high-risk group, as well as the chances of infection among those engaging in high-risk behaviour. The resulting HIV prevalence levels would remain relatively high until 2010, and then decline, but were still substantial by mid-century.
As a result of those changes, he said, the 2002 Revision had projected a lower population in 2050 than the 2000 Revision did –- 8.9 billion instead of
9.3 billion. About half of the 400 million difference in those projected populations resulted from an increase in the number of projected deaths, the majority stemming from higher projected levels of HIV prevalence. The other half reflected a reduction in the projected number of births, primarily as a result of lower expected future fertility levels. The three most crucial future trends resulting from those assumptions were that, at the global level, population growth was expected to continue, although it would vary considerably among countries, regions and major areas; population ageing would accelerate due to declining fertility; and that the number of highly affected HIV/AIDS countries would rise in all regions, as well as the population living with the disease, which was close to 35 million.
In introducing the Secretary-General’s report on programme implementation and progress in population, VASANTHA KANDIAH, Chief, Fertility and Family Planning Section, Population Division, highlighted three priority areas: international migration, population ageing and HIV/AIDS. Data from the Population Division’s 2002 International Migration Report showed that, in 2000, there were 175 million people, including 16 million refugees, residing outside their native countries.
The Population Division was conducting a study, to be published later this year, on patterns, trends and social and economic correlates of living arrangements of the elderly worldwide. The Division was also preparing a study on the socio-economic and developmental impact of HIV/AIDS in developing nations, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as publications on numerous issues, including adult mortality, world urbanization prospects, reproductive behaviour in low fertility countries and national population policies. Moreover, the Division had launched several online networks to strengthen population research and teaching institutions in developing nations.
YURIY ISAKOV (Russian Federation) said effective cooperation in the area of population and development corresponded to the practical interests of several countries undergoing similar demographic processes. It was important to pay greater attention to new issues in the area when designing future programmes. He expressed gratitude to the Secretariat for publishing a summary of population documents in all official languages. He wished that not only resumés but also full texts of the most important research could be published in those languages as well. He recalled that Russia was often used in Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries during seminars and conferences, which had a use for active research of the United Nations.
PETER WAY (United States) commended the Population Division’s expert meeting last year on fertility issues, saying the meeting’s discussions and recommendations had had direct relevance on methods used to prepare the Division’s population projections. The Division’s manual, “Methods for Estimating Adult Mortality”, would help fill some of the gaps in adult mortality measures, which in many countries were deficient. The Division was focusing on international migration, long neglected, through targeted reports, coordination meetings and published materials, such as wall charts.
He stressed the importance of understanding the growing impact of HIV/AIDS on population, adding that the Division, in 2002, had explicitly incorporated the effect of the pandemic on mortality in 47 countries. It was also preparing a report on the socio-economic and developmental impact of HIV/AIDS in developing countries and an expert meeting on mortality and HIV/AIDS.
WANG GUOQIANG (China) said the United Nations Population Division had done excellent work in promoting the resolution of issues in the field of population over the past few years. Even though the fertility rate was declining, population remained a serious issue and should not be ignored. The low fertility rate was unstable, and there were discrepancies between regions.
Even though its fertility rate was low, he said, China was witnessing an increase of 10 million new births per year, placing increasing pressure on its economic development. The country was also facing new population issues, such as ageing, internal mobility and HIV/AIDS. China was formulating policies and adopting measures to deal with HIV/AIDS. He hoped the Population Division would come up with new measures in approaching that issue, such as analytical reports and other information for Member States.
MARGARET McCAFFERY, Liaison Officer, Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), said that, following the successful completion of the “Fertility and Family Surveys Project”, a new regional research and data collection programme would be undertaken entitled “Generations and Gender Programme”, with the aim of enhancing the understanding of factors affecting the evolution of the two principal family relationships: child-parent and partner-partner. Over a 10-year period, three interviews would be carried out, canvassing an equal number of males and females within the age range of 18-79 years.
He said the ECE Ministerial Conference on Ageing had been held from 11 to
13 December 2001 in Berlin, five months after the Second World Assembly on Ageing in Madrid. The Conference had adopted two documents: the “Berlin Ministerial Declaration: A Society for All Ages in the ECE Region”, and the “Regional Implementation Strategy for the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing 2002”. Ten years after Cairo, an initiative was under way to hold an ECE regional population event in January 2004. The proposed population forum would consider selected salient population issues in Europe, North America and in countries in transition since Cairo.
MIGUEL VILLA, of the Latin American and Caribbean Center of Demography (CELADE), of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said that with assistance from the UNFPA, CELADE had created a system of tracking national indicators of progress in implementing the ICPD’s Programme of Action. The new system provided national data and could be adapted for specific regions.
The CELADE, he said, had produced an elaborative analysis on international migration in the context of socio-economic development, an issue of particular concern to Latin American and Caribbean countries. It had been very active in the study of ageing for several years, promoting cooperation strategies between national and regional bodies. Data gathered from population censuses throughout 2002 would enable CELADE to create products and activities regarding changing human settlement patterns, urbanization trends, social segregation and urban migration. The CELADE would present its findings on population, poverty and HIV/AIDS at the May 2004 meeting in Puerto Rico of the Special Committee on Population and Development, with the objective of formulating a regional strategy.
Also this year, CELADE had launched a regional study to fill the void for recent and suitable information on immigration trends. A new micro-database of census and development statistics had enabled CELADE to obtain comparable data on an unprecedented scale, making it possible to track trends of indigenous and other marginalized populations.
LAMINE GUEYE, of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said all African countries were expected to complete and return country questionnaires and prepare country evaluation reports on follow-up to the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). Country experts would be recruited to produce selected thematic reports. Also, five subregional evaluation reports would be produced by ECA subregional offices. A three-day subregional review and validation workshop would also be organized at each of the five ECA subregional offices to discuss and validate the subregional evaluation reports on the “ICPD plus 10”. Regionally, the evaluation report summarizing all of the above findings should be prepared by ECA.
Another major component of ECA’s programme during 2002 involved the African region’s contributions towards preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which took place in Johannesburg in August-September 2002. During the Summit, ECA had coordinated the session on regional implementation, when it elaborated the main issues affecting the African continent and requirements for action. The Johannesburg Plan of Action reserved a special chapter for Africa. That chapter affirmed the international community’s commitment to support sustainable development in Africa, within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Also during 2002, the ECA secretariat had continued to provide advisory services and technical assistance on cartography, census taking, demographic data processing and analysis to African countries. The UNFPA had also recently assigned a technical adviser on population to the ECA-NEPAD group to assist in mainstreaming population issues into NEPAD.
MAHAMAT HABIB DOUTOUM, of the African Union, while noting significant progress in education in Africa, said much remained to be done. The school enrolment rate was lower than the population growth rate. The literacy rate was only 59 per cent, and there were flagrant disparities in school facilities in urban and rural areas. Courses in science and technology were inadequate, as were career and personal development programmes. Moreover, Africa had no integrated approach to dealing with population, education and development, a problem exacerbated by the growing number of refugees.
The African Union had adopted a Programme of Action on Education aiming to make education accessible to all Africans, giving them greater mobility in an increasingly complex world. The Programme was in line with education goals set by NEPAD concerning HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other killer diseases and the Cairo Plan of Action. Still, greater international assistance was needed to implement the goal of utilizing education to control population and guide its development.
ELIZABETH LULE, Adviser, World Bank, said the meeting’s theme, population, education and development, was central to the World Bank’s work in improving human development and economic productivity and its efforts to reduce poverty. The interdependent relationship between education, age at marriage, fertility, mortality, morbidity and mobility was important to social and economic development. Education was particularly important for the poor, who relied on their human capital as the main means of escaping poverty. The balance between demographic change and poverty reduction, as well as protection of the environment, was more likely to be achieved by addressing the needs of the poor and vulnerable groups.
She said to improve effectiveness, the World Bank was working with its partners to identify and address the underlying implementation constraints that made health and education systems unresponsive to the needs of the poor. The Bank aimed to improve effectiveness through, among other things: strengthening the linkages between population, reproductive health and education with poverty within country poverty reduction strategies; strengthening the linkages between reproductive health and HIV/AIDS programmes to address missed opportunities; greater community participation, including non-governmental organizations and faith-based groups in the design and monitoring of programmes; better division of public and private sector roles in financing and delivery of services; and better measurement and learning.
The vast differences in health and welfare between rich and poor countries and between the rich and poor within countries was unacceptable, she said. The ICPD Programme of Action and the Millennium Declaration mapped an effective strategy to link population and reproductive health issues to poverty reduction, education for all, improvements in gender equality, and protection of human rights. The challenge was one of effective implementation of that strategy.
ADOLFO KORN, of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said education and training were two of the most powerful weapons in the fight against rural poverty and hunger. For rural women, education had proved to be an effective tool for empowerment. Businesses were more likely to invest in rural areas if skilled and trainable human resources were available. The education of rural people must be placed at the core of the development agenda.
However, he continued, educational opportunities were not equally distributed. Access to education was generally limited among the rural poor, especially women. The quality of education was lower in rural areas, and textbooks were often urban-biased with little relation to rural life. Education for rural people was a topic that needed priority attention from the international community.
JONES KYAZZE, representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), stressed the importance, as called for by Under-Secretary-General Nitin Desai, of providing crucial guidance to the General Assembly working group on the coordinated and integrated follow-up of United Nations conferences on literacy, education and poverty eradication. In 2000-2001 alone, assistance provided by governments and implemented by UNESCO to review national educational policies from the perspective of sustainable development included 50 UNFPA-funded country projects.
The UNESCO, in collaboration with the UNFPA, would intensify its efforts to improve population education policies, programmes and activities at the country level, he said. The UNESCO would also enhance and expand professional training programmes in formal and non-formal education, youth population information, family life education and reproductive health in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.
VIRGINIA OFUSU-AMAAH (Ghana) said her country was experiencing a demographic transition. The fertility rate had declined from 5.5 in 1988 to 4.5 in 2000. That decline was occurring despite low contraceptive prevalence, which was a phenomenon that needed further study. She stressed the need to address the issue of the unprecedented population displacement that was occurring as a result of the many conflicts occurring worldwide, and encouraged the Commission to take that topic under consideration.
JOHN CASTERLINI, of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, said the Union was ideally suited to foster international exchange of information and ideas among population specialists. For example, last year, it had organized a successful regional population conference in South-East Asia that, in collaboration with the UNFPA, addressed population ageing issues, providing a useful regional agenda for operational research and training priorities. A Panel on Population and Poverty, to be held in November in Mexico City, would consider the role of social programmes in reducing socio-economic disparities and examine the demographic impact of programmes designed to increase, among other things, school attendance.
Despite major strides in improving access to education in most countries, there were still 115 million children of school age, concentrated in the world’s poorest countries, who did not attend school. Lack of schooling or low levels of education among women often led to early childbearing and large family sizes. Furthermore, in many nations health and mortality differential by socio-economic status were increasing, impeding the ability of less educated people to catch up to the rest of society in terms of health standards.
CARMEN BARROSO, Regional Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said that comprehensive sex education was one of the most important emerging policy issues, and deserved much greater attention in the future programme of work of the Secretariat in the field of population. Governments around the world were extremely worried about the catastrophic effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Despite widespread awareness of HIV/AIDS in many countries, behaviour had remained risky, and women were generally less knowledgeable than men about the disease.
Sex education was a major component of reproductive and sexual rights, she said. Non-governmental organizations and international civil society networks had been at the forefront of the development of the concept of reproductive and sexual rights. The Federation’s youth strategy was built upon a commitment to the right of young people to have access to quality sex education and reproductive health services. To that end, the Federation had promoted the development of youth programmes addressing young people’s specific needs in a sensitive and non-judgemental way. Many of the Federation’s associations were working in schools to integrate comprehensive sex education and HIV-prevention into the regular curriculum. That had proven to be an effective strategy for improving adolescents’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviour related to sexuality and safe-sex practices.
SCOTT LOVELESS, of the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, said that, as the international community looked at issues of economics and education and infrastructure, it must not forget the quiet relational side of life
-– families. In families, the quality of the life experience was not measured in mere economic terms, but rather by something infinitely more valuable –- caring and being cared about, belonging.
No human right, he said, whether stemming from a system acknowledging natural law or from a human-created legal system, existed in a vacuum. Each right was balanced by other rights, by the rights of others, and by an inherent obligation or responsibility not to abuse one’s own rights through excessive use. Mutual obligations were taught and learned in healthy families, and to the extent that families were healthy in that sense, the society into which their children emerged would also be healthy.
PHILIPPE COLLOMB, representative of the Committee for International Cooperation in National Research in Demography, said research must take into account demographic factors, educational structures and economic conditions that influence the future. Population growth and economic development had significant effects on educational structures. His organization, through its network of
700 demographic research centres in developing and developed regions, had considerable potential for providing necessary information for education policy and programme development. However, during the past decade only a modest number of demographic institutions and experts and a few major scientific meetings had dealt with the interactions between population, development and education. Governments needed support provided by research to carry out the ICPD agenda.
BENE MADUNAGU, of the Girl’s Power Initiative, speaking on behalf of the International Social and Reproductive Rights Coalition, said that, despite the growing links between population, education and development, and their impact on women and children, much remained to be done. Women continued to experience countless violations of human rights, including insufficient access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care. Priority must be given to developing and improving integrated reproductive health-education programmes to promote sexually responsible behaviour among women and children.
While supporting the ICPD, she said there was room for improvement. In particular, she called for increased investment in comprehensive reproductive health and sex education and services; life management skills training for women and youth; greater use of education to reduce persistent gender inequalities; greater response to the challenges of HIV/AIDS; and expedited efforts for poverty eradication.
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