|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by United Nations Population Fund
to Launch 2012 World Population Report
Emphasizing that access to voluntary family planning was a human right, Richard Kollodge, editor of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report, told journalists today that increased financial support and political commitments were crucial in order to reap both the economic benefits and positive multiplier effect on development that resulted from providing such health services.
Speaking at a Headquarters press conference, where he launched The State of World Population 2012 report, Mr. Kollodge underscored that “Family planning is one of the most critically important investments that we can make in health, in women’s rights and in the life trajectories of young people.” According to UNFPA, if additional investments in family planning were instituted, developing countries would reduce their maternal and newborn healthcare costs by $11.3 billion each year.
Despite resolutions and conventions, he pointed out that the right to family planning had remained out of reach for a staggering 222 million women in developing countries. In addition, the lack of family planning had perpetuated poverty and gender inequality. However, when access to family planning was made available, the ensuing results unlocked unprecedented rewards at both the individual and national levels, contributing to economic and other spheres of development.
Without dramatic increases in financial and political support from donors and developing countries themselves, the right to family planning could not be realized, Mr. Kollodge said. In July of this year, UNFPA and others had joined forces to mobilize an unprecedented $2.6 billion to make voluntary family planning services available to an additional 120 million women in developing countries by 2020. Further, despite severe resource constraints, developing countries had pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to increase access to quality family planning services.
Although the massive funding effort was a positive step forward, much more remained to be done, he stressed, adding that the economic, social and other barriers that had prevented hundreds of millions of women, young people and men from accessing information and services must be torn down. Youths needed access to life skills training and age-appropriate sexuality education, and laws that protected women’s rights needed to be created and enforced. “Making sure that every individual has the power and means to decide when and whether to have children is no small undertaking, but it is achievable and essential,” he stated.
Shareen Joshi, one of the report’s authors, said that several decades of academic research had consistently shown that couples who had children by choice and not by chance had experienced a wide range of rewards, which benefited not just the women, their children and their families, but entire communities and nations. Family planning had allowed women to space out their pregnancies, eliminate risky births, have healthier gestations periods, fewer pregnancy-related complications and, ultimately, healthier children.
She also noted that increases in life expectancy and a decline in maternal and infant and child mortality had allowed women and children to gain more schooling, participate more in the labour force, and be more productive in their jobs. This consequently led to improved incomes, higher levels of consumption, more assets and greater voices at home and in their communities.
A culmination of those factors, she pointed out, had resulted in improved prospects for economic growth for entire communities and countries. The underserved populations, such as adolescents and poor men and women in rural areas, among others, had the most to gain from greater access to family planning. Improved access was a step toward broader economic development.
Asked how UNFPA would guarantee Governments’ ability to provide access to family planning, Mr. Kollodge said that 179 countries had agreed on prioritizing family planning and the individual’s right to decide freely and responsibly when and whether to have children. While there was a funding shortfall, organizations like UNFPA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had mobilized resources together in order to make family planning available to those who want it.
Responding to a question about population control creating trends in some countries’ ageing populations, he said family planning was not just about contraception, but also about helping people decide how many children they wanted to have. Governments were dealing with that trend in their own ways. Some Nordic countries had instituted family-friendly policies to make it easier for people who wanted to have children to do so. Finland, in particular, had liberal family leave and extended maternity leave policies, among others. Every country was addressing the situation differently, he said, but the report’s focus was on enabling people to exercise the right to decide how many children they wanted to have.
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