Fifty-ninth General Assembly
30th & 31st Meetings (AM & PM)
REAFFIRMING SUPPORT FOR POPULATION, DEVELOPMENT GOALS, SPEAKERS IN GENERAL
assembly say decade since cairo one of considerable, but erratic, progress
Drawn by their concern about population and development, health officials from across the globe gathered at United Nations Headquarters today to reaffirm their support for plans laid out at the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo in 1994, which had called for world access to basic reproductive health services, including birth control, sex education, prenatal and obstetric care, and life-saving information and services to prevent HIV/AIDS.
Convening a special day-long commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Conference, the General Assembly marked the progress made and obstacles that remained towards achieving the objectives of the Cairo Programme of Action, which set out a 20-year strategy for promoting sexual and reproductive health, women’s empowerment, human rights and resource mobilization. The Conference was hailed as a major step forward, since it successfully shifted population policy discussions away from numbers to human lives and human rights.
As nearly 70 speakers took the floor today, the over-arching conclusion emerged that the decade since the adoption of the Cairo Programme had been one of considerable -- but erratic -- progress. Constraints, including lack of funding and deepening poverty in the developing world, remained a critical concern at the midpoint of the 20-year agenda. Speakers also stressed that accelerating the implementation of the Programme would contribute directly to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals to dramatically reduce poverty, hunger, poor health, HIV/AIDS and gender inequality by 2015.
Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said that countries throughout the world used the Cairo Programme in forging the strategies and policies with which they hoped to address population issues and achieve the Millennium Goals. They were making substantial progress, building on the achievements of the earlier decades. However, any satisfaction felt at the gains made must be tempered by an acute awareness of the unfinished agenda -- the fact that parts of the world were not sharing in that progress, and the daunting challenges that had emerged in the meantime.
Those challenges, she added, included high population growth, devastating toll of AIDS, declines in fertility and increased longevity, and rapid urbanization. In the coming years and decades, “we can and must go much further”, she said, expressing hope that governments were ready to forge closer partnerships and provide the necessary resources, notably to the United Nations agencies that did such important work on the ground.
“Cairo was a turning point in development thinking ... [putting] focus where it should be -- on improving the quality of life of all people no matter where they happened to have been born and whether they were men or women”, said Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). It had also recognized that what happened in one part of the world affected what happened on the other side; and that migration, urbanization, poverty and sustainable development were interconnected. If governments made critical investments in people, and used population data and policies to not only count people but to make people count, a chain reaction would occur, leading to concrete progress.
Throughout the wide-ranging discussion, ministers and heads of United Nations delegations reaffirmed Cairo’s groundbreaking vision for health rights and development, noting, among other things, that important progress had been made towards the Cairo goal of universal access to reproductive health services by 2015. One delegation reported that worldwide, the use of modern contraception had risen from 55 per cent in 1994 to 61 per cent today. Further, nearly all developing nations reported having integrated population concerns into development policies and strategies to address population-poverty linkages. Also, three fourths of countries reported having a national strategy on HIV/AIDS; a third said they had specific strategies aimed at high-risk groups.
But everyone was aware that daunting challenges remained. The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted that maternal mortality remained stubbornly high, and was now the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age in developing countries. Also, the scourge of HIV/AIDS continued. More than 14,000 people became infected with HIV every day -- the vast majority through sexual transmission. Yet, such transmission could be avoided, and condoms constituted a simple, affordable and life-saving technology. Young people must have access to reliable information if they were to make responsible, potentially life-saving choices, he added.
Addressing such daunting challenges cost money, he continued, adding that both developed and developing nations had failed to live up to their promises. He announced that the European Union intended to fill the entire reproductive health commodities gap of $75 million through a special contribution to UNFPA’s Reproductive Health Commodity Fund. In addition, Sweden’s Minister for Democracy, Integration and Gender Equality Issues said that, while the Fund had lost important financial support from other donors, such as the United States, her Government had continued to increase its core contribution, and would raise its support by an additional $11 million next year.
The representative of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed that the Cairo Programme was not just a set of goals, but had laid out a “road map” of practical actions to reach each goal with specified time-bound targets. Although there had been significant gains in the universal reduction of fertility, the progress was uneven. Progress in the area of life expectancy was also by no means uniform. For some countries, the demographic impact of AIDS was enormous, which had serious consequences for their development prospects, as they were losing their productive human resources.
Resource gaps were especially large in poor countries, he noted, and the least developed countries depended entirely on official development assistance (ODA). Unless new, additional and sustained resources were provided to developing countries, it was unlikely that most of the goals and targets of the Cairo Programme would be met. He added that Cairo accorded particular importance to the basic rights of migrants, but recent developments to curb immigration had included violations of those rights. He called for a comprehensive arrangement to address all aspects of the issue of international migration.
Opening today’s meeting, General Assembly President Jean Ping (Gabon) said the commemoration should remind everyone of the urgent need to tackle the many problems in the area of population and development, particularly in the developing world. The international community must take essential steps to mainstream population concerns into national development strategies. Primarily, that meant governments working together, as well as with international financial institutions, to mobilize the necessary resources to attain the Cairo objectives.
The will of governments in that regard would be a testament to their commitment to meet the challenges of the day. “Let us act now”, he said, adding that there was still time to come together towards improving the chances of establishing a more peaceful and prosperous world for all.
Also addressing the Assembly today were senior government officials from Sri Lanka, Paraguay, Uganda, France, Pakistan, Haiti, Senegal, Kazakhstan, Peru, China, South Africa, Egypt, Indonesia, Malawi, Cambodia, Mexico and Georgia.
In addition, statements were made by the representatives of Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), India, Canada, Guatemala, Switzerland, United States, Kenya, Japan, Russian Federation, Norway, Bangladesh, Maldives, New Zealand, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Philippines, Syria, Venezuela, Malaysia, Tunisia, Togo, Colombia, Azerbaijan, United Kingdom, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mongolia, Iran, Ghana, Uruguay, Botswana, Ecuador, Argentina, Denmark, Guyana, Armenia, United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Thailand, Viet Nam, Nepal, Nicaragua, Ethiopia and Panama.
The Observers for the Holy See, Partners for Population and Development, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also spoke.
The Assembly will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to elect five non-permanent members to the Security Council.
The General Assembly met today to observe the tenth anniversary of the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which took place in Cairo, Egypt, in 1994. In Cairo, world leaders, with input from civil society, reached consensus on a set of important population and development objectives and mutually supportive goals.
Among the goals and objectives of the Cairo Programme of Action were: sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development; education, especially for girls; gender equality and equity; infant, child and maternal mortality reduction; and the provision of universal access to reproductive health services, including family planning. The Conference, its Programme of Action and the Cairo Consensus –- which expressed the commitment of world governments to work together to ensure gender equality, safe motherhood and to work towards universal health care and education -– have been hailed as tremendous successes, particularly in that they shifted population policy discussions away from numbers to human lives and human rights.
Statement by General Assembly President
JEAN PING (Gabon), President of the General Assembly, said that 10 years had passed since the adoption of the Cairo Programme of Action, and there was no doubt that the adoption of that landmark document, as well as the Cairo Consensus, had ushered in a “new era” in population affairs. Those historic outcome documents expressed the resolve and commitment of governments to promote the enhancement of people’s lives in the areas of population and reproductive health, and highlighted closely related issues such as poverty reduction, gender empowerment and education.
The texts had stood the test of time, he said, adding that, indeed, their tenets, principles and objectives were even more relevant today, at a time when countries were working together to reduce poverty, ensure gender equality and turn back the HIV/AIDS pandemic, in order to establish a more stable world. Every region of the world had made the Cairo Programme and Consensus touchstones in their efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals. He stressed the improvements in the areas of family planning, education, reproductive health and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, which were of crucial importance towards attaining international development objectives.
It was necessary to continue efforts to ensure, in an integrated and coordinate manner, the implementation of all the United Nations conferences of the 1990s, he continued. That was essential if any real progress was to be made in time for the Organization’s sixtieth anniversary. But he strongly urged delegations not to wait until next year to consider the tragic situation of the millions of mothers who died each year from complications during childbirth, to do their utmost to mitigate the ravages of HIV/AIDS, and to more effectively combat poverty.
In addition, today’s commemoration should remind everyone of the urgent need to tackle the many problems in the area of population and development, particularly in the developing world. The international community must take essential steps to mainstream population concerns into national development strategies. Primarily, that meant governments working together, as well as with international financial institutions, to mobilize the necessary resources to attain the Cairo objectives. The will of governments in that regard would be a testament to their commitment to meet the challenges of the day. “Let us act now”, he said, adding that there was still time to come together towards improving the chances of establishing a more peaceful and prosperous world for all.
Statement by Deputy Secretary-General
LOUISE FRÉCHETTE, Deputy Secretary-General, said that three decades ago in Bucharest, the World Population Conference had overcome political differences to adopt a ground-breaking, comprehensive plan of action. That plan had given the world its first template for integrating population concerns into economic and social development, and had established the basic principles guiding population programmes today. Ten years ago in Cairo, the world’s efforts to address the intertwined challenges of population and development took another major step forward, as the Programme of Action adopted there situated population issues more firmly in the broader quest for development and poverty reduction. Today, countries throughout the world continued to use the Cairo Programme in forging the strategies and policies with which they hoped to address population issues and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. They were making substantial progress, building on the achievements of the earlier decades.
The world was beginning to see the end of rapid population growth, which should help in the struggle against poverty and pollution, she noted. Life expectancy continued to rise in all regions of the world, except eastern and southern Africa and Eastern Europe, while fertility continued to decline in virtually every region of the world. However, any satisfaction felt at the expansion of rights and freedoms involving population issues must be tempered by an acute awareness of the unfinished agenda -- the fact that parts of the world were not sharing in that progress, and the daunting challenges that had emerged in the meantime. Challenges included high population growth, the devastating toll AIDS was taking, declines in fertility and increased longevity, and rapid urbanization.
It was only a little more than a generation since the international community had collectively started addressing population and development issues. While much had been achieved and learned, there had also been shortfalls and gaps. In the coming years and decades, “we can and must go much further”, she said. The regional review meetings that had taken place during the past two years had shown strong support for the Cairo Consensus in all parts of the world, and civil society was also deeply engaged. The commemoration today should contribute to preparation for the important events planned for the next year: the 10-year reviews of both the Beijing and Copenhagen conferences, and the five-year review of the Millennium Declaration.
She hoped that governments were ready to forge closer partnerships and provide the necessary resources, notably to the United Nations agencies that did such important work on the ground, helping people to improve their daily lives. She urged Member States to overcome their remaining differences on sensitive issues, to reaffirm their full commitment to the Cairo Programme of Action, and to intensify common work toward a world of development and well-being for all.
Statement by UNFPA Executive Director
THORAYA AHMED OBAID, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said Cairo was a turning point in development thinking and signalled a turn in the right direction. It put focus where it should be, on improving the quality of life of all people no matter where they happened to have been born and whether they were men or women. It recognized that what happened in one part of the world affected what happened on the other side; and migration, urbanization, poverty and sustainable development were interconnected. With its emphasis on gender equality and reproductive health and rights, some people said the Cairo Programme of Action was ahead of its time. People around the world were demanding information and services to prevent HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancy, she said. Women were speaking out against violence, and a growing number of men were standing by their side demanding that justice be served.
Issues of a sensitive nature at the time of the Conference were now matters of open public debate, she said. Never before had there been so much discussion and outrage about sexual violence women faced in conflict situations. More needed to be done to address those human rights violations. The adoption of the Cairo Programme confirmed its relevance and vision; and much of that credit belonged to the Secretary-General of the Cairo Conference, Dr. Nafis Sadik. The Agenda, built on the premise of providing universal access to education and reproductive health services and promoting women’s empowerment, would reduce gender inequality and poor health, helping to break the cycle of poverty in which millions of individuals now found themselves. If governments made critical investments in people, and used population data and policies to not only count people but to make people count, a chain reaction would occur, leading to concrete progress.
The Programme of Action, she continued, was a global programme on universal, ethical principles that reinforced human dignity and encouraged fulfilment of human aspirations. As the lead agency in implementing the Agenda, the UNFPA was committed to those human rights and to taking a culturally sensitive approach in programme development and implementation. Such an approach did not impose solutions but engaged the concerned communities in a process of dialogue to bring about the necessary change. She congratulated governments on the progress achieved, as well as the many dedicated partners in civil society who worked closely with governments. The support provided through the World Leaders Statement complemented the renewed commitments expressed by the world’s governments and peoples in the regional meetings convened over the past two years.
She was confident that the hopes of Cairo would be fulfilled and the dreams of the hundreds of millions of women and men in need of health, rights and development would be realized in the coming decade. Yet, while it was necessary to celebrate achievements, it was important to be realistic. Key challenges continued. It was necessary to expand the reach of services and programmes to reach all people, especially the poorest, the young and the most marginalized. It was critical to mobilize the necessary political will to provide the necessary resources, and to involve more sectors and reach out to Ministers of Finance so that domestic and international resources were allocated for population and reproductive health. If greater action were not taken to fulfil the Programme of Action, an opportunity to achieve the Cairo goals would fail, as would those to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
SULTAN AL-MAHMOUD (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said issues of population encompassed the most basic concerns of human existence. It was the birth, death and migration of individuals that formed the essential components of demographic dynamics. For whole societies, those basic events produced rates of population increase or decrease, and formed the age structure of the population and the geographic pattern of human settlements. Those patterns influenced the social, economic, political and environmental issues that were central to the realization of the goal of sustainable development.
The Cairo Programme of Action was not just a set of goals, but laid forth a road map of practical actions to reach each goal with specified time-bound targets. After 10 years, there was a need to review the progress made so far and identify the areas that required further work. Although there had been significant gain in the universal reduction of fertility, the progress was uneven. Progress in the area of life expectancy was also by no means uniform. For some countries, the demographic impact of AIDS was enormous, which had serious consequences for their development prospects, as they were losing their productive human resources.
Since the 1994 Conference, migration had become a major issue of concern for the international community. The Programme of Action accorded particular importance to the basic rights of migrants, but recent developments to curb immigration had also included violations of those rights. He called for a comprehensive arrangement to address all aspects of the issue of international migration. He hoped that the related high-level dialogue in 2006 would help in forging greater global consensus on the issue, and in protecting the rights of all migrants.
Resource gaps were especially large in poor countries, he continued, and the least developed countries depended entirely on official development assistance (ODA). Unless new, additional and sustained resources were provided to developing countries, it was unlikely that most of the goals and targets of the Cairo Programme would be met. The need to reach the internationally agreed target of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for ODA and to fulfil the commitments made at Monterrey was most urgent. He believed this year’s review should lead to a renewed commitment to the goals of the Programme of Action, and the issue should also receive high priority at the 2005 high-level event.
HANS VAN DEN BROEK (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Cairo Programme of Action was firmly rooted in the principles of human development, women’s empowerment, gender equality and the rights of individuals. When couples and individuals were enabled to make a free and informed choice about the number and spacing of their children, families were smaller and population growth was slower, contributing to economic growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction. However, up to now, not enough had been done to prevent the loss of life.
Important progress had been made towards the Cairo goal of universal access to reproductive health services by 2015, he said. Nations had reinvigorated training to improve the quality of services, expand family planning choices and better meet clients’ needs. The use of modern contraception had risen from 55 per cent in 1994 to 61 per cent today. For their part, governments embraced the Programme of Action as an essential blueprint for realizing development goals. That sense of ownership had translated into policy. In addition, nearly all developing nations reported having integrated population concerns into development policies and strategies to address population-poverty interactions. Further, three fourths of countries reported having a national strategy on HIV/AIDS; a third said they had specific strategies aimed at high-risk groups.
However, he noted there was a long road ahead. Maternal mortality remained stubbornly high, which resulted in the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age in developing countries. Also, the scourge of HIV/AIDS continued. At the time of the Conference, 20 million people were infected. Today, that number had more than doubled. Every day, more than 14,000 people became infected with HIV, the vast majority through sexual transmission. Yet, sexual transmission could be avoided, and condoms constituted a simple, affordable and life-saving technology. Young people must have access to reliable information if there were to make responsible, potentially life-saving choices. Almost half of all new HIV infections occurred among people younger than 25. It was also necessary to confront health systems which were chronically under-financed, especially in least developed countries.
Addressing such daunting challenges cost money, he said, adding that both developed and developing nations had failed to live up to their promises. The European Union was making steady progress in fulfilling its commitment on ODA. At the same time, political leadership was essential to affectively address the challenges of the next decade. Multilateral partners were key players and catalysts in the implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action. The global partnership for ICPD should ensure that reproductive health issues were adequately addressed in all development processes. He announced that the European Union intended to fill the entire reproductive health commodities gap of $75 million through a special contribution to UNFPA’s Reproductive Health Commodity Fund.
CHRISTOPHER HACKETT (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the 2004 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs report on the progress made towards achieving the Cairo goals clearly showed that much had been accomplished during the past 10 years. Population growth had been slowed; the world had experienced some reduction in fertility; and infant mortality had been reduced. Most CARICOM countries were experiencing slower population growth, and had reduced infant mortality rate well beyond the ICPD’s mid-term goals. Those results were largely due to policies put in place at the national level by countries, to improve the lives of their populations. Emphasis had been placed on implementing programmes to alleviate poverty and to provide adequate health care and services, including reproductive health and adequate nutrition.
He said CARICOM had adopted a rights-based approach to health, with member countries supporting the implementation of programmes that made health a right for all. Indeed, the right to health was regarded as a fundamental right, without which other rights could not be easily attained. He added that education programmes on reproductive health and other relevant issues had brought men and women together to build a greater awareness of gender and reproductive health matters. Turning to the situation in his own country, he highlighted, among other things, the phenomenon of ageing. Following improvements in general living conditions, life expectancies had increased. Some programmes were already in place to provide social services for the elderly. Nevertheless, the trend was of concern, and assessments were under way to shore up basic health and social services to better address the needs of the increasing numbers of older persons.
Among other issues of concern, he noted the impact of HIV/AIDS on the region, and said that many governments had introduced strategies designed to support the capacities of health and education systems. CARICOM governments had also established national guidelines on prevention, treatment and care, as well as for the elimination of the stigma and discrimination against people living with the virus. Other areas of attention had been the promotion and defence of the rights of girls and women, and enhancing young people’s access to reproductive health, education and services. He also drew attention to the increased number of retirees moving to the region, which had caused governments to review plans and programmes on the socio-economic impacts of migration and population movements.
Finally, he stressed that attaining the goals set at Cairo was closely linked to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. CARICOM countries faced some obstacles in achieving those goals, chiefly the availability of human and financial resources and the varying levels of institutional capacities among the countries of the subregion to put relevant programmes into place. Therefore, there was a need for continuous resource flows, as well as enhanced partnerships with regional organizations and the private sector.
MONA SAHLIN, Minister for Democracy, Integration and Gender Equality Issues of Sweden, said that the Cairo Conference had been a groundbreaking event, placing the individual at the core of population policies and development. Issues that were formerly taboo were now on the international agenda, in particular sexual and reproductive health and rights, adolescent sexuality, gender-based violence and harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation. Unfortunately, the international community was not providing sufficient political support or funding to achieve the Cairo goals. A reinforced commitment and increased resources were needed, especially since the Cairo agenda was also indispensable for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Her Government recently declared that it would achieve its own goal of allocating 1 per cent of its gross national income for ODA by 2006, which would mean more resources for sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS, she said. Last week, Sweden, together with the UNFPA, hosted a technical seminar on the social and economic benefits of investing in the above issues. That meeting would be followed by a high-level meeting in Stockholm, early next year, in which leaders from around the world would call for a commitment to investments in sexual and reproductive health and rights. Her Government also fully supported the work of the UNFPA. While the Fund had lost important financial support from other donors, such as the United States, Sweden had continued to increase its core contribution, and would raise its support by an additional $11 million next year.
She highlighted seven areas of concern deserving greater attention: issues of sexuality and sexual relations should be discussed openly; young people should have the means to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections; given the life-threatening nature of HIV/AIDS, condoms should be made widely available –- contrary to pro-life actors within the Vatican who were spreading false rumours that condoms were dangerous; gender equality, which included men’s responsibility, was crucial to the common struggle; maternal health must be improved; all people should be able to have a satisfying and safe sex life; and persons with disabilities should enjoy the same sexual and reproductive health and rights as everyone else. Also, while States, first and foremost, had the responsibility to implement the Programme of Action, civil society had an important role to play both in implementation and advocacy.
NIMAL SIRIPALA DE SILVA, Minister for Healthcare and Nutrition of Sri Lanka, said that, in the past decade, his country had formulated a comprehensive national policy on population and reproductive health. In Sri Lanka, adolescents comprised about 17 per cent of the total population. The national reproductive health programme, therefore, provided opportunities for young people to have access to information, education and services. Although HIV prevalence was relatively low in his country, the Government was concerned about that potential threat and underscored prevention and control of HIV/AIDS and all other sexually transmitted diseases. A comprehensive social support programme was developed and supplemented with grant assistance from the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to prevent the spread of HIV among vulnerable groups.
He said his country’s progress had been significant -- the rate of population growth declined from 1.5 per cent in the early 1990s to 1.1 per cent today. Life expectancy at birth for females and males was comparable to that of more developed countries, at 75.4 and 70.7 years, respectively. The infant mortality rate had been reduced to 13 per 1,000 live births, and the maternal mortality rate was about 50 per 100,000 live births. Per capita income had increased at a steady pace, and reliance on open economic policies “with a human face” and greater emphasis on human resource development had enabled Sri Lanka to achieve an average economic growth rate of 5 per cent during the past decade, despite the armed conflict in the north and east of the country. Poverty levels had also declined due to overall economic growth and continued emphasis on the transfers of income to the poor through poverty alleviation programmes, free education and health services.
Considerable progress had also been made in improving education, and literacy rates now were equally high for both males and females, at 91 per cent and 88 per cent, respectively. Gains had also been made towards gender equality and development, including the adoption of the National Women’s Charter in1993, the establishment of a separate women’s affairs ministry in 1997, and the appointment of gender focal points in sectoral ministries. International migration still challenged the Government, however, with some 1.5 million migrant workers, mainly females, working outside the country, exposing themselves to health risks and adversely affecting the lives of the families they left behind. The “brain drain”, owing to the emigration of large numbers of health and other professionals, put negative pressure on the national health care system and other development activities.
MARÍA JOSÉ ARGAÑA MATEU, Minister for Women’s Issues of Paraguay, said her country accorded special attention to the anniversary of the Cairo Conference because of its important recommendations and conclusions and, moreover, to assess how far participants had come. She reaffirmed Paraguay’s commitment to continue to make progress on the Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals, as well as agreements reached at the regional level. Actions taken by Paraguay to that end included ratification in 1986 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, an international instrument which promoted genuine reform through the formulation of domestic legislation to meet international standards.
The strategic nature of the Cairo issues had already drawn the attention of her Government before the Conference, she noted. The 1992 national Constitution was a basic legal framework that introduced policies on reproductive health, maternity and paternity, and health and family planning, with the participation of the private sector and civil society organizations. In public gender-related policies, the country had made advancements, but had also encountered setbacks. Paraguay had also adopted a national plan for comprehensive healthcare for women and adolescents, and a second national sexual health plan that would contribute to improving the quality of life. The Government had also entrusted to a group of institutions the design of a national strategy to combat poverty, inequality and social exclusion, and had adopted measures that reflected the importance attached to the Cairo objectives and the Millennium Development Goals. Paraguay believed that shared problems required concerted strategies, and that the UNFPA was a forum of fundamental importance for assessing the implementation of the Cairo Programme.
ALEX KAMUGISHA, Minister of State for Health of Uganda, said his nation, since Cairo, had formulated a comprehensive National Population Policy for sustainable development, and encouraged a primary health-care approach that was comprehensive and pro-poor. Also since 1994, reproductive health had taken root, and had been identified as a priority programme. His nation would continue to increase funding for reproductive health. Uganda recognized the complementary role of civil society organizations, and had worked with them to implement programmes to improve the welfare of the people. As a result, progress had been achieved, including a rapid decline in the HIV/AIDS epidemic from a high level of 30 per cent in 1992 to 6.2 per cent today. Uganda’s success depended on Government providing an enabling environment for all stakeholders to play their role. The challenge with HIV/AIDS was to maintain a momentum of success without being complacent.
Regarding gender equality and women’s empowerment, Uganda had involved women in many aspects of governance, he said. In its national Parliament, 24 per cent of seats were occupied by women and 25 per cent of the Cabinet consisted of women. Women were judges and permanent secretaries, and held senior civil service positions. Yet, despite achievements, challenges continued. Both infant and maternal mortality had not improved, with rates at 88 per 1,000 and 505 per 100,000, respectively. Accessibility and affordability of HIV/AIDS drugs remained another issue, and the young, women and poor were disproportionately affected. A new course was necessary to face the challenges in reproductive health and family planning. It was necessary to continue to work with developing partners to strengthen South-South partnership.
NICOLE AMELINE, Minister of Parity and Equality of France, said the fight against poverty, as stated recently in the United Nations, was essential for the security and stability of both developed and developing countries. Gender inequality was one of the major factors in the pauperization of women. France was building ties and cooperation among countries on the issues of population and development, as well as on the promotion of equality between men and women. She stressed that actions by the United Nations Population Fund, which was supported by her country, were essential. From 2002 to 2003, France carried out two joint projects on the implementation the Cairo Programme in Madagascar and Côte d’Ivoire, and one in Morocco on support for women victims of violence. A regional project was being developed in the Horn of Africa with the non-governmental organization Médecins du Monde, with the UNFPA as the donor.
Ten years after Cairo, progress had been highly unequal, she noted. In some countries, there had been no forward movement because of political, ideological or religious impediments. Faced with the new challenges of the twenty-first century –- poverty, conservation, development, violence, access to universal civil rights and decent jobs –- partnerships must be universal and must serve the goal of sustainable development. On 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, she would launch a new plan of action to prevent and fight against all violence against women. She added that the education of girls was a major issue. Access to the education system at all levels must be guaranteed for girls, who accounted for two thirds of the world’s 110 million children currently not in school. Women’s education was equally important, as they accounted for two thirds of the 1 billion illiterate adults.
She went on to say that the meetings next year would be decisive in reaffirming commitments to the Millennium Development Goals and the objectives of other major conferences since 1994. Reaching those Goals would require vigilance and enthusiasm. Noting that March 2005 would mark the tenth anniversary of the World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995), she said that when women’s rights were advanced, society as a whole benefited and democracy was strengthened. She took the opportunity to launch the Partners for Beijing initiative which would allow all, with respect for each other’s differences, to consider the Beijing Platform for Action in the context of new challenges.
CHAUDHRY SHAHBAZ HUSSAIN, Federal Minister for Population Welfare of Pakistan, said that his country had been a willing signatory to the Cairo Programme of Action, but several disadvantages had hampered its efforts to implement that plan at the desired pace. Prior to the Conference, Pakistan had suffered from weak political commitment, lack of adequate resources, shifts in population policies, and socio-cultural rigidities. The situation had changed substantially since Cairo, and the present Government attached highest priority to the issue of population to ensure sustainable development. However, while the Government’s budgetary allocation since 1994 had increased for the social sector, and particularly for population, the country still faced resource constraints. Nevertheless, the progress achieved was worthwhile.
He said that Pakistan had fully embraced the new paradigm introduced by the Conference’s recommendations, and had reformulated its population and development policy, which centred on meeting the needs of people. The country was creating an enabling environment for the implementation of its population and development policy. The essential goal of that policy was to improve the quality of life for every Pakistani through a reduction in rapid population growth, by providing high quality and readily accessible reproductive health and family planning services. The most burning issues were the availability of resources and institutional capacity-building for implementing the Programme of Action. The success or failure of Pakistan in that implementation would depend ultimately on its ability to operate in an unfavourable environment, due to the severe resource constraints. However, he was optimistic that donors and the international community would stand by the country in its difficult times.
ADELINE MAGLOIRE CHANCY, Minister for Women of Haiti, said 10 years had passed since more than 180 countries had made their pledges at Cairo. And with today’s stocktaking, it was clear that, while much had been accomplished, much remained to be done to establish comprehensive policies on, among other things, population and the environment. And while that did not mean that other socio-economic concerns should be sidelined, there was no doubt that population concerns were linked environmental issues. Haiti today was an example of those links, as it struggled mightily to recover from last year’s political crisis, exacerbated by the recent devastation wrought by hurricanes, flooding and other natural disasters which had left thousands dead. All of that, accompanied by deepening poverty and continued environmental degradation, amounted to a severe “silent” humanitarian crisis.
She went on to focus on the troubling situation of women and girls, who represented more than 52 per cent of Haiti’s population. There had been a concerted effort to promote the fundamental rights of women and gender mainstreaming, in an attempt to enhance women’s roles in society. Here, she stressed that widespread poverty and political instability had proved a serious obstacle to Haiti’s efforts to ensure that all the rights of men, as well as women, were met, particularly in providing health services and education. The Interim Government was, nonetheless, determined to redress those issues, she said, drawing attention to an important four-prong Interim Cooperation Framework, which included gender mainstreaming initiatives, among others. There had also been a concerted effort to address other relevant issues such as violence against women. She also addressed the issue of migration, and called for integrated and comprehensive policies to be worked out with and between host and receiving countries.
MAMADOU SIDIBE, Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development of Senegal, said the past decade had been rich in summits and conferences, in which objectives were set and strategies devised in the pursuit of economic and social development. Yet, the conclusion was that progress remained short of the commitments undertaken. There were continued disparities in regions and within nations. At last year’s review in Africa, nine topics were discussed with regard to the continent, and a declaration was adopted on the implementation of the objectives of the Cairo Programme of Action. It was also decided that there was a need to strengthen certain national programme areas, including the status of women, the reproductive health of adolescents, the reduction of infant mortality, the control of urbanization and the protection of children and the elderly.
He noted that if nothing was done to counter poverty, HIV/AIDS and armed conflicts, it would be difficult to achieve the set objectives. Yet, the means to achieve those ambitions existed. Those included the mobilization of resources and poverty-reduction strategies. Those were necessary preconditions, he said, so nations would not miss the date of 2015 to meet the Millennium Development Goals. The success of policies depended on national efforts, which were continuous and steady. His Government, in addition to having institutional mechanisms for the coordination of population policy, was strengthening its work with partnerships. His nation’s efforts could be seen in reproductive health, free access to health care, their struggle against HIV/AIDS and the monitoring of that scourge. In conclusion, he expressed satisfaction at the devotion shown by the Executive Director of the UNFPA in executing the country programme in Senegal.
BEXULTAN TUTKUSHEV (Kazakhstan) said the Cairo Conference had played a decisive role in formulating common approaches to development. Many countries had made some progress in developing their national policies, and Kazakhstan was no exception, as it had consistently carried out a broad social and economic policy. The Government had adopted a strategic plan, which made population and development strategy a priority, as part of a State policy to encourage higher birth rates and reduce infant and maternal mortality. He took note of the increasing role played by non-governmental organizations in Kazakhstan in carrying out such plans. In achieving equal rights for women and men, Kazakhstan still faced a number of problems, among which was that women, who constituted almost half of the population, worked in the poorly paid areas of the economy. The country had adopted policies to improve the social status of women in the labour market, the enhancement of the representation of women among decision-makers, and the reduction of maternal mortality.
While laws had been adopted regarding reproductive rights, the situation of reproductive health was not entirely good, he continued. The female health index was relatively low, and a large number of women suffered from anaemia in disadvantaged regions of the country. That indicator was increasing all the time, while the levels of maternal mortality and pregnancies with complications were still high. The quality of health care and available food, the problem of HIV, and increases in breast cancer rates were all problems that still affected women in Kazakhstan. The Government was taking robust action to comprehensively and effectively implement the major decisions adopted in Cairo. It was important to draw attention to the fact that Kazakhstan had stable growth in its economy, basically because of the export of energy resources. He reiterated the need for expert assistance, provided by United Nations funds and programmes, to consolidate progress made in the country.
ALFREDO CHUQUIHUARA (Peru), Chairman of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, said that Cairo had been a turning point in the way the international community dealt with population issues, by making sexual and reproductive rights, health, the empowerment of women and gender equality priorities in global development efforts. Peru was committed to ensuring the achievement of the goals set at Cairo, particularly as it looked ahead, along with the international community, to next year’s mid-term review of the Millennium Development Goals.
For its part, he said that Peru had pressed ahead with its own efforts to ensure sexual and reproductive rights, the advancement of women and girls, the recognition of different forms of families, and the promotion of the cultural identities of various ethnic groups. Here, he paid special tribute to the efforts of civil society and other grass-roots actors, who had been vital to the Government’s efforts to implement the various elements of the Cairo Programme.
He went on to say that 54 per cent of the population in Peru lived in poverty, and the Government was focused on turning back a number of socio-economic ills, including a high rate of infant mortality, particularly among young women who had been introduced to sexual life and violence at an early age. Peru had redoubled its efforts to combat that trend and had also focused on turning back, and providing information on, the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Finally, he said that he had enjoyed and benefited from his time as Chair of the Commission on Population and Development this past year. The Commission had contributed to reinvigorating global efforts to achieve the objectives set out in the Cairo Programme of Action.
WANG GUOQIANG, Vice Minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission of China, expressed delight at the relentless efforts to implement the Cairo Programme of Action and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. As the world’s most populous developing country, China had carried out its commitments to the Cairo Programme and the Millennium Goals, on the basis of its own national characteristics. By adopting a strategy of decision-making integrating population and development issues, China had made distinctive achievements in that area.
Despite an economy that was still underdeveloped, he said China had effectively controlled excessive population growth, reduced fertility rate to below the level of substitution, and achieved historical transformation of its population reproduction pattern, among other things. Notwithstanding the remarkable achievements made in its population and family planning programmes, China still faced numerous difficulties and challenges on its path to realizing the objectives of Cairo and the Millennium Declaration.
China was increasingly frustrated by, among other things, the acceleration of the ageing of the population, and the trend of imbalanced sex ratio at birth, which was still beyond effective control. Also of concern was the still arduous task of eradicating poverty and the protracted task of HIV/AIDS prevention and control. Additionally, the country’s family planning and reproductive health services had failed in fully and effectively covering the underdeveloped regions, adolescents, the elderly and the migrant populations, he stated.
JEAN BENJAMIN, Deputy Minister for Social Development of South Africa, said she came from a continent where underdevelopment remained a reality for millions of people, particularly in rural areas, and the role of women and youth in poverty eradication was critical. The South African Constitution guaranteed human rights and gender equality, and protected the reproductive freedom of couples. As a result, its population was becoming more educated, health care more accessible, and more people were living in houses with access to electricity, clean water and sanitation. In 2001, the adult literacy rate was 89 per cent, and her nation was working towards universal literacy for its youth. She noted that South African women were more literate and generally more educated than their male counterparts. The total fertility rate was now estimated to be 2.77 children per woman, down from a rate estimated at almost 4 a decade ago.
Yet, despite those successes, challenges remained, she said. The HIV/AIDS pandemic had become one of the world’s most daunting population and development challenges. In southern Africa, it had led to a decline in life expectancy, taking the lives of young, productive adults. Many nations in her region were also still struggling to reduce maternal, child and infant mortality and morbidity, in spite of large investments to improve mother and child health services. The support of the international community was necessary to achieve more. South Africa was pursuing population and development objectives through the United Nations and other multilateral organisations, including the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Population and development required a global response, she concluded, and South Africa was determined to intensify collaboration with its partners to address the challenges faced.
SAFAA EL-BAZ, Deputy Minister of Health and Population of Egypt, said that her delegation had several reasons to feel proud in participating in today’s commemoration. The first reason was that Egypt had hosted the historic Conference in 1994, and the second was that the country’s implementation of the Cairo objectives, and how it had dealt with the issue of population, could be considered exemplary. The Cairo Consensus and Programme of Action had introduced a qualitative shift in dealing with population and development issues, which used to be based only on conventional demographic implications. There had been an integration of the concepts of liberation, empowerment and maximum employment as a result of the Conference.
Egypt had achieved many improvements in indicators, such as in the reduction of fertility and the increased use of family planning. There were also programmes to eradicate illiteracy, and a plan to reduce school drop-out rates, especially for girls. In addition, 2003 had been declared the year for the Egyptian girl. Despite all its successes in the implementation of the Cairo Programme, many challenges still needed bold treatment and technical assistance. In particular, financial and economic resources were needed for the expansion of family planning and reproductive health, despite contributions from donor agencies and the private sector. It was also necessary to address the fact that a conservative cultural environment in some places still hindered the necessary expansion of some programmes. She was confident, however, that efforts by national institutions, together with help from the United Nations office in Cairo, would allow for the continued implementation of the Programme. She also gave great importance to the review event to be held in September 2005.
SUMARJATI ARJOSO, Chairperson of the National Family Planning Coordinating Board of Indonesia, said that family planning was an integral part of her country’s overall reproductive health agenda, and its programmes addressed all dimensions, including safe motherhood. There had been considerable improvements in conditions affecting women, as seen in selected indicators of women’s status, as well as the Gender-Related Development Index. Women’s issues, including those relating to adolescents and girls, were receiving more attention and had gained greater public profiles. Still, obstacles towards gender equality remained. It was necessary to ensure women were not made victims because of traditional stereotypes. Gender issues revealed themselves in high maternal mortality, the gender gap in education, domestic violence, the trafficking of women and girls, and a lack of protection for the rights of employed women, particularly those who worked overseas.
Efforts to achieve reproductive health goals were challenged by a number of factors, but none more devastating than the HIV/AIDS epidemic, she said. There had been an alarming increase in the number of infections, and projections for the future were troubling. Thus, Indonesia proposed to vigorously seek ways to combat HIV/AIDS in a comprehensive manner, including integrating appropriate policy measures into national development. She noted that more than 20 per cent of women died as a result of diseases aggravated by pregnancy, such as malaria, anaemia, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. To ensure safe motherhood, it was vital to guarantee access to family planning services, to reduce unwanted pregnancies; improve the overall quality of the nation’s health systems, especially at the district level; and strengthen human resources. It was also important to integrate men into all aspects of reproductive health programmes.
She added that Indonesia had been receiving a lot of support from the international community to guarantee the availability of contraceptives. Her country’s commitment to the outcomes of the Conference meant that it would ensure the availability of contraception to women, especially those from poor families.
FRANK MWENIFUMBO, Deputy Minister of Health of Malawi, said his nation was focusing on initiatives to improve the quality of life and living standards of its people. As such, Malawi had formulated and adopted a National Population Policy, whose implementation was in progress. A Poverty Reduction Strategy had also been formulated as a fundamental aspect for achieving sustainable socio-economic development. Further, his nation had adopted a policy on gender and development. In recent years, Malawi had increased its collaboration with non-governmental organizations and civil society to implement, monitor and evaluate population-related programmes and policies. As a result, it had seen more integration of population issues and development planning, increased advocacy and education at all levels. Efforts to decentralize the national population policy had been stepped up by working with districts and at the grass-roots level, especially in areas of reproductive health services, gender, education and the environment.
He went on to say that the contraception prevalence rate was now estimated at 26 per cent, which had contributed to a decline in the total fertility rate from 6.7 in 1992 to the current 6.3 level. The maternal mortality rate stood at 1,120 per 100,000 live births, up from 620 per 100,000 lives births in 1992. In addition, the child mortality rate now stood at 189 per 1,000 live births, down from 234 per 1,000 live births in 1992. The HIV/AIDS pandemic continued to challenge his nation, including by negatively impacting mortality rates for the adult age group. In the next 10 years, Malawi would redouble its efforts to reduce poverty, the HIV/AIDS burden, and infant and maternal mortality rates. Other areas of focus included the strengthening of adolescent reproductive health services and an intensification of family planning and safe motherhood interventions. Adequate funding for the full implementation of the Programme of Action was still an issue. Malawi respectfully called on development partners to strengthen both technical and financial assistance to nations.
MAM BUNHENG, Secretary of State for Health of Cambodia, said that Cairo had, for the first time, placed family planning -- once the main focus of population policies and programmes -- within a broader, rights-based reproductive health framework, which included both family planning and sexual health. With the assistance of the United Nations and civil society, Cambodia had embraced that message and incorporated it into national policies and planning. Cambodia’s response to HIV/AIDS had perhaps been the most talked about elements of its Cairo-related initiatives. The National AIDS Authority had played a key coordinating role in the Government’s actions and, as a result, Cambodia was now one of only three countries in the world where HIV-infection rates had been reversed.
He went on to note Cambodia’s other solid gains in the wake of the 1994 Cairo Conference. In 1998, for the first time in 36 years, Cambodia had been able to organize its first national census. On the basis of the data gathered in that exercise, the Government had subsequently been able to organize a demographic and health survey, a poverty reduction strategy, and, most recently, a national population strategy which made recommendations on further actions in 10 population areas, including clear links between high fertility and high population growth, and poverty.
Since 1994, the Government had been increasing the number of legislative and administrative measures to protect the rights of girls and women, starting with a national Birth Spacing Policy, and a law on the suppression of kidnapping, trafficking, sale and exploitation of human beings. Given the country’s large youth population, adolescents and young people had also received special attention, with the Government lending encouragement and support to any youth outreach organizations which aimed to broaden their horizons on reproductive health issues and the prevention of HIV/AIDS. All that and more had shown the distance Cambodia had come since 1994. But that progress could not have been achieved without the help of a host of international partners, including the UNFPA and other United Nations agencies. Cambodia was still far short of the Cairo targets and still lacked the resources to achieve all that it would like. He appealed to the international community and civil society to strengthen partnerships in Cambodia, so that the country could reach the important goals which remained in sight.
E. AHAMED, Minister of State for External Affairs of India, said the rate of population growth over the past decade had been higher in the poorer nations of the world, with four out of every five persons living in the less developed regions in 2004. The emphasis on sustained economic growth and sustainable development in the Cairo Programme of Action had, therefore, become extremely relevant. India had formulated a national family planning programme as early as 1952 to stabilize the population at a level consistent with the requirements of growth of the national economy. Technological advances and improved quality and coverage of health care resulted in a rapid fall in the crude death rate in India from 25 between 1951 and 1961 to eight in 2002. In contrast, reduction in the crude birth rate had been less steep, declining from 41 between 1951 and 1961 to 25 in 2002.
The commitments in the Cairo Programme were fully reflected in India’s national population policy, he said. That policy was based on the recognition of the right of every woman to decide for herself the number of children she wanted and when, while simultaneously acknowledging that male participation was equally critical. India neither evaluated its programmes based on predetermined targets nor encouraged the use of any coercive measures or inducements. India had made substantial progress on growth and poverty reduction over the past decade. Advances had also been made in improving literacy, as well as enrolment, completion and gender balance in primary education. According to one estimate, India would comfortably achieve its targets for both income and food security, and the Government was committed to achieving the Millennium Goals.
The central theme of the Cairo Conference was to forge a balance among population, sustained economic growth and sustainable development, he said. That balance was based on the premise that actions by the governments of the developing countries would be matched by assistance from the donor community. The international assistance and support that was promised, however, had fallen short. On the tenth anniversary of the Cairo Conference, nations of the world, both developing and developed, needed to reiterate their resolve to achieve the Cairo objectives.
NARESH SINGH (Canada) said it was deplorable that in many parts of the world, the most basic reproductive health needs of populations, especially women and adolescents, were not being met. In real terms, that was reflected in terribly high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity; sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; and unplanned pregnancies, the result of which could be devastating for women and adolescent girls, as well as for their children, communities and future generations. Perhaps the most significant change to the global landscape since Cairo had been the ravaging impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. “We have learned that addressing gender inequality and promoting, as well as protecting, human rights, including focusing on child protection, are essential for reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS and for ensuring the economic and social stability of communities, particularly in southern Africa and other developing regions with high rates ... ”, he said.
Addressing the links between sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS, as well as ensuring coordinated and integrated efforts in those areas, would make a major contribution to both promoting and protecting sexual and reproductive health and rights and combating the pandemic. The work of key United Nations agencies, particularly the UNFPA and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), had laid a solid foundation on which to build partnerships and move the agenda forward. He was extremely encouraged to see increased momentum by both Government and civil society to engage women, men and boys in addressing the links between sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. He went on to say that governments must also work in partnership with young people to develop policies and programmes that addressed their needs, and which included youth in all aspects of design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
He urged the Assembly to address the Cairo commitments on migration so that the option of remaining in one’s country was viable for all people. The Cairo Programme of Action should continue to inform debates over the next two years within the context of the Global Commission on Migration and the 2006 High-level Dialogue, so that discussions would consider a broad and integrated view of migration and development. He added that without significant political and financial commitment by both developing and developed countries to achieve the core commitments of Cairo, the international community would not be able to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
CONNIE TARACENA SECAIRA (Guatemala) said that, in the past few years, Guatemala had worked to mainstream population and development issues into the national agenda, particularly regarding legislation and public policies in the spheres of social development, health, education, environment, and the complete advancement of women. The country had been changing substantially on those matters, as a result of the end of the internal armed conflict, democratization processes, and the need to overcome the consequences of its struggles. The conclusion of the peace agreements in 1996 had contributed to the recognition of the equality of rights between men and women in the various areas of social and political life; the participation of women in the development of the society; and the commitment by the State to the elimination of any form of discrimination against women.
Guatemala had achieved significant changes in the social sphere, based on an equitable and humane vision, particularly regarding health care, aimed at the prevention and cure of diseases affecting mothers and newborns, and women and men in the rural sectors. In the years ahead, Guatemala would strive to consolidate the advances that had been achieved, particularly those that were mandated by its social development laws. It would also ensure that the concerns of women were incorporated in all spheres of the development of the country, taking into account the need for women to play a proactive role in that development.
PETER MAURER (Switzerland) said that the new broadened population and development approach emanating from the Cairo Conference had shifted the focus from family planning issues to a comprehensive concept of reproductive rights and health. As a result, the lives of millions of women, young people and children had improved. Today, the notion of the right and responsibility of the individual to choose the size of one’s family and to decide on the use of contraceptives had gained ground. There were fewer births per woman, the overall access to health systems had expanded significantly, and many countries had undertaken some very important steps to bring their legislation in line with the action programme and to promote gender equality and the role of women.
Nevertheless, he said, much work remained to fully ensure reproductive rights and health, including access to reproductive health services. The more than 500,000 preventable deaths each year of mothers during childbirth was unacceptable. Access to information on contraceptives, especially for young people, must be ensured, and everything possible must be done to protect women and men from sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV/AIDS. It was fundamental to build links between universal rights and ethical and cultural values, in order to better enforce respect for human rights and the important role those played in the life of each and every individual. The UNFPA also played a crucial role and, in difficult times, it had proved to be a reliable partner for developing countries when it came to fighting for the individual’s right to reproductive health.
SICHAN SIV (United States) said that in the years since Cairo, there had been no “one size fit all approach” to population. In many countries, today’s population trends were positive -- longer life spans, healthier families and greater prosperity. In others, however, there was a sadder story to tell. Maternal mortality remained a devastating sorrow, undiminished since Cairo. More than 1.1 billion people existed in extreme poverty. Increasing urbanization in the developing countries also brought the challenge of providing for some of the world’s poorest people. Worst of all, the number of people living with HIV had grown from approximately 14 million in 1994 to over 38 million today. The international community was only now beginning to make headway against the ferocity of that disease.
The United States was committing substantial resources to meeting those challenges, he stated. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) alone spent more than $1.4 billion on international health assistance, exclusive of HIV/AIDS programming. Additionally, it was increasing its support for HIV prevention, care and treatment activities. Those activities were carried out through both President George W. Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, with a planned expenditure through 2008 of $15 billion. His country was the largest single donor of maternal health assistance, including family planning and reproductive health programmes. For those programmes, USAID programming exceeded $475 million annually over the last four years.
His country was advancing the goal of the Conference on many fronts, he continued. Through programmes that supported both the education and political participation of women around the world and helped men to appreciate the importance of women’s participation, the United States was contributing to greater gender equity globally. Among other things, his country advanced the position of women in developing countries by promoting entrepreneurship and prosperity with micro-enterprise programmes. “We encourage increasing women’s political participation and their role in decision-making processes ... We have actively supported the great strides made by women in places like Afghanistan and Iraq in securing their rights under the law”, he said. The Cairo Programme was the first major United Nations document to focus attention on the issue of trafficking in humans. Since 2001, the United States had provided more than $295 million to support anti-trafficking programmes in more than 120 countries.
LAZARUS AMAYO (Kenya) said the issues of population and reproductive health remained integral in addressing poverty eradication, which had been exacerbated by hunger and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. However, developing countries, particularly in Africa, lagged behind in the indicators identified by the Programme of Action, such as life expectancy. That was attributable to socio-economic transformation resulting from malaria, tuberculosis, cholera and HIV/AIDS. The Millennium Development Goals, particularly the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, could not be achieved if the issues of population and reproductive health were not addressed. It was, therefore, imperative that those Goals and the Programme of Action be addressed simultaneously.
At the national level, poor economic performance in Kenya over the past few years had been compounded by the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which had affected the productive population. Attainment of the Millennium Goals would depend on how effectively Kenya dealt with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which in sub-Saharan Africa had reversed the social and economic gains of the past decades. He appreciated the assistance of Kenya’s development partners and the Global Fund, but cautioned that a lot more needed to be done. He highlighted the need to realize the 0.7 per cent target for ODA by developed countries, and welcomed the announcement by the European Union that it intended to fill the entire reproductive health commodities gap of $75 million this year. He also urged Kenya’s development partners to increase their financial support to ensure a stable and predictable achievement of the Programme of Action and the Millennium Goals.
KAZUO SUNAGA (Japan) said that as a result of the Cairo Conference, many actions had been taken on international, national and regional levels, and much progress had been made in a number of developing countries. However, Member States still faced many challenges to fully implement the Programme of Action and achieve its objectives in the areas of gender equality, empowerment of women, reproductive health and rights, and the integration of population into national development programmes. The issues being dealt with today were extremely important for attaining the Millennium Development Goals, because four of the eight Goals had relevance to maternal and child health. Japan gave the highest priority to assistance in that sector, as more than 20 per cent of the country’s grant aid was spent annually on health, particularly of mothers and children, and on fighting infectious diseases.
Japan attached particular importance to the basic education of girls, because the promotion of girls’ education was a key element in the empowerment of women. It was also committed to gender equality, which was indispensable in addressing issues related to population and development. The concept of “human security”, which meant the protection of human lives, livelihood and dignity, as well as the empowerment of individuals, was one of the pillars of Japan’s foreign policy. The principles embodied in that concept were largely incorporated in the Programme of Action. Population was a sensitive issue that touched on the most personal decisions of individuals, as well as the cultural and traditional values of each society. What was uppermost in the implementation of the action plan, however, was the partnership not only between developed and developing countries, but also among civil society, international organizations and ordinary people.
IRINA ZBARSKAYA (Russian Federation) said the ICPD had been a powerful impetus for the world community to elaborate policies to solve domestic problems. In the last 10 years, however, progress had been mixed in certain key areas. National and international population programmes should be based on real situations in developed and developing countries, as well as countries in transition. The last decade had been marked by a difficult and complex population process in the Russian Federation. As practised in most European and industrial countries, the one-child-per-family model had become the norm.
She said the main goals of the State development and population programmes were to seek out ways to improve health, increase life expectancy and strengthen families through prosperity and equality. Mortality rates had been lowered by one third and the number of abortions had been halved. There were also great efforts to meet the needs of the elderly, who made up 30 per cent of the population. Key concerns were that mortality rates were extremely high in men of working age; life expectancy was dropping and; maternal mortality was much higher than most developed countries.
There had been a surge in the HIV epidemic, and the fast spread of the disease primarily affected 80 per cent of young people under 30 years of age, she said. Great efforts were being undertaken to prevent mother-to-child transmission. A key action in implementing the Cairo Programme would be to analyse the problem of international migration. If her country could address that problem, it could mitigate the effects of depopulation. Her Government attached great importance to population issues and particularly to international support. It hoped to develop cooperation on those issues with multilateral partners, particularly the UNFPA.
JOHAN L. LØVALD (Norway) said gender equality and women’s empowerment continued to be all-encompassing and paramount challenges. The current high global rate of maternal mortality and incidence of women with birth-related injuries, as well as disabilities, told the story of their lack of security or rights and disempowerment. Gender equality was needed to achieve universal access to reproductive health services, to reduce poverty, and to promote sustainable development. He joined the UNFPA in emphasizing that combating HIV/AIDS was linked to reproductive and sexual health. An integrated and concerted approach was needed to halt the spread of the pandemic and improve access to reproductive health services. Ignoring that link would mean missing the opportunity to help millions of women, men and their families, and to prevent unnecessary suffering and untimely death. Additionally, population policies on reproductive health and rights were fundamentally about people. The work of civil society, in partnership with other relevant actors, was an indispensable part of the efforts to reach out to people and secure their rights.
He said his Government planned to increase social development assistance to 0.95 per cent of its gross national income for the next year. That included additional support to the UNFPA. Education was priority number one in Norway’s international development policy. By focusing on that issue, with special emphasis on girls, his Government was addressing the underlying cause of gender imbalance and poverty. Norway intended to shortly launch a new development strategy for children and youth in the South. The motto of that strategy was “There is not one reason to promote the rights and welfare of children and youth, there are two billion reasons.” That strategy would reflect the importance his Government attached to population issues, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and especially its concern about the vulnerability of children and young people.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said 784 million people had been added to the world population since Cairo. The growth rate of the least developed countries remained especially high at 2.4 per cent per year. During the years 2004-2015, 52 nations, accounting for 14 per cent of the world population, were still expected to experience growth rates above 2 per cent per year. Thirty-one of them were least developed nations. Population growth remained a vital issue in development. For its part, his nation had addressed the problem of population with a considerable degree of success, some of which could be measured in terms of reduced population growth and fertility rates, an increase in life expectancy and expanded immunization for children. Further, fertility rates in Bangladesh had declined from 6.3 in 1973 to 2.9 in 2000. The contraception prevalence rate had reached around 54 per cent from around 25 per cent in 1988. The under-five mortality rate had declined from 133 in 1992 to 94 in 2000.
He said his Government was focusing on behaviour changes through communications efforts promoting a wider choice of contraceptives, addressing adolescent fertility, promoting gender equality and improving access to maternal and emergency obstetric care services. Eleven ministries, one private sector organization, one university, and all municipalities were involved in the process of integrating reproductive health and gender concerns into social development efforts. The World Bank, in a recent report, said “Bangladesh is undergoing a demographic transition at a low income level without resorting to coercive measures.” A pragmatic approach by his Government, based on sustained and firm commitments, had greatly contributed to those achievements. Investment in education, both for children and adults, had also been a vital aspect in that process. Bangladesh had increased the budget for primary, secondary and girls’ education. His nation had also achieved gender parity in enrolment at the primary and secondary levels. In addition, the adult literacy rate had surged from 34 per cent to 64 per cent in a decade.
MOHAMED LATHEEF (Maldives) said his nation was going through an unprecedented stage of social and economic development. Having experienced rapid economic growth and sustained social development during the past two decades, population growth rates were now falling steeply. The country’s most immediate concern was the expansion of the job market through economic growth and diversification, while, at the same time, providing the large adolescent population with the right kind of training and skills. In addition, appropriate policy and adequate investments in the development of human capital was crucial for the country’s long-term sustainability. A spatial distribution of population across 200 islands scattered over 90,000 square kilometres of ocean presented major challenges to providing health-care services. Further, poor inter-island transport, environmental conditions and a lack of cultivable land on the islands made food security an issue.
He went on to say that recent studies revealed that malnutrition was a problem. Among children under the age of five, one in four was affected by stunting and 30 per cent were underweight. Overcoming that issue was a priority. Rapid economic growth had increased the developmental gap between urban and rural populations, increasing urbanization and congestion and thus creating disparities within the urban population. Generous contributions from development partners, both bilateral and multilateral, had been crucial in his nation’s achievements. The Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals had been inspirations, providing clear direction and the confidence to forge ahead with development ideals. Still, there were areas of priority that needed to be addressed: population congestion, over-crowded housing, youth unemployment, and increased use of drugs. Emphasis, he continued, would be given to enhancing the quality of education and health care, providing employment opportunities and establishing a social safety net for the elderly.
DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said population and reproductive health rights were among the most sensitive issues confronted at the United Nations, and they had fundamental and far-reaching public significance. Ten years after the Cairo Programme of Action, the facts remained grim. Implementation of reproductive health rights fell short in many parts of the world, while men and women continued to suffer or die in circumstances that were preventable. The HIV/AIDS pandemic continued to spread and was impacting human development in all regions, including New Zealand’s own, the Pacific. He called on States to eliminate all forms of discrimination in population policy decisions, and encouraged all donors to support the UNFPA’s work through the provision of adequate funding.
New Zealand was continuing to grapple with the complex issues of population and reproductive health. The country had seen an increase in unplanned pregnancies, abortion and sexually transmitted infections, with long-term consequences for health and fertility. The Government was responding by consulting closely with the community and implementing a sexual and reproductive health strategy. New Zealand placed a high priority on the right to sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, education for all, and general equality in its international development assistance programme. States should put aside politics and look at the facts of population and development. If the world was to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, he added, then Member States must also achieve the Cairo goals. Without one, the other could not be achieved.
PAK GIL YON (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that insufficient services for reproductive health, as well as poverty and a lack of financial resources, were major hindrances to addressing population issues. The economic stagnation caused by the negative effects of globalization, and all forms of conflicts and natural disasters, also affected developing countries. There should be concerted efforts among Member States to address population issues, and every country should display its firm political will, and reaffirm its commitment to the Cairo Conference and the Millennium Summit. Each country should also map out and implement a population policy and a national action plan for reproductive health, poverty, and economic development. It was essential to respect the sovereignty and right of development of other countries, and not to interfere in their affairs, as well as to end unreasonable sanctions.
His Government considered the implementation of the Programme of Action as important for the true development of the country and the well-being of its people. The Government had set forth the improvement of the people’s welfare as the supreme principle of the State’s activities, and had made efforts to promote the health of people and the growth of the population, despite the difficult situations presented by natural disasters. It had also instituted laws on gender equality, and had implemented free education and a medical system. The Government would make every possible effort to implement the Programme of Action, and would closely work with international organizations to promote the well-being of its people and to achieve the substantial development of the country.
MEYNARDO MONTEALEGRE (Philippines) said today was a day for celebration and reflection. The population policy of his nation had undergone a shift, when it was recognized that population policy should have an integrated approach. The Philippines Population Programme, established in 1993, focused on improving the quality of people’s life. It had registered milestones since then with the participation of civil society and other partners in creating and disseminating successful strategies. His nation had also experienced strong support from the legislative branch, which had led to policy changes. It believed in the ability of couples to decide on the size and timing of their families, in respecting the life of the unborn and the need to provide families with information on family planning.
Other legislative achievements included an anti-violence against women act, the Children’s Act, an anti-rape law and the declaration of family courts, he said. Other legislation passed addressed the delivery of health services, national insurance health, the strengthening of the role of women and indigenous people, and senior citizens. There had been active participation by non-governmental organizations and the private sector to mobilize support for reproductive health. In addition, there had been strides in education to educate people about population issues. Creative ways to disseminate the Government’s efforts nationwide had been adopted, and a campaign was in place to inform families about acceptable family planning methods. The Commission on Population, along with the UNFPA, had installed an indicator system to address reproductive health issues.
While there had been innovative approaches over the last decade, challenges remained. His nation was cognizant of its goals, and would pursue efforts to achieve them. He called for international support, which would go a long way, and asked that development partners provide the required ODA.
M. BASSAM AL SIBAI (Syria) said his country had undertaken many measures and programmes to support the principles and policies set out by the Cairo Conference. It had held, for example, its own national population conference. All development and socio-economic plans factored population into their strategies. As for improving the quality of life and eradicating poverty, more investments had been made to develop human resources and create employment programmes. Micro-enterprises had also been supported. Syria had also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 2002, and the participation of women in legislative and judicial bodies had been expanded.
Women, he continued were also now receiving reproductive health care, and there was close cooperation between Syria and the UNFPA. He cited the increase in school enrolment, the decrease in maternal mortality and the increase in life expectancy at birth as examples of positive advances in his country. He stressed, however, that there must be more efforts exerted in the field of population and development globally. He also added that high population growth in countries like his ate up economic growth and resources, which were already scarce and inadequate when it came to implementing projects on population and reproductive health.
FERMIN TORO JIMENEZ (Venezuela) said the Programme of Action set the course for international and national policies in the areas of sexual reproductive health, the development of the rights of women, and the achievement of a healthy, well balanced and productive population. He reiterated his country’s commitment to carry out policies and plans inspired by the guidelines in the Programme of Action. The country’s Constitution of 1999 fully incorporated the legal and political principles that concerned the population, economic growth and sustainable development, and was in keeping with the commitments made at the Cairo Conference. The Government was carrying out, with extrabudgetary resources, an offensive against poverty by implementing a set of programmes for education, health, labour, food, and the improvement of incomes.
Venezuela, as a result, had improved its life expectancy, among other things, he noted. According to the most recent indicators, 8 per cent of the population was now beginning to emerge from poverty. The Government had also enacted a law for the protection of children and adolescents, as well as a law pertaining to violence against women and the family. Venezuela had also created a national institution for women, which had a significant budget. It was necessary to enable States to have greater possibilities for economic and technical resources, and to encourage sustainable development. It was also necessary to mobilize human and financial resources to resolve special problems, and to stimulate new alliances and commitments in order to improve the quality of life of human beings and facilitate the full enjoyment of their rights.
RASTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia) said his country had initiated changes in its development policies, when necessary, including in programmes and institutional and organizational frameworks. It was also fully conscious of the need not to link population policies and programmes to demographic goals and targets, but rather to place population concerns at the heart of sustainable development. Malaysia’s current population programmes had been revised along thematic areas of concern in line with the Cairo outcome: population; family development and reproductive health, in the context of social equitability; poverty alleviation; and environmentally sound development. In line with the action programme, the integration of the economic, social, demographic and environmental dimensions of development had been further strengthened.
He said that measures had also been taken to promote sustainable consumption and production; protect the environment; manage the resource base; enhance human, institutional and infrastructure capacity; and improve the quality of life of the people. Highlighting Malaysia’s significant gains, he drew attention to, among others, poverty reduction, women’s advancement, the near universalization of primary education, and several initiatives to ensure the provision of family planning services under the broader package of reproductive health. The issue of HIV/AIDS was also being seriously addressed. Since the first AIDS case was reported in Malaysia in 1986, HIV/AIDS prevention and control programmes had been established, and a nationwide campaign was launched in 1991 to provide gender-sensitive education about sexuality, life skills and behaviour change. Free HIV testing and counselling were also available in all government hospitals and some health clinics. A programme on mother-to-child transmission had helped improve the chances of HIV positive mothers delivering healthy babies.
ALI HACHANI (Tunisia) said despite the accumulation of wealth, the world still offered the paradoxical image of people living in poverty, particularly in Africa. Progress since the ICPD had been unequal, in many cases, and inefficient. If that pace continued, many countries would not be able to implement the Cairo Platform of Action and, thus, would also fall short of the Millennium Development Goals.
Reproductive health, rapid urbanization, maternal mortality and poverty were just some of the pressing issues where efforts had to be increased, he said. The needs of the poor had to be met and progress in development by some developing countries should not be harmed. He called for an increase in ODA, for the establishment of a fair global trading system, and for the debt of poor countries to be corrected.
He said his country supported the principles of Cairo and believed that the ultimate goal was to promote the development of mankind. Today, the middle class in his country was 75 per cent of the population. There was greater attendance at school and more involvement by women in the work force. As a matter of fact, he said, Tunisian women had moved on from demanding their rights to being fully fledged partners in the issues of the day.
KODJO MENAN (Togo) said that despite difficulties of the least developed countries, his nation had made progress in the implementation of the Programme of Action. It had been the reference document to solve population problems, and to reduce poverty in all areas. There had been a positive impact, he said, beginning with the adoption of a national population policy in 1998, which had served as a guideline for his country’s actions since then. That policy said population factors had an impact on poverty, and on the spread of HIV/AIDS, yet it was in harmony with the Millennium Development Goals, in so far as guaranteeing the rights of the population to access health services for reproduction.
The well-being of children had an impact of the health of entire families, he said, and that inspired his Government to fight against infant and maternal mortality. The economic and social development of his nation had made it necessary to have contact with civil society, and there was an increasing role of non-governmental organizations for the people of Togo. The question of equity of the sexes and the exploitation of women was a major concern. His nation had implemented a law prohibiting female genital mutilation. Further, Togo had encouraged more involvement of women in decision-making of the States, and they were also more represented in government.
Despite his country’s difficult situation, its national policies included a reproductive health policy and a plan to struggle against AIDS. The enrolment of children in school was on the rise, he said, and there were fewer dropouts. He appealed to the international community for support in carrying out the outcomes of Cairo. Togo thanked the UNFPA for its support in its fight against poverty.
GUSTAVO DAJER (Colombia) said that Colombia’s commitment to the ICPD and the Programme of Action was not only unswerving, but also tangible in terms of its results. Those results showed considerable progress in the areas covered by the Conference. Colombia, ranked third in Latin America and the Caribbean in terms of magnitude and population, had made considerable progress in its demographic transition, and surpassed a considerable number of the thresholds set in Cairo.
He said that lowering fertility rates, better health services and the prevention of illnesses had helped decrease mortality in Colombia. Child mortality, furthermore, was considerably lower than the world average. He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the full implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action.
YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) noted that two major factors affected population and development in his country, during the last decade -- the transition period and armed conflict. The transition had led to increased internal and external migration, while the social and economic crisis that followed resulted in the decline of the quality of life and increased maternal and child mortality rates. Regarding the second factor, he said the occupation of a significant part of Azerbaijani territory had resulted in the emergence of nearly 1 million refugees and internally displaced persons. The policy of ethnic cleansing, pursued by Armenia against the Azerbaijani population, had further deteriorated the situation and dramatically affected population structure and distribution.
He said Azerbaijan attached particular importance to the regulation of migration processes and, to that end, continued to take measures intended to strengthen relevant national legislation, eliminate illegal migration, protect the rights of migrant workers and establish relevant institutional mechanisms. Another priority was promoting gender equality. Issues of women’s health and their access to, and use of, reproductive health services, education of women and girls, and elimination of violence against them remained major issues within the country’s equality policy. Despite progress, challenges remained with regard to improving the situation of rural women, strengthening women’s economic and social status, and promoting their increased participation in decision-making processes.
ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom) said reproductive health and choice helped families to escape poverty. Those families that were able to space the births of their children and plan the number of offspring they would have could invest more in their children, including basic necessities and education and, thus, improve the prospects for opportunity. Given the choice and the means, families often decided to have fewer children.
He noted that a rapidly growing population made it harder for governments to keep up the needed investments in health and education. So, reproductive health, in providing a choice, also had a role in bringing about universal primary education. Reproductive rights and health were also fundamental to gender equality and the empowerment of women. The ability of women to control their own fertility, to decide if and when to have children, and to be free from violence and abuse seemed obvious yet absolutely basic aspects of their empowerment.
If women were to fully take part in society, in markets, education and politics, they must have better access to sexual and reproductive health, as well as rights. There was more and more evidence to show how women able to make their own choices had more opportunities.
He said adolescent sexual health and rights needed special attention to stem the AIDS epidemic and decrease maternal death. Better information, sex education and sexual and reproductive health services must be made available to all. Reproductive health also provided a focus for a stronger global partnership for development, for example, through the kind of action needed to secure the supply and availability of reproductive health commodities.
While the United Kingdom unequivocally reaffirmed the ICPD, he stressed moving beyond reaffirmation and called for more action and resources. More must be done to remove the obstacles faced by the poor and the marginalized. Capacity needed to be strengthened in the health sector, and more money was needed. The international community had to do more, and that was why the United Kingdom had committed itself to reaching the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of annual gross national product (GNP) to be spent on ODA, and had set a deadline of 2013 to reach that figure. In addition, 1.5 billion pounds sterling had been made available to tackle HIV/AIDS over the next three years.
CARMEN MARÍA GALLARDO HERNÁNDEZ (El Salvador) reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the Cairo Programme of Action. The main objectives of the Conference remained valid, particularly those referring to the incorporation of population issues in all relevant national development programmes, and the involvement of local governmental entities, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and local communities in all action relating to the population sector.
Population growth, migration and urbanization were closely related to the phenomenon of poverty. Widespread poverty remained the main challenge to the goal of development, and the persistence of economic inequalities between countries, as well as the economic and social inequalities of women within countries, obstructed efforts to improve the living standards of millions. Poor women often had little possibilities of gaining access to services and were doomed to live in a vicious circle. The elimination of the social and economic discrimination of women was a prerequisite for the elimination of poverty.
She added that the subject of migration should be placed in a broad context, and should go beyond the administration of public policies, given its profound repercussions on the political, economic and social sectors in countries. El Salvador supported the high-level dialogue on migration, to be held in 2006, and invited all delegations to approach that event with an open mind and a flexible spirit.
NORMA TAYLOR ROBERTS (Jamaica) reaffirmed her country’s full support of the principles and goals set in Cairo 10 years ago. In each forum held this year in commemoration of the tenth anniversary, the single clear message was the continued relevance of the Cairo outcome, which had recognized that issues of population and development were central to the existence of any society. Consequently, the response to those issues would determine the quality of life of the world’s people and the sustainability of their economies. The 2004 UNFPA report had indicated that many developing countries had made great strides in putting the ICPD’s recommendations into action. It also highlighted the fact that inadequate resources was a main drawback in meeting challenges, such as the spread of HIV/AIDS, the unmet need for family planning and the high maternal mortality rate in the least developed countries.
She said that Jamaica had sought to translate the Cairo commitments into national policies and programmes. It had also recognized that achievement of the Millennium Goals was closely linked to implementation of the Cairo Programme. In honouring its commitments, her country had strengthened partnerships with civil society, non-governmental organizations and the private sector on legislative reform, policy formulation and programme implementation. That had been done with the valuable assistance provided by the UNFPA through its national and regional representatives. That partnership had played a significant role in such areas as: Jamaica’s formulation of an action plan on population and development, consistent with Cairo; the development and implementation of a national poverty eradication policy and programme of action; and national policies for youth and senior citizens. Now, Member States needed to focus on what further actions they could take. In Jamaica, significant resources would be required over the next 10 years to effectively translate its plans and programmes into reality.
P. GANSUKH (Mongolia) said the State of the World Population report this year indicated that significant achievements were being made in integrating population-related issues into development policies. Nevertheless, much remained to be done. Many nations were in crucial need of mobilizing human and financial resources, strengthening institutional capacities, implementing a wider exchange of information and technology, and forging genuine partnerships. Today’s challenges called on governments and the international community to mobilize political will and resources, to make the vision in Cairo a reality. An effective population policy was of particular importance to his nation, as it had a population over 2.7 million scattered over a vast territory.
He said Mongolia’s commitment to the principles of the Cairo Programme was embodied in a number of national action plans on reproductive health. His nation had successfully cooperated with the UNFPA in its first country programme in 1992; it had conducted the Reproductive Health Survey in 1998 and the Population and Housing Census in 2000. Last month, in cooperation with the United Nations country team lead, the first national report on the status of implementation of the Millennium Development Goals was officially launched, marking an important step in the ongoing efforts to assess achievement, challenges and opportunities for development.
MEHDI MIRAFZAL (Iran) said the provision of a long, healthy and dignified life for the entire population should be the most basic aim of every plan for socio-economic development. The Plan of Action had been designed not only to address a full range of population issues, but also to help social justice prevail in the less fortunate parts of the globe. The implementation of the ICPD had proven to be a complex and painstaking task in some critical areas. The third Five-Year Development Plan for Iran aimed to provide various developmental opportunities for all citizens, a balanced geographical distribution of population, better health and welfare for all people, and the promotion of the status and participation of women. Concerted advocacy efforts and the establishment of the best primary health system in the region had reduced fertility rates by more than half in the past decade. Moreover, Iran had exceeded the targets laid out at the 1994 ICPD.
The UNFPA had been closely involved in the development of Iran’s family planning through the enhancement of local and national ownership, he said. Funding available from the agency had been channelled towards testing innovative approaches, as well as to assisting in the systematic assessment of a limited number of reproductive health concerns that were of increasing importance to the population of his country. Renewing Iran’s commitment to the outcomes of Cairo, he expressed his gratitude to the UNFPA, which had played a critical role in helping to implement national policies in the area of sexual and reproductive health, and in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) said the Cairo Conference marked a turning point in the way people looked at population issues, as well as a new era of commitment and willingness on the part of governments to integrate population concerns into all aspects of development. Population and reproductive health issues were central to development and to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, particularly the eradication of hunger and poverty. Those issues must be addressed at the international and national levels. Ghana had revised its 1969 population policy in 1994 to reflect the Cairo agenda, to which the Government was firmly committed.
The Government, he continued, had forged strong partnerships with youth and non-governmental organizations, and intensified prevention programmes to reduce the spread of AIDS. Behavioural change, however, was still very slow, though the capacity to implement and monitor programmes had been strengthened. Within the context of health-sector reform, community volunteers and nurses were working at the community level to improve services and the quality of care. In addition, facilities in the country had been rehabilitated. There had been an appreciable decline in the infant mortality rate, but adequate financial resources were needed to fully implement programmes.
The Government’s allocation of resources had seen a modest increase, and it continued to mobilize external resources to complement its own efforts, he said. But the fact remained that a lot still needed to be done, as most developing countries were nowhere near the targets set at Cairo. Although resources had increased since 1994, they were not at the level required to implement the Cairo objectives. Individual governments, as well as the international community as a whole, must strengthen commitments on financial targets to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
NURY BAUZAN DE SENES (Uruguay) said growing poverty was worsening and was affecting women, adolescents and children. Coupled with migration, those were all factors that had deteriorated because of the grave economic crisis that had been taking place in her country since 2002. Uruguay, nevertheless, had made significant advances in the development of a programme that protected and promoted sexual and reproductive rights without any discrimination. Sex education was also available for adolescents to help them to be better informed and thus make responsible decisions. There were also laws on domestic and sexual violence, and labour, among others.
She said it was vital to fulfil commitments taken at national, regional and international levels. The annual contributions to the UNFPA had not matched the immediate contributions made following the 1994 Cairo Conference. The goal for 2005, if not met, would also not allow the objectives of the Cairo Conference to be met. Donor assistance was vital if the objectives of the Conference were to be met. Cairo’s momentum must be recaptured, she added.
ALFRED DUBE (Botswana) said the Plan of Action had become a blueprint to address the challenges of population. It was critical to recognize the importance of population and development as pillars of sustainable development, he said, and to answer questions on the programme. Its commitments had not been fulfilled; it was necessary to identify the constraints that led to that failure. He shared the disappointments of developing nations in facing challenges in the implementation of the commitments of Cairo. Developing nations were far behind. Africa was lagging even further behind and that situation was worsening. It was most afflicted by HIV/AIDS and poverty; child and mother mortality was on the rise, while life expectancy was in a decline. To many, the Action Programme had yet to be realized; resource allocation between the developing and developed nations would always result in skewed development, and that would continue to undermine achievements.
He said that, in the past 10 years, his nation had taken important steps, including the implementation of the national population policy in 1997, which constituted advancements in the areas of reproductive health, gender, data collection, HIV/AIDS, and resource development. A policy to help empower women had also been adopted, as had several laws which had been amended to give women more protection. Youth were important to development, he said, pointing to his nation’s national youth policy, which dealt with unemployment, poverty, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse and crime. HIV/AIDS posed a major threat to survival, and his nation was one of the most affected in sub-Saharan Africa.
Botswana had implemented an aggressive policy in that area, but in spite of achievements, there were challenges, mostly arising because of HIV/AIDS, which was a major impediment to development. Likewise, poverty was a challenge, and in 2001, approximately 37 per cent of his people were living with poverty.
MARISOL NIETO (Ecuador) said that, in her country, there was now increased life expectancy and significant decreases in child and overall mortality, as well as illiteracy. During Ecuador’s crisis years, poverty and unemployment rose drastically and many Ecuadorians left for more inspiring horizons. Latin America and the Caribbean had the most stirring inequalities, and Ecuador was no exception. Foreign debt and its repayment were depriving populations of development benefits. There was also a need for appropriate financing, and the international community must be made aware that it was essential for resources to be made available to poorer countries. Her Government was convinced that it would have the support of the UNFPA to help it fulfil the objectives of the 1994 Cairo Conference.
CÉSAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said the commemoration of the 1994 Conference provided an opportunity to draw a balance sheet of the efforts made in that regard, and to reaffirm the commitments undertaken in Cairo. The great crisis that affected Argentina at the end of 2001 gave further impetus to pursue policies for the development and economic growth of the country, and for the creation of new jobs. The social policy of Argentina was based on a network that had the Argentine individual and family at its core, and it incorporated the provinces, municipalities, civil society organizations, and the private sector. That ensured a concrete response to needs, and made it possible to produce sustainable projects. There existed three national plans in Argentina, one for food and security, one for local development and social economy, and one for the family. All three were targeted towards vulnerable men and women.
In Argentina, he continued, the right to education was guaranteed to all citizens without any discrimination based on gender. In October 2002, the country had adopted a law on sexual health and responsible parenthood and, in March 2003, a national programme was formulated. Both instruments were milestones and showed a clear commitment to population and women, in general, and formed an integral part of the promotion of human rights. Argentina would also be ensuring equal access to immigrants and their families. He hoped today’s commemoration would be a reaffirmation of the international community’s commitment to continue to work on the unresolved challenges of poverty and lack of development.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark) said the implementation of the Cairo commitments was a high priority for her Government. Since the adoption of the Programme of Action, important achievements had taken place in improving reproductive health in many nations. However, other countries had witnessed no progress, or even setbacks. It was necessary to focus on adolescents, as it was not possible to lose that enormous human potential for development. Likewise, special attention needed to be paid to HIV/AIDS because of its debilitating impact on poverty eradication. She called for political leadership, which included setting aside increased financial and human resources.
Within the Danish development assistance programme, the areas of health, especially reproductive health and HIV/AIDS, had been considerably strengthened recently, both bilaterally, through new health sector programmes, and multilaterally, through increased contributions. She stated that respect for sexual and reproductive health and rights, and adequate reproductive health care and services, were indispensable elements in the fight against poverty.
GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana) said he was encouraged by the progress made worldwide in reducing infant mortality, promoting gender equality and women’s rights, and securing universal access to education, particularly for girls. At the national level, Guyana had made unremitting efforts to improve the quality of life for all its people by increasing investments in education, health care, housing and the provision of basic social services. It had taken definitive steps to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, including with the creation of a Domestic Violence Act in 1996, which provided a legal framework of rights and protections against violence and exploitation. Notwithstanding those and other achievements, many challenges remained, both at global and national levels. For example, he said that HIV/AIDS continued to exact an astronomical human toll on many countries and societies, and, regrettably, Guyana had not been spared the ravages of the pandemic.
Particularly disturbing was the prevalence rate among Guyanese youth –- the majority of the country’s future workforce and leaders. The Government was determined to overcome the threats posed by the virus and was grateful for the support that had been given by friendly governments, the United Nations system and the wider international community. The Government had targeted education and awareness-raising as part of its integrated approach to prevention, treatment and care, coupled with efforts to eliminate stigmatization and discrimination against people living with the disease. It was also time to acknowledge that women worldwide still did not enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms, and were, thus, deprived of the opportunity to contribute to their own development and the development of their communities. His Government remained committed to overcoming those challenges, as well as reducing infant and maternal mortality.
OCTAVIO MOJARO DÁVILA, Minister and Director General of Population Programmes and International Affairs of Mexico, said the challenges outlined by the ICPD had been met jointly by his Government and Mexican society. That cooperation was beneficial to both sides. The national focus was to broaden the capacity of the Mexican people, improve reproductive health and eliminate gender inequality and poverty. Ninety-six per cent of the female population now had access to pregnancy care. Committed to Mexican women, his Government had implemented a national programme and created a national institute that promoted their advancement.
He said greater equity had been achieved in women’s access to employment and legal recourse to claim their rights. The Government was committed to confronting profound challenges and overcoming social inequalities that threatened Mexican men and women. There was now education, food and health support to offset the poverty of 4.2 million families. The problems of adolescents and young people also received special focus. A grant programme had benefited 4.6 million students, so that they did not have to leave school for financial reasons. The emergence of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, required a redoubling of efforts by the Government to address that issue. While, 10 years after the ICPD, there were achievements to be celebrated, not all goals had been met. South-South cooperation had to be strengthened as one means of countering the negative effects of globalization.
ARMEN MARTIROSYAN (Armenia) said that, at the time of the Cairo Conference, his nation was undergoing a significant political transformation, which entailed a major economic crisis and resulted in an increase in poverty, demographic decline and migration. He expressed pride that, due to political and economic reforms, his nation had been able to reverse those trends and register progress, including in the areas of the Programme of Action.
Armenia, he said, enjoyed an almost universal literacy rate, with no gender disparity among students. To promote the empowerment of women, the national machinery on the advancement of women was established in 2002. But the true empowerment of women was impossible without enabling them to make informed decisions on reproductive health and family planning issues. The National Reproductive Health Programme was developed as early as 1995, consisting of family planning and antenatal services, as well as reproductive health education for young people.
The low level of HIV/AIDS had provided an opportunity for early targeted intervention to prevent the further spread of the disease, he said. To that end, the National Strategic Programme to combat the disease was launched in 2002 in cooperation with the United Nations country team. Problems with refugees and internally displaced persons required particular attention, as did the issue of migration. He added that the concept of the State regulation of migration was adopted in 2000. Lastly, he said poverty eradication was a key solution to many socio-economic problems, and was among the major priorities of his nation.
HAMAD HAREB AL-HABSI (United Arab Emirates) said that the objectives of the Cairo Conference had often not been met as expected, and that was particularly so in the developing countries. Those countries had to deal with armed conflicts, poverty, diseases and illiteracy, and lacked basic housing, health care and social security. The continuation of those discouraging situations reflected the failure implement the Cairo goals. That was especially true regarding resources allocated to developing countries, which required the political will of developed and donor countries to allocate 0.7 per cent of their GNP.
The United Arab Emirates had put population issues at the top of its priorities, and had promulgated the appropriate legislation and allocated appropriate funds to ensure care for its citizens. The State had adopted policies aimed at achieving justice and social security for its citizens, and a comprehensive health strategy had been implemented with the World Health Organization (WHO). That had contributed to decreasing mortality rates, especially among women and children. The country also provided free and general higher education to its citizens, including programmes for literacy and adult education, which he said had resulted in a great qualitative change. He added that he was concerned about the low economic production and the high debt burden that still impeded the efforts of many developing countries.
DENISE VARGAS DE ACOSTA (Honduras) said her country today reaffirmed its commitment to the Cairo Consensus of 1994. In close consultation with civil society, her Government had created a legal and institutional framework that reflected development priorities, while fully respecting the various religions, ethnicities and cultures of Honduran society, and was also compatible with international human rights instruments. Through that joint framework, the Government aimed to improve the lives of Honduran men, women, girls and boys.
She said there was also a poverty reduction strategy, and priority was given to reducing infant and maternal mortality, gender inequity and HIV/AIDS. There were necessary alliances that had to be created to achieve the Cairo objectives, she added.
WANALEE LOMPECHRA (Thailand) said her country attached great importance to the implementation of the Action Programme. According to Thailand’s first report on its implementation of the Millennium Goals, launched in June, poverty in the country had already been reduced by two thirds since 1990. The number of underweight children had fallen by nearly half, and malaria was no longer a problem in most parts of the country. Since 1991, the peak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, new HIV infections had declined yearly by more than 80 per cent. Gender disparities in primary and secondary education had been eliminated, and universal access to primary school education would likely be achieved within a few years. Progress was also being made to reach child and maternal health targets.
Focusing on HIV/AIDS, she said the number of new infections had fallen dramatically, but the pandemic still posed a major threat to the country. In that regard, Thailand needed to shift its HIV prevention efforts and focus more attention on the vulnerability of young people. Simultaneously, effective prevention should also target other vulnerable groups, such as mobile workers, men who had sex with men, and intravenous drug users. Her country had hosted the fifteenth International AIDS Conference and the Second Asia-Pacific Ministerial Meeting on HIV/AIDS, which had contributed to strengthening international cooperation through strong and renewed political commitment and leadership.
Thailand’s development gains, she added, were attributable to several factors, including democratic governance and rapid economic expansion. Extensive rural development programmes had also been undertaken resulting in reducing poverty, improving nutrition and meeting the basic human needs of the Thai people. Thailand was now in a unique position to contribute to the global partnership for development.
LE LUONG MINH (Viet Nam) echoed the words of the UNFPA Chief that everyone must be realistic: while some encouraging advances had been made during the past decade, key challenges remained towards the full achievement of the goals set at Cairo. A closer look at the situation in many smaller countries proved that such progress had been erratic. Many developing countries, especially those in Africa, continued to face serious difficulties and challenges in implementing national population and development programmes, most commonly because of a lack of funds. Against that backdrop, they were also faced with the continuing ravages of AIDS, which had also endangered African and many other developing countries’ efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger.
Viet Nam joined others in expressing concern that the $17 billion needed to meet population and development objectives had not been reached, and that the overall goal of $18.5 billion might also be in danger. He hoped that the current meeting would reinvigorate efforts to ensure the provision of 0.7 per cent of GNP for ODA, which would help developing countries overcome a major obstacle in implementing the Cairo Programme of Action. His own country had undertaken its population activities within the overall framework of its 10-year Socio-Economic Development Strategy. The Cairo Agenda complemented that Strategy, and the Government was coordinating relevant activities with the UNFPA, within the framework of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). Indeed, Viet Nam’s population activities had been recognized as among the world’s most successful and it had received the United Nations Population Award in 1999.
ARJUN BAHADUR THAPA (Nepal) said educated, healthy and skilled human resources, along with small families, constituted the bedrock to sustainable development. Nepal had undertaken various measures to implement the commitments made in Cairo, including the adoption of a national population policy to reduce the population growth rate and regulate migration. In addition, Nepal had focused on increasing income generating activities, and improving women’s status and easy access to basic education and reproductive health and family planning services. Some success had been achieved in lowering the population growth rate, the maternal and infant mortality rates, and the total fertility rate. Likewise, the contraception prevalence, life expectancy and literacy rates had all increased. Nepal hoped to bring down the total fertility rate to the replacement level in 20 years by ensuring quality family planning and maternal and child health services, as well as promoting two-child families.
Some 38 million people were living with HIV/AIDS, and every year about 5 million new infections occurred around the world, he said. Many in Nepal had been affected by that disease. The global community would have to redouble its efforts and seek new patterns of partnerships for better synergy. Nepal supported efforts towards reducing HIV prevalence among young people, and expanding their access to information and services for preventing infection. He urged the international community to take serious measures to increase access to anti-retroviral therapy for people suffering from HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases in developing nations. Active partnerships between governments and civil society had been one of the contributors to progress made so far, he said, adding that there was, however, no room for complacency.
MAURICIO SOLÓRZANO (Nicaragua) said significant strides in the framework of population development policies and norms had been made. Progress towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals required a profound commitment to reach better levels of development, quality of life, health care, education and opportunities. Nicaragua endorsed the Cairo Programme of Action, and recognized it as a valuable tool to fight poverty.
He reaffirmed his country’s respect for the right to life beginning at conception. His Government accepted the concepts of reproductive rights and health and considered that abortion was not a component of such rights. He also reiterated a commitment to continue to support the UNFPA in its work because he recognized the significant services provided to countries that demanded its help in the fields of population and development. Much remained to be done, however, given the high demographic growth in his country, but he was fully confident that Nicaragua would receive the necessary cooperation.
FESSEHA TESFU (Ethiopia) said the international community should use the occasion of the commemoration of the tenth anniversary to analyse how countries were discharging their responsibilities in the implementation of the Programme of Action, with a view to transforming the lives of their people. It was evident that many countries could fall short of achieving the agreed goals and commitments, and that shortfall was more acute in the poor and developing countries.
Cognizant of the effects that population pressure exerted on the country’s economic development, Ethiopia adopted a National Population Policy in 1993, and periodic reviews had been conducted every year since then to assess the implementation process and facilitate exchange of experiences at the national level. International development partnership was important to successfully implement the Cairo Programme. Although its successful implementation needed the political commitment of each country, the support of developed countries was particularly important in complimenting the efforts of developing ones. Furthermore, developing countries needed to assist each other in that field by exchanging experiences at the regional level, in the spirit of South-South cooperation.
GEORGE TSERETELI, Head of the Committee on Health and Social Affairs of the Parliament of Georgia, said that the Cairo Conference had been especially important for the former Soviet countries, which were guided by the ICPD principles as they embarked on independence and development. For Georgia, the Cairo targets were highlighted in all national development instruments. Clearly, eradication of extreme poverty and hunger could not happen without addressing questions of population and reproductive health. To implement the Cairo Programme of Action, Georgia was taking steps to reduce poverty and reach the Millennium Goals. Donor assistance and UNFPA programmes were playing a crucial role in that process. As a result of contraceptive supply by the UNFPA in the past decade, the abortion rate decreased by 50 per cent, accompanied by reduced maternal mortality and morbidity rates.
He said that the improvement of reproductive health had not only had medical implications, but also social and political ones in a country experiencing a complicated demographic situation. While Georgia had made some gains in implementing the action programme, challenges remained. New developmental challenges emerged following the so-called Georgian Rose Revolution. Now, the new Government’s priorities were poverty reduction, capacity-building and the formation of a democratic society. The Government, in cooperation with the UNFPA, was preparing the new country programme (2006-2010), which would reflect all priorities with respect to the Cairo goals and the Millennium Goals. He stressed the need for additional resources to ensure achievement of the Cairo goals, bearing in mind that countries in transition required more financial resources to overcome hardships and meet those goals.
RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS (Panama) said his Government maintained its firm commitment to the principles of the 1994 Cairo Programme of Action, as well as the agreement that came out of the “Cairo plus Five” conference in 1999. That commitment applied in particular to the policies on population and development, gender equality and the empowerment of women. The Cairo Programme of Action was an invaluable guide to establish priority projects in the public interest.
His Government was now implementing programmes for reproductive and sexual health, as well as to address the needs of men, women and children. It was also endeavouring to reduce maternal mortality in indigenous areas, and providing all women with maternal care for childbirth and family planning so they could decide the size of their family. There were also broad health programmes to address pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. He appealed to donors to increase their contributions to the UNFPA to enable it to carry out its necessary functions.
Archbishop CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer for the Holy See, said that one of Cairo’s important milestones had been establishing a link between migration and development, which ever since had prompted increased sensitivity, research and cooperation in that field. Indeed, migration was now recognized as a major challenge for all, associated with development and poverty, as well as to financial health and security. In particular, migrants were now seen as proactive agents for development. Still, States must now focus on creating jobs where people lived. Political will and firm determination were needed on the part of governments and civil society to foster a proper cultural, social and juridical environment capable of overcoming the persistent discrimination, violence, trafficking and xenophobia migrant populations often faced. The rapid decreases in world population, that had been forecast some 10 years ago, had indeed taken hold, and were, in fact, emerging as real problems for many industrialized nations.
The Holy See continued to follow such matters closely, while encouraging accurate and objective assessments of population issues, as well as global solidarity regarding development strategies, especially as they affected developing nations. He was concerned that proper attention was not always given to the comprehensive set of principles, including ethical ones, essential to determining the right response to the demographic, sociological and public policy analysis of population trends. Population policies must simultaneously consider actual and projected human development, he said, adding that they should also promote a responsible kind of personal liberty, instead of one narrowly defined. From that followed the need to safeguard the family, and to give husbands and wives the liberty to decide the number of children they would have and the spacing of births. He added that governments and, above all, parents must not abdicate their responsibility to lead young people to a deeper understanding of their own dignity and potential.
JYOTI SHANKAR SINGH, Observer for Partners in Population and Development, said that, in the past 10 years, the broad concept of reproductive health had been incorporated by an increasing number of governments in their primary health-care management, delivery and outreach programmes. More than 120 million couples, however, still lacked access to reproductive health commodities and services. HIV/AIDS raged now as a pandemic, and although nearly $5 billion was being provided annually for its prevention and treatment, that amount was less than half of what was needed. Also, in many countries, ensuring that commodities and services were delivered to all those who needed them most had not always been effective.
Though gains had been made in reducing infant and child mortality, he continued, maternal mortality, in global terms, sadly remained at the same level as it was 10 years ago, and in war-ravaged countries, that situation had worsened. Also, the goal of education for all girls had not yet been fully achieved. While progress had been made towards reducing the incidence of female genital mutilation and more public attention was being given to domestic violence against women, women’s empowerment had remained a distant goal in many areas of economic and social development. On this tenth anniversary, the world needed to rededicate itself to the earliest possible achievement of the goals and objectives of the Cairo Programme of Action, and to find ways and means to resolve the difficulties encountered thus far.
He said the international forum on population and development, organized by his organization in China in September, had produced a declaration emphasizing participants’ strong commitment to the Cairo Programme as strategic directions for attaining the Millennium Goals. It called on the international community, particularly the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and the international financial institutions, to place population and reproductive health issues high on the international agenda. It further called on governments and international agencies to take all possible steps to more fully integrate sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS programmes.
LUCA DALL’OGLIO, Observer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), drew the Assembly’s attention to the migration-oriented directives agreed at Cairo, including, among others, the rights of migrants and their integration into host countries, the development of orderly migrant programmes, prevention of trafficking in migrants, and better protection for refugees and internally displaced persons. Much progress had been made since Cairo to translate that agenda into action in what had become “an extremely dynamic migration environment”, he said. Indeed, during the past decade, the number of migrants worldwide had increased by some 50 million, with annual remittances to their home countries totalling more than $100 billion. With the already complex, multidimensional patterns of human mobility changing so rapidly, the traditional divide between sending and receiving countries had increasingly blurred.
New social and institutional actors had emerged, he continued, adding fresh perspectives and original viewpoints, and a more visible and articulate diaspora was emerging, voicing their concerns in their new homelands, and, at times, even challenging the status quo in both their host countries and their countries of origin. Against that complex backdrop, it had become clear that relevant policy initiatives should aim to channel migration along safe, humane, socially cohesive and productive paths, which would benefit the individuals and societies. One of the significant advances since Cairo had been the development of regional consultative frameworks to discuss migration issues in a cooperative manner on every continent. Admittedly, for many countries, migration presented a new administrative quandary. Local systems to track, process and ease inward and outward movements of people and facilitate their residence and integration were still weak in many countries. And for the millions living in fear of public institutions because of their undocumented status, social marginalization, segregation and alienation had become a fact of life. So, the development of national capacities to manage migratory flows remained as relevant and pressing as ever, he said.
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