Speakers Call for Greater Global Efforts in Implementing Goals of 1994 Conference on Population and Development, as General Assembly Reviews Progress

22 September 2014
GA/11556

Speakers Call for Greater Global Efforts in Implementing Goals of 1994 Conference on Population and Development, as General Assembly Reviews Progress

22 September 2014
General Assembly
GA/11556
 
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

General Assembly

Twenty-Ninth Special Session

1st Meeting (PM)

 

Speakers Call for Greater Global Efforts in Implementing Goals of 1994 Conference

 

on Population and Development, as General Assembly Reviews Progress

 

 

Despite remarkable strides in women’s rights and empowerment worldwide in the last two decades, greater global efforts were needed to ensure full gender equality, human dignity, sustainable growth and the future of the planet, senior United Nations officials told the General Assembly today.

 

"As we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Cairo Conference and look ahead to the future, we cannot afford to short-change development," said Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, as he opened the Assembly’s special session to review progress in implementing the goals set forth during the landmark 1994 International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo.

 

Some 800 women still died each day from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and an estimated 8.7 million young women in developing countries resorted to unsafe abortions every year, he said.  Millions of people, particularly in the world’s poorest countries, still suffered from poverty, hunger, unemployment, low life expectancy and scant access to health care and education.

 

With the Cairo Programme of Action as its guide, the international community must confront challenges caused by rising inequality, urbanization, migration, population ageing and the largest generation of young people in history, as well as hammer out an ambitious post-2015 development path and a meaningful climate change agreement before the end of next year.  "As we advance on all these fronts, we have to remember the vision of Cairo, especially the priority it placed on reproductive health," he said.

 

Echoing those concerns, Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), noted that access to good health care and reproductive rights remained elusive for many women and that not a single country had achieved full gender equality.  Young girls were still forced to marry men six times their age and were subjected to sexual violence during time of conflict.  "We cannot advance by leaving half of the population — our women and girls — behind," he said.

 

Moreover, there could be no talk of sustainable development without adequate investment in the health, education and employment of youth, he emphasized, adding that investment in universal public services was among the most effective just actions Governments could take to create a foundation for equality and resource efficiency.

 

Sam Kutesa ( Uganda), General Assembly President, said the 20-year review of the Cairo action plan revealed that poverty, discrimination, and income and wealth inequality threatened economic growth and the well-being of individuals, societies and the planet.  Those challenges should be addressed in the post-2015 development agenda, while the impact of population dynamics must be better integrated into national, regional and international strategies.  A coordinated, systematic response was needed, an aim which he intended to promote during the Assembly’s sixty-ninth session.

 

Senior Government officials from 90 countries participated in the session.  Overall, they agreed that population concerns must be at the core of the post-2015 development agenda and cited the need for universal access to basic services such as health care and education.  They shed light on their respective national trends in maternal and infant mortality, fertility, contraceptive use, ageing and HIV/AIDS prevalence, as well as programmes for family planning and sex education, among other areas.  Several speakers voiced strong support for sexual and reproductive rights, and representatives from developing countries appealed for reliable financial and technical aid to implement their respective sustainable development agendas.

 

At the outset of the meeting, the Assembly took note of the text concerning the scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations, which concerned Article 19 of the Charter (document A/S-29/2).  It unanimously elected Mr. Kutesa as the President of its twenty-ninth special session, and the Vice Presidents and Chairpersons of its Main Committees of its sixty-ninth regular session to serve in the same capacity during the special session.  The Assembly also adopted its provisional agenda (document A/S-29/1).

 

The Assembly also took note of the Secretary-General’s reports on the subject and the report of the Commission on Population and Development on its forty-seventh session, as well as approved the report of the Credentials Committee on the Assembly’s twenty-ninth special session.

 

Speaking today were the Heads and Deputy Heads of State and Government of Bolivia (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Uganda, Chile, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Georgia, Togo, Panama, Swaziland, Finland, Tuvalu, Burundi, Ghana, Honduras, Serbia, Republic of Moldova, Trinidad and Tobago and Palau.

 

Also participating in the session were ministers, senior Government officials and representatives of Chad, Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Mauritania, Nepal, Mozambique, Netherlands, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Denmark, Azerbaijan, European Union, France, Luxembourg, Cuba, Germany, Guinea, Jamaica, Iceland, Djibouti, Australia, Mongolia, Viet Nam, Barbados, China, Pakistan, Uruguay, Estonia, Guyana, Malaysia, Dominican Republic, Canada, Maldives, Sweden, Ecuador, Suriname, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Botswana, Costa Rica, Belgium, Mexico, Tunisia, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Niger, El Salvador, South Africa, Ethiopia, Zambia, United Republic of Tanzania, Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea-Bissau, Venezuela, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Marshall Islands, Benin, Egypt, Poland, Italy, Peru, Switzerland, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic, Namibia, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Belarus, Kenya and the Republic of the Congo.

 

Also speaking were representatives of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Red de Salud de Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe, Actions Health Incorporated, Asia Pacific Resource Centre for Women and the Global Youth Action Network.

 

Background

 

As the General Assembly began its twenty-ninth special session, "Follow-up to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development: beyond 2014", it had before it three related notes by the Secretariat:  the first (document A/S-29/3) transmitting the report of the Secretary-General on the framework of such follow-up activities (document A/69/62); the second (document A/S-29/4) transmitting the report of the Secretary-General on recurrent themes and key elements identified during the sessions of the Commission on Population and Development(document A/69/122); and the third (document A/S-29/5) transmitting the report of the Commission on Population and Development on its forty-seventh session (E/2014/25-E/CN.9/2014/7).

 

Statements

 

SAM KUTESA (Uganda), President of the General Assembly, noted that 20 years ago, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo had affirmed that "population is not about numbers; it is about people".  A consensus had been reached then on a Programme of Action to transform the quality of life for all, to expand human choices, and to achieve economic growth and sustainable development.  "Today, we recall and reaffirm the historic goals and objectives of the 1994 Cairo Conference to better prepare for the future we want," he stated.

 

Celebrating the considerable progress made, as shown by the 20-year review of the Programme of Action, he acknowledged the leadership provided by Governments, as well as the contribution by civil society, including religious communities, youth groups and women's organizations, among others.  He also recognized the decisions of parents to educate their children, especially girls, and thanked the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for its support of national efforts to implement the Cairo agenda.

 

Still, he continued, much remained to be done, stressing that it was essential to urgently address the review’s findings, which shows that, despite significant gains in poverty reduction and economic growth, many people had been left behind.  Poverty, discrimination, income and wealth inequality threatened economic growth and the well-being of individuals, societies and the planet.  Those challenges should be addressed in the post-2015 development agenda.

 

The review concluded that investing in individual human rights, capabilities and dignity across sectors and throughout life was the foundation of sustainable development, and had significant implications for development policy, he said.  The impact of population dynamics must be better integrated into development planning at the national, regional and international levels.

 

A coordinated, systematic response was needed, an aim which he intended to promote during the sixty-ninth General Assembly, he said.  It was critical to build upon lessons learned and to maintain the momentum.  Together with the Millennium Development Goals, the ICPD agenda had helped pave the way for the post-2015 development agenda and the achievement of sustainable development.  He called for a commitment to stronger action, guided by the “Beyond 2014” review, to fully implement the Cairo Programme of Action.

 

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the Cairo Programme of Action agreed to 20 years ago at the ICPD had made a meaningful difference in people's lives, citing cases in which a Niger girl, who had been forced to marry an older man, then became an advocate in ending child marriage; a South Sudanese woman, after giving birth in a displacement camp, going on to learn life-saving skills needed for pregnancy-related complications; and a Philippine mother who had recognized her right to choose how many children she wanted.

 

However, millions of people were still suffering from hunger and poverty and dying from preventable causes, he pointed out.  They could not meet their basic needs, find meaningful work, access health and education services, or enjoy their basic rights.  Since 1994, there had been only limited improvements in the lives of an estimated 1 billion people living in the poorest countries.  Their life expectancies continued to be unacceptably low.  "As we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Cairo Conference and look ahead to future, we cannot afford to short-change development," he said.

 

It was for those reasons, he stated, that the international community was bolstering efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline, as well as defining a bold, ambitious post-2015 development agenda that was inclusive and sustainable, and working to deliver a meaningful climate change agreement before the end of next year.  Tomorrow's Climate Summit should generate strong political will with bold announcements.  "As we advance on all these fronts, we have to remember the vision of Cairo, especially the priority it placed on reproductive health," he said.

 

The international community must confront the fact that some 800 women still died each day from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and an estimated 8.7 million young women in developing countries resorted to unsafe abortions every year, he stressed.  They urgently needed protection.  The international community must also be guided by the Cairo action plan as it confronted major demographic trends, including urbanization, migration, population ageing and the largest generation of young people in history.  "We must renew our pledge to protect people — especially women and girls — as we strive to eradicate poverty, protect the rights and dignity of all people and secure the future of our planet for generations to come," he said.

 

BABATUNDE OSOTIMEHIN, Executive Director of UNFPA, said that, in 1992, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the world had rallied around that concept.  Two years later, in Cairo, the principle was defined in real terms, shifting the focus from real numbers to real life, by recognizing that human rights and human dignity for all was crucial to achieving sustainable development.  Advances made by women over the last 20 years, for example, showed how powerful human rights and dignity could be.

 

However, observing that the world was becoming more unequal, he stressed that "until we can deliver for all people equitably", sustainable development could not be achieved.  The Assembly had adopted numerous resolutions on the importance of access to good health care for all, but for many, reproductive rights were not available.  That included the 10-year-old girl forced to marry a 62-year-old man and forced to bear his children before she was psychologically or physically prepared, or the many women and girls subjected to sexual violence during time of conflict.

 

Although progress had been made, he noted, not a single country in the world had realized full gender equality.  Only by addressing gender equality would the world be able to build the future it wanted.  "We cannot advance by leaving half of the population — our women and girls — behind," he said.

 

With the world seeing its largest generation of young people, he said there could be no talk of sustainable development without adequate investment in their health, education and employment.  Young people needed to be equipped with skills, agency and resilience.  “You hold the future of the world’s young people in your hands.  Invest in them because they hold the world’s future in theirs,” he said.

 

Sustainability was about meeting the needs and aspirations of today’s population while planning and making policy for tomorrow’s population.  There was no greater challenge today than climate change.  Investing in universal public services was one of the most effective and just actions Governments could take to create a foundation for equality and resource efficiency.

 

It was not possible to talk about sustainable development without ensuring the needs of young people were met, without addressing women’s empowerment, and without ensuring that all had access to sexual and reproductive rights, he emphasized.  Those issues must be at the core of sustainable development.  That was the only answer to the challenges of sustainable development.

 

EVO MORALES AYMA, President of Bolivia, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said it was critical to support developing countries' efforts to eradicate poverty and inequality.  There had been unevenness in gaps in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the vast socioeconomic challenges of developing countries.  Developed countries should fulfil their official development assistance (ODA) pledges and give developing countries new, sustainable financial resources to implement their respective development agendas.  Development strategies should be tailored to the individual needs of each country, with North-South cooperation at its core, and South-South and triangular cooperation as a complement.  The Assembly's agreement in early September to negotiate and adopt a multilateral legal framework for sovereign debt restructuring processes to improve the global financial system had given developing countries hope.

 

Population issues must be addressed comprehensively and be at the core of the post-2015 development agenda, he said.  Maternal mortality had declined in some regions in developing countries, but increased in others.  HIV prevalence had almost doubled since 2001 in least developed countries; two-thirds of those living with that virus were women.  He recalled the target to eliminate all harmful practices against all women and girls, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation.  Everyone should have access to basic medical services, as well as affordable and safe medicine.  A universal, quality health-care system was vital.  He called on developed countries and international financial institutions to provide adequate financial resources and technology to developing countries to enable the latter to provide basic health services for all their citizens.  Such funding should also include a cultural and human perspective, geared towards protecting the rights of migrants and their families.  The Group of 77 was exploring a possible legally binding convention on labour and development to protect migrants' rights and their contribution to development.

 

YOWERI KAGUTA MUSEVENI, President of Uganda, said that, between 1992 and 2014, his country’s population living in poverty had been reduced from 56 per cent to 19 per cent.  As well, there had been significant reductions in AIDS infections, and all suffering from the disease were in anti-retroviral programmes.  There were also improvements in women's rights and primary education, where the ratio between girls and boys was now “50-50”.

 

The Government had increased investment in family planning and reproductive health, he went on to say, with more women voluntarily planning their families, and thus, significantly increasing their life expectancy.  With a youthful population, the Government recognized that education could be very effective for economic growth and was working towards empowering young people, as well as working on challenges of climate change.

 

MICHELLE BACHELET, President of Chile, said there were many unresolved global issues.  There were 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty; 842 million suffered from malnutrition and 99 million children under the age of five were undernourished and below the proper weight for their age.  It was impossible to advance development if more than one third of the world's population lacked adequate health care and 748 million were forced to use unfit water sources.  Governments must set out a new development agenda that could be applied in an integrated, comprehensive manner.  She endorsed and promoted the Secretary-General's report on follow up to the action programme.  While the strong culture of respect for international human rights that had been achieved reflected an important gain, armed conflicts, terrorism, authoritarian regimes and discrimination posed threats that required the international community to bolster efforts towards prevention, education and control.

 

Health and social protection systems must be equipped to deal with today’s realities, she said, noting that people were living longer.  The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that the number of people over age 60 would double by 2050 compared to 2000 figures, with 80 per cent of them in low- and middle-income countries.  The risk of non-communicable diseases and the need to provide long-term nursing care and to improve primary care systems would compound such challenges.  All international actors must make specific, measurable commitments at tomorrow’s Climate Summit to address climate change.  Migration-related challenges should be tackled holistically.  She called for an international convention.

 

MOUSSA FAKI MAHAMAT, Minister for Foreign Affairs and African Integration of Chad, said his country had been able to consolidate democracy and reduce poverty by 8.12 per cent between 2003 and 2011.  Furthermore, measures had been taken to fight climate change, promote gender equality and qualitatively and quantitatively improve education, especially for women and girls.  Progress in the area of human rights had also been made.

 

A law on maternal health had been passed in 2002, he said, providing access to reproductive health care without limitations.  The plan dedicated 15 per cent of the national budget to health.  Maternal mortality remained an important issue as mothers lost their children during birth and too many girls were still subjected to violence in their villages.  Further, the outcome adopted at the African Union summit on how to implement the ICPD agenda beyond 2014 was being incorporated at the national level, so as to ensure dignity and equality, including reproductive health care and family planning.

 

KEITH MITCHELL, Prime Minister of Grenada, noting considerable progress made in implementing the Programme of Action, focussed on challenges that remained, notably that despite progress, many had been left behind.  He expressed satisfaction that human rights and equality defined the report's analytical approach.  Its focus on increasing wealth and income inequalities; unfulfilled gender equality and women's empowerment; the need for life-long learning and building human capabilities, especially for the young; addressing inequalities in access to sexual and reproductive health services, including through strengthening health systems both in rural and urban areas, had significant implications for development policy.

 

Further, he said that increasingly diverse household structures and living arrangements required planning for and building sustainable cities and strengthening urban-rural linkages.  Population dynamics should be integrated into development planning at the national, regional and international level.  Development challenges also required the systematic participation of all stakeholders crafting responses, requiring, in turn, partnership and global leadership through the United Nations.  In that context, he noted that Grenada had joined the regional plan of action for the further implementation of ICPD beyond 2014.

 

GASTON BROWNE, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said that in the Caribbean the problem of inequality was not due to population growth, but to international financial institutions’ refusals to grant the region’s nations concessional financing and to forgive or meaningfully restructure their debt.  Unemployment, particularly among youth, was the most severe challenge, leaving young people with no future.  Furthermore, the chikungunya virus was spreading across the Caribbean, devastating local economies.  Its effect on tourism, which accounted for approximately 60 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in many Caribbean countries, could be devastating.  Yet, the international community had not responded to the challenges already posed by the disease in West Africa.  While actions by China, Cuba and the United States were helpful, a global response was needed more than ever.  If the international community waited for a global pandemic before it acted as one, it would set the world back even more than the 2008 financial crisis or the preceding recession.  Small countries like Antigua and Barbuda were anxious to overcome youth unemployment and guard against health threats.  A sustained global effort was needed and any review of the Cairo action plan must reflect that.

 

WUNNA MAUNG LWIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, praised the Secretary-General's wide-ranging report, and its focus on human rights and equality, and the right to development, adequate health care and quality education in developing countries.  He endorsed the report’s conclusion that investing in individual rights, capabilities and dignity across multiple sectors was the foundation of sustainable development.  He supported the regional action plan to further implement the Cairo Programme of Action.  The Myanmar National Commission on Population and Development had endorsed the findings of the 2014 global review.  The review had recognized his country’s progress in some areas, as well as need for more efforts to fill in gaps.  For the first time in 30 years, Myanmar had successfully conducted a nationwide census on population and housing.  The results would enable the Government to improve planning and development.  The findings revealed a greater percentage of women than men in the national population of 51.42 million, highlighting the need for a greater focus on the development of women, children and youth in national programmes.  Also recorded was data on age, fertility, deaths, migration and household size.

 

IRAKLI GARIBASHVILI, Prime Minister of Georgia, said that his country's population agenda had led to fewer women dying in childbirth and fewer unwanted pregnancies, as well as expanded opportunities for young people.  Nonetheless, more needed to be done, and in that regard, a host of initiatives were being prepared.  A flagship programme on universal health care had been launched, ensuring that every citizen had a basic package of out-patient, in-patient and emergency health services.  Georgia also had a comprehensive social protection strategy that focused on protecting the elderly against poverty, among others, utilizing a public-private fund to mobilize non-budgetary resources.  In 2013, his country had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities among other measures taken to promote human rights.  Citing the more than 450,000 displaced persons in Georgia, he noted the goal of promoting their social and economic integration until their safe return to their homes was possible.

 

FAURE ESSOZIMNA GNASSINGBE, President of Togo, said that his Government had undertaken many steps towards implementing the Cairo Programme of Action Plan, despite a fragile economy.  Institutional and legal frameworks had been put in place to foster economic growth, gender equality and access to sexual and reproductive health services.  Between 1998 and 2013, Togo registered a 7 per cent reduction in maternal mortality, a 70 per cent reduction in infant mortality, a 5 per cent reduction in infant mortality, a slight drop in the fertility rate, a significant increase in the use of modern contraceptive prevalence, a slight drop in the HIV prevalence rate and encouraging results in eradicating female genital mutilation and gender-based violence.

 

To improve maternal health and further reduce maternal and infant mortality, further multilateral efforts were vital, he said.  To that end, the United Nations had an important role to play.  Togo would undertake efforts to build institutional capacity and resilience in order to foster sustainable development.  He fully endorsed the African Union’s position for implementing the Programme of Action beyond 2014.  Commitments of the Action Plan should be fully in line with the sustainable development goals.  He called on the international community to strengthen solidarity towards that end.

 

ISABEL SAINT MALO, Vice President of Panama, said that, because of still-existing profound inequalities that disproportionately affected women and girls, the action programme beyond 2014 was imperative.  She called on Member States to give new impetus to the population and development agenda.  Panama’s population policies, based on equality and equity, focused on reducing high rates of maternal mortality and improving maternal health care.  The Government was committed to translate the country’s high economic growth in past years into dynamic, inclusive development that reduced the large income and development gaps.  Consolidating the social protection system could make it possible to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

 

The Government was also focused on reducing malnutrition, she said.  A mix of universal education grants and a network of educational aid were being employed to keep students in school.  The Mesoamerican Health 2015 initiative had invested in efforts to improve access to health-care services, as well as reduce, in the short- and medium-term, the unmet needs of family planning and rates of maternal and child mortality in indigenous areas.  In addition, health services were being geared towards preventing non-communicable diseases.

 

BARNABAS SIBUSISO DLAMINI, Prime Minister of Swaziland, outlining how the Programme of Action had guided population policy and programmes in Swaziland over the past 20 years, underscored that people were now at the centre of development, and human rights were the focus.  In efforts to implement the requisite policy, legal and institutional frameworks, laws were being enacted that ensured the protection for women and girls, the prevention of human-trafficking and the prosecution of domestic violence and sexual offences.  As well, the 2005 Constitution contained a Bill of Rights.  Progress had also been made against HIV/AIDS, including cultural-based initiatives that promoted chastity.  Despite his strong commitment to the goals, gaps in implementation stemmed from poor economic performance and related fiscal challenges, volatile food and energy prices, and difficulties posed by climate change.

 

TARJA HALONEN, former President of Finland, pointed to uneven progress in implementing the Programme of Action.  Inequality and discrimination remained barriers to people's health and well-being.  Women, the young, the poor and minority groups were particularly affected, and differences in gender identity and sexual orientation could not be a basis for differences in the enjoyment of rights.  If people could not decide for themselves on their most private matters, "how could we expect them to be able to take broader responsibilities for their communities and the environment," she asked.

 

She underscored the importance of UNFPA, reflected in the $58 million Finland contributed to it in 2014, which was their largest contribution to any United Nations body.  She congratulated the Fund for its increased focus on adolescents and young people, especially young girls, and stressed their need for skills, and youth-friendly services, including comprehensive sexuality education and information.  She called for sustained momentum, moving forward boldly with the recommendations of the review.

 

ENELE SOSENE SOPOAGA, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, listed his country’s intrinsic development constraints, including small land areas, remoteness, lack of natural resources and exposure to environmental disasters.  Significant progress had been made, however, with achievements in education, child mortality and maternal health, as well as in gender equality, HIV/AIDS and the environment.  A priority in national policy was controlling net population growth because of the small total land area.  Fifty-seven per cent of the population lived in the capital, putting pressure on the already-fragile atoll environment, and compounding pressure on water and food supply, and waste management.  Tuvalu’s youth faced scarce employment opportunities, and the Government was aiding young seafarers to increase their competitiveness.  Education policies and the expansion of gender equality and opportunities for women, together with efforts to tackle violence against women, were being implemented.  His country’s strong cultural values were underscored in the Government’s initiatives, emphasizing the family unit while investing in individual human rights.  With 70 per cent of all deaths caused by non-communicable diseases, tackling them remained a priority, and a national strategy plan was in place to deal with that.  Stressing that the solution to climate change would be found in collective action, he called for bold commitments to be made during the upcoming Climate Summit.

 

PIERRE NKURUNZIZA, Vice President of Burundi, said his country shared the view of the Secretary-General that in order to achieve dignity and human rights for all, it was crucial to eradicate extreme poverty and achieve inclusion.  Burundi would continue to promote the rights of young people, including those who had left school, and ensure that boys and girls completed their primary education.  His country was currently enacting a law to prohibit educational discrimination based on gender.

 

With regards to health in general, particularly sexual and reproductive health, gains had been made, he said.  Maternal mortality had dropped, due in part to free maternal care that was now given to pregnant women, as well as an increase in access to modern contraception.  Sex education curricula had also been established in schools, and he appealed to partners to step up their efforts to provide technological and financial resources to ensure good quality health care, including reproductive health-care and family planning.

 

RASHID MEREDOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, said the international community must examine what had been done so far regarding population and development, and set goals for the future.  Thus far, Member States had accumulated enormous experience on that topic over the past 20 years, and were moving in the right direction.  Turkmenistan had a launched large-scale public programmes in public health.  Since 1992, his Government and UNFPA had begun a number of initiatives aimed to implement long-term strategies on population.  Living standards had improved, and his country was striving to improve reproductive health and ensure gender equality.  Effective implementation was only possible on the basis of consolidated multilateral efforts, with the United Nations playing a lead role.

 

JOHN DRAMANI MAHAMA, President of Ghana, describing his country’s involvement in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union processes, said that such efforts showed Ghana’s commitment to the Programme of Action.  Women and young people were especially important, and significant institutional and policy progress had been made on gender equality.  In addition, health-care access had been expanded through programmes like the community-based Health Planning and Services Initiative, and maternal mortality was declining through initiatives like the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa, which worked to curb pregnancy-related deaths.

 

On maternal health, he noted that Ghana had also implemented the Millennium Development Goal V Acceleration Framework, which included the establishment of 15 new clinics in Ghana's most deprived and most populous two regions.  In addition, a Youth Policy and Action Plan had been committed to, which included the youth entrepreneur initiative.  The Plan of Action should be included in the post-2015 development agenda.

 

JUAN ORLANDO HERNÁNDEZ ALVARADO, President of Honduras, reiterated his support for the Montevideo consensus on population and development, stressing his commitment to all vulnerable groups.  On a national level, progress had been made on infant and maternal mortality, family planning and on HIV-AIDS through legislation and public policy.  In the upcoming elections, women would be guaranteed at least 50 per cent of the posts in public office, a policy that had been made during his tenure as President of Congress.  While listing other advances, he noted that the report had also revealed persistent inequality in Honduras.

Extreme poverty was mainly rural, he said, but it was also important to understand the demographic trends associated with urban poverty.  The population, being young, were productive and could fuel growth and provide support to poorer sections of society.  Investments were being made to reduce the portion of the youth population neither working nor in education, with new jobs available and efforts to provide training in the English language.  Many Hondurans were fleeing organized crime and migrating, with seven out of every nine people crossing borders from cities along trafficking routes.  He called on the United Nations, especially the United States, to support Honduras on the basis of shared responsibility.

 

IVICA DAČIĆ, Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia, pointed out that the world had changed in the past 20 years.  The same values remained, but not the same problems faced by the international community.  Noting the unstinting support his country had received from UNFPA, he said that the aging of the population was its most visible population issue, as the median age was the highest in its region of Europe.  Of particular concern was the fact that the ratio of worker to retiree was now one to one.  The Council on Aging and Old Age Affairs had been established in 2007, dealing with national policy and strategies.  The question of population migration was of great importance, as many individuals were leaving Serbia every year, resulting in a continual "brain drain".  Needed now were national strategies in population and development and in reproductive health.

 

NATALIA GHERMAN, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova, said the Millennium Development Goals, the Cairo Program of Action, and the Beijing Platform for Action constituted "unfinished business".  Quality of life had improved, opportunities had expanded, and the role of women in the social and political life of the country had grown.  The objective was to shift the population development paradigm from quantity to quality, for a healthy and skilled population to generate economic prosperity.  Past experience in designing and delivering on population related goals showed that good data collection was key for effective population planning and policy.  He underscored his country’s commitment to contribute to the international community's efforts in advancing the scope and the goals of ICPD.

 

LEMINA MOMA, Minister for Social Affairs of Mauritania, associating himself with the Arab Group, the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said the Congress on Population Policies in 2012 was one of several efforts to build a strategy aimed at achieving the goals of the Programme of Action.  Education, particularly female education, was to the fore, as was reproductive health.  Vulnerable segments of society were important and efforts were made to address the economic empowerment of women, gender-based violence, employment and persons with disabilities.  The Government’s tasks were not complete and more effort was needed to improve living standards and establish justice and equality.  Since the Conference, the world had seen economic gains and poverty reduction, but significant segments of the population still lacked protection in education and employment.  She affirmed her country’s support for the Addis Ababa Declaration, and called for the review’s recommendations to be integrated into the post-2015 development agenda.

 

MAHENDRA BAHADUR PANDEY, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, described progress made in his country to achieve the objectives of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.  A long-term Population Perspective Plan 2010-2031 mainstreamed population and development issues in development and a new comprehensive population policy was under way.  He called for total elimination of poverty, and improved social and human development targeted at particularly vulnerable sections of the population.  He stressed the need to take advantage of the “demographic dividend” enjoyed by Nepal in the form of a large proportion of the population being of working age.  Migrant workers played a vital role in development of countries of destination and origin and that needed greater appreciation globally, with better appreciation of their rights.  The goals set in population and development activities should be matched by means of implementation through multi-stakeholder participation and the galvanized efforts, focused particularly on addressing the needs of least developed countries.

 

KAMLA PERSAD-BISSESSAR, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, outlined her Government’s key areas of activity, stressing that the focus was people-centric.  A significant portion of budgetary resources were dedicated to education and programmes targeting women, especially single mothers.  Having already achieved the Millennium Development Goals relating to education, the aim was now “MDG Plus”.  Children born to underprivileged parents could expect Government assistance.  Challenges remained, but future generations needed equality and equity.  Development partners still needed to assist and strengthen her country’s ability to implement its policies.  Programmes were being developed to address pre-natal and neo-natal care to ensure her country would not be left behind, and investment would be made in ensuring individual human rights.  A holistic approach that recognized the importance of human rights and accounted for population dynamics was needed.

 

AIUBA CUERENEIA, Minister for Planning and Development of Mozambique, said that sexual and reproductive rights and health deserved particular attention, through the establishment of facilities that youth could access.  Gender inequalities were being ameliorated, however, more progress needed to be made.  Remaining challenges were evidence of the Cairo Programme of Action, to improve the living conditions of the population.  The respect of human rights and gender equality, as well as the improvement of living conditions, required the sustained attention of the Government.

 

LILIANNE PLOUMEN, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, relating women's stories from detention centres, said they always began with "the men came and then they…".  She said she thought of those stories as she prepared for this session, and of the need to look out for such women and girls.  There had been strides in women's rights, including improvements in health, increased education, and fewer unwanted births to young mothers.  Yet, it was important not to be complacent.  Each day, 800 women died from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.  Many women wanted to prevent pregnancy, but lacked access to contraception.  The international community needed to deliver more on the promises of 1994, including comprehensive sexuality education for all young people, and to end child, early and forced marriages and female genital mutilation.  Now was the time to follow through and adopt relevant goals.  That was important not only for individual well-being, but also the well-being of societies.

 

ZAHID MALEK, Minister for Health of Bangladesh, noted that his country had attained most of the Millennium Development Goals.  Population growth was under control and new measures and targets were being pursued.  Infant and maternal mortality were declining, and equity and equality were the focus of policies on infant, maternal and reproductive health.  The Government had set the minimum age for marriage of women at 18 to reduce the prevalence of marriage of adolescents.  Awareness about the education needs of girls was growing in schools and overall social and economic progress continued.  Financing efforts to achieve those goals was the main challenge, particularly while simultaneously facing new development challenges, such as non-communicable diseases and climate change, to name a few.  He voiced hope the post-2015 development agenda would seek to tackle such new challenges.

 

MAHABBATT BEKBOSYNOVA, Minister of Kazakhstan, said national policies were focused on fostering the abilities of children, especially girls and young women.  The aim was to equip the younger generations to fulfil their potential and make economic contributions.  People with disabilities received strong support and were guaranteed access to services to ensure their full participation in the political, social and economic life of the country.  As part of efforts to improve gender equality, the Government aimed to provide full access to reproductive rights.  Population dynamics had to be integrated effectively into development policies, and efforts to do so were ongoing.  She stressed the importance of building sustainable cities and of strengthening urban-rural linkages.

 

MOGES JENSEN, Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation of Denmark, said that the Cairo action plan had greatly improved the lives of many people, but many were still left behind.  Human rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights for all were preconditions for ending poverty and ensuring sustainable development.  It was vital to end unwanted pregnancies, maternal deaths, female genital mutilation, and child and forced marriage.  The index report showed that Governments had determined that universal access to integrated sexual and reproductive health must be a priority in the post-2015 development agenda, and that such access was vital for poverty reduction and sustainable development.  Comprehensive sex education would go a long way to address unplanned pregnancies.  To end unnecessary deaths due to unsafe abortion, abortion must be legal and safe.  Denmark would continue to strongly support the Cairo action plan.  Gender equality and women's empowerment must be central to the post-2015 development agenda.

 

SALIM MUSLIMOV, Minister for Labour and Social Protection of Azerbaijan, emphasizing the economic difficulties resulting from Armenia's occupation of his country’s territory, said that the Cairo goals had been incorporated into the national economic policy.  Citing Azerbaijan’s socio-demographic successes, particularly with regard to increased life expectancy, he noted that a new population policy was being prepared that would consolidate the good results to date.  He expressed hope that today's generations would set a programme of action beyond 2015, which would be as inclusive as possible.

 

TOMMY REMENGESAU, President of Palau, said that over the past decade his country had achieved a near no-growth rate, had achieved the Millennium Development Goals, and demonstrated a consistent path towards sustainable development.  Yet, the pollution of the oceans, the atmosphere and the overall quality of life caused by overpopulation of the planet during the last century had impacted the small nations of the Pacific, which did not have large populations, but did have densely populated areas.  That challenged the water supply, sanitation and solid waste management, among other things, and led to difficulties at the social, commodity, agricultural, cultural and environmental levels.  Thus, those countries too faced the problems of population increase.

 

"Until we face the problem of increased population, we are all rowing our canoes in circles," he said.  It was necessary to come to terms with population growth or face disaster.  If the world’s population stopped growing, there could be real sustainable development, protection of human rights, a moderation of biodiversity loss, improved medical capacity, improved mortality rates and rational planning for national, regional and global platforms.  Overpopulation was the greatest challenge and impacted all other global challenges.  It was time "to face the elephant in our closet" and make the reduction of the global population growth a primary goal of the United Nations.

 

ANDRIS PIEBALGS, European Commissioner for Development, the European Union Delegation, said that, in the past 20 years, the Union had strongly promoted human rights and anti-discrimination, gender equality and women's empowerment, all of which were needed for development.  It had provided considerable support for implementing the Cairo action plan in the areas of education, health care, safe drinking water and sanitation.  Such efforts had benefited millions of people.  To eradicate poverty more effectively, development policies must be holistic in nature.  The European Union remained committed to promoting, protecting and fulfilling human rights, and to effectively implementing the Cairo and Beijing action programmes and the outcomes of their respective review conferences.  Universal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health should be a high priority on the post-2014 development agenda.

 

PASCALE BOISTARD, Secretary of State for Women’s Rights of France, pointed to the negative consequences of restricting sexual and reproductive rights for women, noting that annually 50,000 women died and 8 million were affected by complications and infections due to unsafe abortions.  Her Government had acknowledged women's reproductive and sexual rights, integrating them into national laws.  She supported all efforts to ensure such rights and to education for boys and girls.  Those rights should be incorporated into the post-2015 development agenda.

 

JEAN ASSELBORN, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg, recalled that the eradication of poverty remained the fundamental objective of any development effort, but must be fair and universal.  Voicing support for sexual and reproductive rights, he stressed that gender equality was a cross-cutting priority for his Government, which supported a number of specific projects, particularly in the fight against gender-based violence and female genital mutilation, among others.  Furthermore, health service should be available to all, regardless of economic or social status, and with women having access to sexual and reproductive health without discrimination or stigma.  In addition, urbanization must be addressed through sustainable development solutions, which also incorporated a balance between migration and respect for human rights and the fundamental freedoms of migrants.

 

BRUNO RODRÍGUEZ PARRILLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said that world population growth could be seen in the developing countries, but that wealth was increasingly concentrated in the developed countries.  The gap between developed and developing countries and between rich and poor had widened.  Poverty denied populations in the South a decent life.  The richest countries were plundering the non-renewable resources of the planet.  The Cuban revolution assured human rights, including the right to sexual health.  However, implementation of the national programme to follow-up on the Cairo agreement and the complete national strategy for population dynamics was severely affected by the genocidal blockade against the Cuban people pursued by consecutive United States administrations.

 

GERD MÜLLER, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, said that complications during pregnancy and childbirth were among the most frequent causes of death in developing countries.  In 2013, such complications killed about 300,000 women worldwide.  Furthermore, 200 million women in developing countries still had no access to modern birth control.  Women still suffered from violence and genital mutilation.  Women and young girls were still forced into marriage.  "We must not accept that.  Gender equality, no violence — not just on paper, but in real life.  That is what we stand for; that is what we are fighting for," he said.  Voicing support for reproductive and sexual rights for women, he said that Germany had provided $4.3 billion over the last 20 years to help implement the Cairo Action Programme.

 

SÉKOU TRAORÉ, Minister for Planning of Guinea, associating himself with the African Group, expressed gratitude to the international community for its support on the Ebola outbreak.  Approximately 52 per cent of Guinea's population were women, with 14 per cent having undergone female genital mutilation, and many dying in childbirth.  In addition, there had been significant migration from rural areas, due to land degradation.  Yet, the population was increasing by millions, making it difficult to find solutions to food security and numerous other problems.  However, the status of women was improving, with better health services, especially in the area of reproductive health.  More girls were going to school.  Investing in social programmes required more investment from the international community and development partners.  Expressing support for the major programmes of the Cairo action plan, he said that the changing role of Africa must be considered in formulating sustainable development goals.

 

ARNOLD NICHOLSON, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, said that development and protection of human capital, economic stability, competitiveness and employment should be prioritized in the Cairo action plan and that environmental resilience and appropriate climate change responses should be promoted.  Jamaica had been at the forefront of population and development activities in Latin America and the Caribbean.  He voiced support for the implementation of the 1994 Cairo action plan, not the renegotiating of existing agreements.  The review had revealed that Jamaica had made progress in more than 80 per cent of the 110 issues explored.  His country had substantially reduced its population growth, mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and related deaths, and infant and maternal mortality, while making progress towards gender equality and women's empowerment.

 

GUNNAR BRAGI SVEINSSON, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iceland, said that the world agreed that sustainable development was not just about counting people, but making every person count.  That included empowering women, providing access to sexual and reproductive health care, and promoting human rights, among other things.  Furthermore, the promises from Cairo must be central to the formation of the post-2015 sustainable development goals.  "We don't need new commitments — we need to fulfil what we committed to do in Cairo," he stated, underscoring that such a commitment would ensure the human rights of all and make every person count.

 

HASNA BARKAT DAOUD, Minister for the Promotion of Women of Djibouti, said her country had achieved education parity at the primary level.  Its HIV/AIDS prevalence, at 2.7 per cent, had been stable since 2003.  HIV screening was free.  Infant mortality had dropped from 140 deaths per 1,000 live births to 90 per 1,000 live births in 2010.  The Government was in the process of setting up a free health-care system for everyone.  In 2007, a national initiative for social development had been launched.  A women's solidarity fund had been exclusively financed from development funds.  Women's empowerment was a pillar of the nation's development vision.  Women's economic empowerment was included in the 2011 national gender policy.  A family planning strategy was now being developed.  Several international and regional conferences on ending female genital mutilation had been held in Djibouti.  The most barbaric form of it was no longer practised in her country.

 

JULIE BISHOP, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, noting that women and children bore the brunt of increasingly violent conflict and protracted humanitarian crises around the world, underscored that the Cairo Programme of Action was as relevant as it was 20 years ago.  Progress made must be protected and the rights of women and girls advanced.  While maternal mortality rates had dropped by 50 per cent in her country’s region, challenges remained.  Protecting women from violence, promoting their economic empowerment and supporting their leadership in the family, community, business and politics were priorities for Australia, both domestically and through its diplomacy and aid.  Elaborating the many ways in which Australia provided support to furthering women’s and girls’ rights through various United Nations bodies, she said that 80 per cent of her Government’s development aid required a gender equality focus.

 

SODNOMZUNDUI ERDENE, Minister for Population of Mongolia, pointed to reduced infant mortality, improved maternal health and limited spread of HIV/AIDS in his country.  Population and development issues were integrated into national development documents, which recognized human rights and sexual and reproductive rights.  The Millennium Development Goals were incorporated at the State policy level as the basis of a Comprehensive National Development Strategy.  Parliament had approved a green development policy to decrease ecosystem degradation, ensure inclusive participation and reduce poverty.  Sexuality education had also been integrated in secondary schools.  The number of women politicians had tripled, illustrating the effectiveness of strategies to improve gender equality and empower women, while laws against domestic violence and protective children’s rights had also been enacted.  Following the sixth Asia-Pacific Population Conference, a national high-level meeting on population and development had approved the Ulaanbaatar Declaration.

 

NGUYEN THI KIM TIEN, Minister for Health of Viet Nam, said that, in the past 20 years, her country had made considerable progress in implementing the Cairo action plan.  Public health had significantly improved, particularly in sexual and reproductive health.  From 1990 to 2010, maternal mortality fell by 75 per cent, and infant mortality fell by more than 50 per cent.  From 1994 to 2013, the fertility rate dropped by half and contraceptive prevalence increased by 13 per cent.  Viet Nam was one of the few countries in the world on track to achieve the fourth and fifth Millennium target.  In the coming years, the Government would develop appropriate policies that addressed ageing population, migration and urbanization and gender inequality, and further strengthen its health-care system to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health.

 

MAXINE MCCLEAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, said the impact of the Cairo Programme of Action was evident in the decrease in family size, increased participation of women in the formal workforce, and delayed childbearing.  Comprehensive, quality sexual and reproductive health-care services were provided through Barbados' free health-care system.  The unmet need for contraceptives had been reduced in the general population, and legislation allowed for the safe termination of pregnancies.  The maternal death rate stood at 0.8 per 1,000 live births.  The Barbados Family Planning Association had aggressive programmes to reduce teen pregnancy.  A comprehensive HIV/AIDS programme was evidence-informed, gender-sensitive and human rights-based.  Anti-retroviral treatment was free.  The rate of mother to child transmission had been maintained at 2 per cent or less in the last 10 years.

 

LI BIN, Minister for National Health and Family Planning Commission of China, said her Government had implemented family planning to control the excessive population growth.  Life expectancy had increased from 69 years of age in the 1990s to 75 years of age today.  The under-five mortality target already had been achieved.  The relationship between economic and social development and the population factor had become closer.  China's current population and development policy was based on an integrated approach to decision-making and entailed follow-up on family planning initiatives and strategies.  China provided health-care services for rural women, especially for screening of breast cancer.  Her country was committed to providing equal access to basic services for migrants, and improving the social security system.  It was committed to incorporating sexual and reproductive health and family planning into all services, and issues of population into the post-2015 development agenda.

 

SARTAJ AZIZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, said that his country, the sixth most populous country in the world, was on track to become the fifth-most populous.  That demonstrated his Government’s major focus on population matters, including population policies enacted in 2001 and 2002, among other major population initiatives.  Since 1994, many achievements had been made in public health, particularly in the area of reproductive health.  Despite such successes, there were still many challenges, especially in the gap of access to services between rich and poor.  His country, nonetheless, was committed to the Millennium Development Goals, and to providing reproductive health to women country-wide in accordance with the Constitution, as well as to the many other population-related initiatives.

 

LUIS ALMAGRO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, detailed his country's many successes in poverty reduction, decreasing of infant mortality and the integration of sexual and reproductive health services, among other areas, as well as to the centrality of human rights particularly for the most vulnerable, among others.  He also singled out Uruguay's law permitting same-sex marriage and noted programmes on ethnic and gender equality.  Delineating the many international commitments Uruguay had made, including regionally, where agreements had gone beyond the Cairo Programme of Action, he called for the conclusions and recommendations of the Secretary-General's report to be included in the post-2015 development agenda.

 

URMAS PAET, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, said his country was actively promoting women's rights, gender equality and education, as well as including women in conflict prevention and sexual and reproductive health-care services into its national strategies.  Since 2010, Estonia had launched programmes towards that end valued at €165 million.  In 2014, Estonia funded several development aid projects focused on education for women and girls, and two national non-governmental organizations were working on improving education overseas.  In Yemen, Estonia was supporting plans to end child marriages.  In Kyrgyzstan, it was working on raising knowledge about reproductive health.  The principle aims of the Cairo Programme of Action should be the cornerstones of the post-2015 development agenda.

 

CAROLYN RODRIGUES-BIRKETT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guyana, said that her country’s priorities were poverty eradication, improving social services, gender equality, women’s empowerment and equal opportunity.  Particular attention was given to the elderly and the most vulnerable.  Progress had been made, thanks to the support of its partners.  Much remained to be done towards investing in young people, particularly with regard to the creation of apprenticeships.  Another serious dilemma for Guyana resulted from migration.  The country was making every effort to explore initiatives to encourage Guyanese overseas to return.

 

SRI ROHANI ABDUL KARIM, Minister for Women, Family and Community Development of Malaysia, said that her country had achieved most of the goals of the Cairo action plan.  Malaysia had achieved significant poverty reduction and ensured wider coverage of health care and education services nationwide.  A plan was in place to increase women's participation in the workforce to 55 per cent by 2015.  More than half of micro businesses were owned by women.  With better educated women in the workforce, the country had set at 30 per cent the quota for women in decision-making posts in both the public and corporate sectors.  Thanks to an excellent health-care system, Malaysia had one of the lowest mortality rates among developing countries.  It had launched the 2011-2015 National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS and was the first country in Asia to introduce a HPV vaccination programme.  The national policy on reproductive health and social education, introduced in 2009, had increased access to such education, information and services for adolescents and youth.  The declining fertility rate would put Malaysia, by 2030, in the category of nation in which the elderly comprised more than 15 per cent of the population.

 

CARLOS MORALES TRONCOSO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, said the adoption of the Cairo action plan had expanded the rights of persons in his country, contributed to raising awareness on matter relating to human development, and had influenced constitutional reforms in 2010.  The Government had focused on people in all public policies.  With 38 of every 100 Dominicans under the age of 30, it was necessary to access that demographic group in regards to poverty.  A third of the population lived in unacceptable conditions, with some living on just $1.25 per day.  Gains had been made, however, in addressing health care for women and reducing maternal and child mortality.  The Dominican Republic was also working to help its neighbour, Haiti, by building three hospitals close to the border.

 

JOHN BAIRD, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada, said that sustainable progress would only be achieved if the international community worked on population, human rights, sustainable economic growth and sustainable development together.  Those interrelationships required attention.  By addressing issues holistically and recognizing their interdependence, progress would be achieved and contributed.  Speaking holistically, one could not talk about child health without also taking about ending child, early and forced marriages, because the two were interconnected.  As well, education and equal rights for boys and girls was a cornerstone of development.  Giving children a legal identity through civil registration helped them access services such as health care and education, protected them from exploitation and abuse, and as they became adults, enabled them to be part of the formal economy.

 

DUNYA MAUMOON, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Maldives, said her country was a success story, the third to graduate from the list of least developed countries to middle-income status.  She described how Government policies had helped realization of five out of eight Millennium Development Goals, with the other three on course for completion by 2015.  Despite progress, development was far from complete.  Income was unequally distributed; women, while enjoying high a level of equality relative to the region, had limited opportunity for economic empowerment and gender-based violence remained an issue.  A gender equality law would establish a legal framework to combat discrimination.  With 44 per cent of the population counted as youth, tackling unemployment was key.  She looked forward to the results of a national census, which would paint a picture of the population and allow the Government to take action on issues including protecting the rights of migrant workers.

 

HILLEVI ENGSTRÖM, Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden, associating herself with the European Union, said the Cairo agreement was a remarkable one, but its objectives needed to be reaffirmed.  She was concerned with the situation of women, noting that 800 women died every day in avoidable circumstances.  One in three women had experienced physical or sexual abuse, with 125 million women suffering from female genital mutilation.  True sustainable development depended on women's active participation.  Under the Stockholm Statement of Commitment, States promised to protect human rights, eliminate discrimination, and establish a minimum legal age of marriage.  Gender equality had to be a standalone goal within the post-2015 development agenda, with an emphasis on human rights, including the right to sexual education, health care, contraception and abortion, as well as protection against forced marriage.

 

CECILIA VACA, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Ecuador, said that her country was firmly committed to eradicating poverty by 2017.  Basic education was already universal in Ecuador, and her country was implementing a family planning initiative to decrease unwanted pregnancies.  National public policies for social and economic matters focused on human beings over capital, to generate opportunities from an early age.  It was necessary to decrease adolescent pregnancy, reduce gender inequality, and focus on redistribution and compensation for paid and unpaid work at home.  The world order was unjust and immoral, and the international community needed to change it

 

MICHEL BLOKLAND, Minister for Health of Suriname, said that, today, more than ever, the principles agreed upon in Cairo in 1994 remained particularly relevant, especially from the human rights and gender perspective.  In that regard, the international community should continue to invest in human capital, equity and dignity throughout the life-course as the foundation of sustained economic growth and sustainable development for everybody.  Most notably, that included adolescents, women, men, children, youth, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and other disadvantaged and marginalized groups.  It was crucial that the international community agree on an ambitious future development framework that was inclusive and which put people at the centre of development.  He stressed the importance of mobilizing domestic resources in efforts to achieve sustainable development and improve the well-being of populations.

 

OLEH MUSIY, Minister for Healthcare of Ukraine, said that his country recognized the significant positive results that had been achieved in the past 20 years, with a significant reduction in unwanted pregnancies, abortions, and child and maternal mortality.  Youth now lived a more conscious way of life.  The stable development of countries could only be achieved through investing in individuals.   Ukraine had one of the oldest populations in the world, and he asked donor countries to contribute to UNFPA initiatives for aging populations, both globally and in Ukraine.  Planet Earth was the common home, and wars and natural disasters concerned everyone.  Thus, the world needed to make common efforts towards peace and security for each and every person on Earth.

 

G. L. PEIRIS, Minister for External Affairs of Sri Lanka, said the Cairo Programme of Action recognized the centrality of population dynamics to development in the twenty-first century.  A Reproductive and Population Policy had passed in 1998 and a national Maternal and Child Health Policy in 2013, both aimed at integrating the Cairo agreement into policy.  Sri Lanka looked forward to 2041 when its working population would be 60 per cent of its entire population.  Development strategies were people-centric and socially sustainable, with the Millennium Development Goals integrated into them.  Achievements stemming from the strategies showed no gender disparity.  New challenges were on the horizon as population dynamics altered, including non-communicable diseases and an ageing population.  Thirty-nine per cent of the health budget was devoted to combating non-communicable diseases and a comprehensive prevention programme had been launched.

 

PHANDU SKELEMANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Botswana, pointed to public health interventions made following the Cairo agreement, which contributed to achieving a reduced fertility rate as part of the National Population Policy.  Focus had since fallen on increasing access to general health care and addressing inequalities in access to sexual and reproductive services.  Comprehensive sexuality education was provided in schools, and access to sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS services was increasing nationwide.  He was committed to universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, and elimination of mother-to-child transmissions.  He pointed to Botswana's youthful population structure and the attendant challenges, including ensuring provision of quality education and skills development, to match the demands in the job market.  The "youth bulge" also created opportunities, and the Government was identifying strategies to take advantage of that demographic dividend.  Noting that Botswana's middle-income country status had led to declining donor support, an effort was needed to galvanize development partner support to help implement the Programme of Action beyond 2014.

 

OLGA MARTA SANCHEZ OVIEDO, Minister for Planning and Economic Policy of Costa Rica, said that since 1994, her country had made significant progress on the Programme of Action, combating violence against women, HIV/AIDS and defending the rights of children, adolescents and older adults.  For two decades, the Government had been making sustained efforts to ensure laws, policies, programs and projects could help achieve the necessary goals, working relentlessly to combat poverty and exclusion that affected a fifth of the population of Costa Rica, and to protect biodiversity and ecosystems, which was a natural wealth of the people.  Discussions of the post-2014 agenda was a good opportunity to discuss how to tackle the significant challenges that still lay before the international community.

 

JEAN-PASCAL LABILLE, Minister of Cooperation and Development of Belgium, said that targeted investment towards youth, particularly education and sexual education, was key.  Inequalities persisted, and it was necessary to adopt an integrated approach that included all individuals without discrimination.  However there was a gap when it came to young people.  It was important to take into account the interaction between population dynamics, environment and sustainable development, and for Governments to work together with civil society and the United Nations to achieve the necessary goals.

 

MERCEDES DEL CARMEN GUILLÉN VICENTE, Minister for Population, Migration and Religious Affairs of Mexico, said her country had reduced poverty and inequalities over recent years.  Needed structural reform had been implemented under the new Government.  The new social policy meant substantial changes, including a national crusade against hunger and efforts to tackle poverty.  Despite challenges remaining, the goal of quality universal primary education had been fulfilled, and women were being empowered.  In addition, good progress had been made on drinking water and sanitation, as well as on preventing deforestation.

 

MONGI HAMDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, stressed the importance of sex education for girls and boys, as well as reproductive health.  Combating violence against women and girls was essential, as was the achievement of gender equality.  Tunisia had included the Cairo action plan in its national policies and programmes, submitting regular reports, including the latest, which came in the context of Cairo+20.  However, disparities remained, and structural differences were to blame.  Despite the political transition, republican principles had been strengthened and economic progress had been achieved.

 

SAMURA M. W. KAMARA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sierra Leone, said that his country had made progress according to its 2013 Demographic and Health Survey, despite the dark shadow being cast by the recent outbreak of Ebola, for which the country was ill-prepared.  Positive strides had included a decrease in fertility rates due to modern family planning, and antenatal care by skilled birth attendants increased from 87 per cent to 97 per cent.  Additionally, the use of insecticide treated nets had doubled for children under five from 26 per cent to 49 per cent, reducing malaria infection.  Sierra Leone knew it needed to scale up its efforts to reduce maternal and childhood mortality, and had thus introduced free health-care services for pregnant women.

 

CÉLESTIN VUNABANDI KANYAMIHIGO, Minister for Planning and Monitoring of the Implementation of the Revolution Modernity of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that efforts in his country had turned more towards peacemaking.  Maternal and child health had improved, and significant progress had been made in reducing maternal mortality.  Between 2001 and 2012, significant progress was made in primary education, which now had many more girls involved than before.  Gender equality had been the subject of great attention under international legal frameworks, and rape and other crimes against women and girls had been criminalized.  The Government was collaborating with civil society and the private sector, and was in favour of the post-2014 agenda being inclusive in order to combat discrimination in all its forms.

 

SIMBARASHE MUMBENGEGWI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Zimbabwe, said that his Government had used the Programme of Action it to make significant progress in achieving development.  Migration and urbanization had had a great impact on Zimbabwe's population dynamics, and were major development challenges.  Urban population growth put great pressure on infrastructure, like water and energy supplies, and sanitation, the development of which lagged behind.  The Government’s efforts paid significant attention to the human rights underpinnings of the Cairo action plan.  In combating HIV/AIDS, he believed it was important to share crucial lessons about strengthening health systems.  Maternal mortality rates remained unacceptably high, as did infant mortality, and more work was needed to ensure pregnancy and motherhood did not remain a "death trap" for women.

 

MAIKIBI KADIDIATOU, Minister for Population, Women's Protection and Child Protection of Niger, said the Secretary-General's report emphases clicked with her country's national priorities, including human rights, especially in relation to reproductive health and sex education, as well as the elimination of violence against women and girls.  Using the report, States could better develop the post-2015 development agenda.  Twenty years after the conference, Niger had achieved a lot, but faced the great challenge of strong population growth of 3.9 per cent per year.  That rate pointed to a doubling of the population over 18 years.  To tackle that, economic growth and efforts were taking advantage of the demographic dividend.  She had high expectations for the post-2015 development agenda and underlined the need to develop programmes that accounted for the social and cultural diversities of the world's various countries.

 

SANDRA EDIBEL GUEVARA PÉREZ, Minister for Labour of El Salvador, said so many aspirations for personal and collective development, as laid out in 1994, could be beneficial so long as individual dignity was maintained.  That was without a doubt the basis in order to achieve sustainable development.  Her country was grateful for the opportunity to participate in the review process.  There was now a national plan to achieve substantive equality to guarantee the mainstreaming of gender in public policy, and her country had enacted a comprehensive law for a life free of violence.  It was important to ensure the rights of women, including having power over their own bodies, without discrimination.

 

BATHABILE DLAMINI, Minister for Social Development of South Africa, said that, as her country celebrated its new democracy, it, nevertheless, remembered its past when discrimination was a reality.  The recent 20-year review of ICDP pointed out the huge gaps with regards to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights for all women and girls.  It was critical for this special session to take note of the Program of Action and that further actions were required, including through the upcoming intergovernmental discussions on the post-2015 agenda.  South Africa had improved access to women's health care, including access to safe abortion services.  The country's health department was improving programmes to prevent maternal mortality, and providing universal access to HIV prevention, care and support. South Africa had seen a dramatic rise in life expectancy, from 54 years in 2005 to 60 years in 2011.

 

Speaking on a point of order, the representative of Belarus said he addressed himself to all delegations with an appeal to stick to the established procedure and the established speaking time, which was three minutes.  The President had called on all delegations to do that more than once.  Many delegates had come from far away to take part in this meeting, and all must demonstrate respect by not going over their allotted time.

 

KESETEBIRHAN ADMASU, Minister for Health of Ethiopia, said persistent gender inequality continued to hamper access to reproductive health and many harmful traditional practices still posed serious challenges to ensuring the well-being of women and girls.  The Cairo agreement agenda remained incomplete, and progress achieving it was uneven.  Currently, an incredible opportunity existed to continue with efforts to address population related challenges.  The National Population Policy, issued in 1993, had aimed to harmonize the rate of population growth with the country's capacity for development and resource use.  Its ultimate goal was raising the level of welfare of the population over time.  Major efforts went into giving full access to reproductive health including family planning.  Uptake of family planning services had improved from 3 per cent in 1990 to 40 per cent in 2014.  Measures had also been implemented to advance women and promote gender equity.  A wide gender gap in education had narrowed as equal access was provided and revisions to laws were key in preventing harmful traditional practices.

 

EMERINE KABANSHI, Minister for Community Development, Mother and Child Health of Zambia, reiterated support for views expressed in the context of the Africa regional review of implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development.  Her country had made progress on reducing HIV prevalence, maternal and infant mortality, improving empowerment of women and youth, and on primary school enrolment.  Challenges remained in providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, high teenage pregnancy rates, reduction of poverty and economic inequality.  Policies including the Citizen Economic Empowerment Fund and Youth Development Fund aimed at advancing the social status of women and young people.  A National Strategy for Development of Statistics had been established to lay a foundation for evidence-based decision-making in the implementation of Government strategies.

 

FATMA FEREJ, Minister for State of the United Republic of Tanzania, said her country had made good progress on reproductive and sexual health, child morbidity and mortality, and education.  In addition, it had made significant achievements on the second, third and fourth Millennium Development Goals well before 2015.  Despite remarkable improvements, however, there were still challenges in other areas.  Twelve million Tanzanians were still living below the poverty line, contributing to child marriages.  High numbers of maternal deaths were still a problem.  The national priority needed focus on poverty eradication, sex education and empowerment of youth, especially girls.

 

NATALIA PEDRO DA COSTA UMBELINA NETO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Community of Sao Tome and Principe, said that the establishment of comprehensive services for sexual and reproductive health for young people was important.  Her country was aware of the challenges which must be met in order to improve the quality of life for the population and protect the environment.  Much remained to be done to satisfy basic needs, such as access to decent work, social protection, and health and education services.  Human rights and equality were the basis of the analytic focus of the Secretary-General's report.

 

MARIO LOPES DA ROSA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guinea-Bissau, said participation in the global survey was a chance to take stock of progress in implementation of the Programme of Action.  Much remained to be done to ensure equality and equity and the protection of the environment.  His country had an ambitious national agenda, based on a single national effort.  He agreed that the challenges of development required engagement of all stakeholders and the United Nations was important in achieving that.  He supported the regional action plan.

 

ALOHA NUÑES, Minister for Indigenous Affairs of Venezuela, said her Government had implemented a national campaign to eradicate extreme poverty.  It had been accompanied by macro social policies on health, nutrition, education, social security and peaceful coexistence.  The goal was to be free of extreme poverty by 2019.  On gender equality and equity, a legal framework had been established to put Venezuela at the forefront of protection and promotion of rights of women.  An institutional infrastructure was in place to promote equality around the country.  A new law had been promulgated for equality of people with HIV/AIDS that eliminated all forms of discrimination against people with those diseases and those associated with them.  Many challenges existed and it was important to see the Millennium Development Goals as departure points for future development, not as arrival points.

 

MOUKOKO MBONJO, Minister for External Relations of Cameroon, asked what stock could be taken of the Cairo Programme of Action, and what goals could be set for the next 20 years.  His country sought to make its national population policy in line with the Cairo Programme, focusing on the correlation between population and development.  His Government had focused on sexual and reproductive health, which had improved social indicators and led to a reduction in inequalities between men and women.  Improvements in education and reducing maternal mortality had been made possible due to a successful system of monitoring of the Cairo Programme.  It was essential that every child should be brought up by a mother and a father who could provide them with a quality education.  The family unit should be the centre of society, with both spouses as consenting and equal partners.

 

NESTORINE SANGARÉ COMPAORÉ, Minister for the Advancement of Women and Gender of Burkina Faso, said there was now greater gender parity in schools, and inclusive economic growth within the framework of sustainable development were priority goals in decreasing poverty and pay inequality.  There needed to be further efforts made to reduce maternal and child mortality, which was still at 340 deaths per 10,000 live births.  It was also necessary to provide young couples with access to family planning information.  Access of young people, particularly women, was a priority.  To reduce their poverty, their vulnerability was also reduced.  Together, with the international community, efforts must be continued, intensified and updated.

 

OMAR SEY, Minister for Health and Social Welfare of the Gambia, supported the principles of universal access to reproductive health and services including HIV/AIDS, and that women be given the right to decide the timing and number of children they wished to have.  The country's development policies upheld the right of young people to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services, taking steps to integrate women's and youth issues into the health and national population policies and the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment.  He singled out significant improvement in girls’ education and women's empowerment among other achievements since 1994.  The country participated in South-South cooperation through sharing technology, skills and best practices in reproductive health, population and development.  Among challenges remaining were population density, which, left unchecked could pose challenges of environmental sustainability and agricultural production.  Unless the international community fulfilled its funding commitments towards population and development issues, developing countries would find it difficult to tackle challenges posed by their populations, especially the youthful generation.

 

PHILLIP MULLER, Minister for Health of the Marshall Islands, said there were serious hurdles to the country's development, among them great population density and vulnerability to climate change.  The country's three-year development plan cut across all sectors.  Reproductive health was already in motion, but help was needed for more targeted support.  Even though progress had been made, such as in senior positions in civil service, women must be better represented throughout society.  In the face of large global structures, such as the post-2015 development agenda, small island nations were sometimes left behind in a one-size-fits-all approach.  The recent meeting in Samoa was a step in the right direction.

 

FULBERT AMOUSSOUGA GERO, Minister in Charge of Coordination of the Implementation of Policies related to the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals of Benin, supported the Cairo Programme of Action and said that his country had worked to implement it through national education, health-care and gender equality strategies.  His Government ran programmes to help people living with HIV/AIDS, victims of sexual violence and harassment and victims of discrimination.  It was conducting research of tropical diseases, including the Ebola virus.  He called on developed countries to increase financial and technical support to enable developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

 

SAMEH SHOUKRY, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said the Cairo Programme should continue to serve as a point of reference.  Article 49 of Egypt's Constitution put population concerns at the centre of sustainable development.  The "Egypt 2013" economic development plan focused on issues related to girls' education, early and forced marriages, reproductive health and family planning.  Egypt hosted a regional review of the Cairo conference in 2013.  At it, participants unanimously adopted the Cairo Declaration and a shared vision of development for the region.  He called on development partners to honour their ODA commitments.

 

HENRYKA MOŚCICKA-DENDYS, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, said her country had been working intensely in recent years to empower and support the independence of women, including through quotas on voting lists and some political parties.  For the past five years, Poland had seen a strong development of the independent women’s movement, and one of the most significant initiatives in that regard was the Congress of Women in which the most dynamic and successful Polish female leaders from political, social and economic circles met annually.  As for changing demographics, she said that Poland’s population was set to decrease by 1.3 million persons by 2030, and thus, negative changes in the age structure and labour shortages were to be expected.

 

LAPO PISTELLI, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, said that more needed to be done to create sustainable growth.  Proper allocation of human and financial resources were necessary, not only to make sure that the largest generation of youth of all time would be able to meet its health needs, but also to ensure that the elderly were properly cared for.  Governments could better plan when they had accurate population data.  Systematic, coordinated actions from all stakeholders were needed.  In that context, the United Nations, and UNFPA in particular, could play an important role in formulating partnerships.  All individuals and all countries should be able to realize their full potential.

 

JULIO ROJAS, Vice-Minister for Vulnerable Populations of Peru, stressed support for the Cairo action plan and its periodic reviews, and the importance of the 2013 Montevideo Consensus, which emphasized the need to protect human rights.  Poverty had been reduced by 30 per cent in Peru, thanks to programmes that spurred economic growth.  He cited the 2014-2016 national plan for human rights, and strategies to prevent teen pregnancy, end violence against women, prosecute violators of such violence, improve maternal health and expand maternity leave for new mothers, end femicide, and improve the rights of indigenous people.

 

DIDIER BURKHALTER, Secretary for State of Switzerland, supported the vision that put women's rights at the centre of population and development.  Much remained to be done to realize the rights of women and girls and reduce maternal mortality.  An increased, rapid implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action was needed.  Priority must be given to quality education and to addressing the gender equity gap.  Young people must be able to make informed decisions about their future.  Access to sexual and reproductive health services was essential.

 

SOMCHITH INTHAMITH, Vice-Minister for Planning and Investment of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, noted the relevance of the issues addressed in the Secretary-General's report to his country as it strove to graduate from least developed to middle-income country status by 2020.  Several strategic actions in the areas of health, education, youth issues and a national plan against violence against women had been undertaken.  He also stressed the importance of data collection, analysis and dissemination.  Strategic responses to development challenges required the participation of all stakeholders, as well as partnership and global leadership through the United Nations.  Population dynamics must be integrated into development planning at national, regional and international levels.  More needed to be done, including increased investment in young people and strengthening their participation in decision-making and planning; programmes to keep girls in school and to respond to violence against women and girls; addressing unmet needs for family planning; and increased efforts to ensure sustainable development.

 

TOM ALWEENDO, Director-General of the National Planning Commission of Namibia, stressed the need to recommit to the Cairo action plan and to employ new strategies to implement it.  Namibia had ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It had launched campaigns to reduce maternal mortality and to improve reproductive health and gender equality.  It had increased family planning services.  It now had the lowest fertility rate in Africa and had witnessed a decline in teen pregnancy and HIV infection.  He stressed the need to integrate sexual and reproductive health services into national action strategies.

 

DENG DENG HOC YAI, Minister for Environment of South Sudan, shared the urgency of addressing the Cairo review's finding on endemic poverty, hunger and the lack of access to public education and health services.  Investing in individual human rights, capabilities and dignity was the key to sustainable development.  Building human capacity for young people and giving them access to sexual and reproductive services had implications for human development.  Tackling development challenges today required the participation of all stakeholders.  South Sudan was committed to implementing the 2014 Addis Ababa Declaration on the Cairo Programme of Action.

 

AHAMD JAN NEEM, Deputy Minister for Public Health of Afghanistan, pointed to a Reproductive Health Strategy 2012-2016 that was in line with the Programme of Action.  In addition, a Health and Human Rights Strategy had been developed.  The Ministry of Public Health had approved a patient charter and guidelines on medical ethics, and a medical council was being established.  Primary education enrolment rates were improving, with Afghanistan on course to achieve its target of 100 per cent enrolment by 2020.  His country was a State party to several core human rights treaties and had developed a National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan 2008-2017.  Twenty-seven per cent of legislators were women, with similar trends in law enforcement and the judiciary.  Pointing out that the National Youth Policy encouraged participation in peace and reconciliation and in policy and programme development, he noted that security remained a challenge, causing migration and the dispersal of refugees to Iran and Pakistan.  He also pointed to Afghanistan's achievements in access to media, with more than 40 private television channels and 100 radio stations, in addition to printed media.

 

VALENTIN RYBAKOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said the secret of the Cairo action plan’s success was a respect for national traditions and specificities.  However, the international community still had not resolved many issues in the Programme of Action.  It was fashionable to promote sexual rights, but was often based on a dangerous ideology that harmed family values and forcefully imposed behavioural models that were not supported around the world.  Families were the most important building block of society and were the guarantee for a prosperous State.  Strengthening families was essential to the priorities of Belarus.

 

TEWODROS MELESSIE of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, stating he wanted to talk about hope, said that when he visited the projects aimed to assist women, sex workers or drug addicts, he asked one participant if she were God for one hour, what would she do?  She said she would give hope, because when a person had hope, they had peace and prosperity.  Hope was about young people being able to choose whom to marry and when.  When the Programme of Action was introduced, the world came together to protect individuals and family to be free through sexual and reproductive rights, and not subjected to pain and death.  It was humanity that was the centre of the international framework, not business or finance.  The world needed humanity that was full of hope and dignity, but 2 million in the developing world who wanted to control their fertility, could not.  Equality was not about meetings and empty words, but fighting for the lives of women and girls.  For women in every region, the future they wanted was here.  The 20-year review pointed where to go.

 

PETER MANGITI, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Devolution and Planning of Kenya, said that fertility rates had declined, as had infant mortality.  HIV prevalence had been reduced by half, and free maternity services were introduced in all health care facilities.  The Government had put in place a programme for upgrading informal settlements, estimated to house about 60 per cent of the urban population.  The Constitution guaranteed reproductive health services for all Kenyans.  Corporate initiatives were also being implemented to better the lives of women and youth.  As always, the United Nations and the international community could count on Kenya to help implement the Programme of Action beyond 2014.

 

GISELE NGONDO, Director of the Cabinet of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Congo, stressed the importance of responding collectively to the rapid increase in the world's population.  The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had noted that 40 per cent of children under five years old lived on the African continent, a population which would double.  Africa deserved special attention because the demographic transition had to become an opportunity.  That was the challenge before States.  African countries had adopted a joint position that would focus on population and development going forward, feeding the ongoing dialogue and Programme beyond 2014.  Congo was an "under-populated" country, but its population growth rate of 3 per cent was very high.  It had major implications for development policy.  One of the main challenges was mastering the population growth to ensure it was an opportunity, not a threat.  His country was in a good position to respond positively and was working to empower youth and foster an environment of creativity and innovation.

 

ANA CRISTINA GONZÁLEZ VÉLEZ of Red de Salud de Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe said her organization had been present 20 years ago, supporting the process and levels of negotiations.  She hoped that the review process would bring leaders of the world to consider people of every variety.  There could be no development without women, and despite progress on sexual and reproductive rights, many women lived under laws that penalized them.  What prevented women from making more rapid progress was patriarchy, she said, condemning that system.  "My body, my territory," she stated.

 

CATHERINE NYAMBURA of Action Health Incorporated, relaying the story of a young girl who had undergone multiple violations, including rape and HIV infection, pointed out that approximately 3.3 million girls in Africa were subjected to female genital mutilation each year.  Many also faced fistula and death through early pregnancy.  Africa was currently the youngest continent, and it was essential to invest in young people's health and well-being.  There was an opportunity to determine the Africa that the international community desired, including giving young girls what they wanted, which was dignity health and equality.

 

SIVANANTHI THANINTHERIN of the Asia Pacific Resource Centre for Women said that the international community needed to be cognizant of the fact that sexual and reproductive rights were essential ingredients in achieving sustainable development.  Those rights were integral to individual autonomy.  Every individual must have the right to decide whom one can love, marry or have relations with, as well as when or if to have children.  She called attention to the fact that sexual and reproductive rights did not exist in isolation and voiced hope that Governments and all stakeholders would support the outcome document, and take it into the post-2015 agenda.

 

DAREEN ABU LAIL, Global Youth Action Network, said the rights of young people were not being taken seriously.  Those rights and youth voices needed to be acknowledged.  If knowledge was power, why was it taboo to have knowledge of the body?  Around the Middle East and elsewhere, massive violations of human rights took a toll on young people.  They bore the consequences twice, once during the actual trauma and once when reliving them.  How was it possible to celebrate the Cairo action plan when terrible things were still happening around the world?  It was not enough to listen.  Action needed to be taken, as well.

 

Taking the floor on a point of order, the representative of Brazil asked why non-governmental organizations had been put ahead of Member States.  There was high-level representation present from States and not all had had a chance to speak.

 

Closing Remarks

 

DENIS ANTOINE (Grenada), Vice-President of the General Assembly, welcomed the discussion and the energy, enthusiasm and commitment from organizations, and enjoyed hearing support for the Programme of Action with many reiterating the recommendations within it.  The membership had spoken in a single determined voice, promising to tackle the challenges posed by population changes in the twenty-first century.  The world was at a turning point, with global progress uneven and a vast range of formidable challenges stood ahead, women's empowerment and gender inequality among them.  They needed to be addressed effectively because they were so important to development policy, so quick and decisive action was imperative.

 

Before the meeting was officially closed, delegations requested the floor on a point of order.

 

The representative of the Russian Federation asked why so many States who had inscribed to the list of speakers had been unable to do speak.  He asked the President to explain whether the session could be ended with so many still waiting to speak.

 

The United States representative agreed with the Russian Federation and asked whether those unable to speak would be able to add their statements online.

 

Echoing his counterpart, the representative of the Russian Federation asked for a clear explanation of the situation.

 

Senegal’s representatives expressed surprise at the way the session had been conducted.

 

Noting that the meeting had been extended by three hours and 37 minutes, Mr. ANTOINE urged States that had not had a chance to speak to deliver their statements to the Secretariat to be included in the verbatim report.

 

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.