Citing steps to stamp out violence in the home, maternal mortality and sexually transmitted diseases, representatives of small island developing States shed light on their respective national schemes to implement the 1994 landmark population and development accord, as the Commission on Population and Development continued its session today.
Aishath Shiham, Education Minister of the Maldives, pointed to her country’s first-ever Domestic Violence Act, saying it had been adopted in 2012. It afforded protection for victims through an array of law enforcement tactics, rehabilitation programmes and safe houses. Through another recent landmark decree, the Indian Ocean State was providing support to pregnant victims of rape and incest.
Similarly, in September, Tonga’s Parliament enacted a family protection law, a testament to its commitment to build strong protection for families and end domestic violence, according to Lord Tu’i’afitu, the Pacific island country’s Health Minister. Last week, Tonga’s Legislative Assembly set up a committee to focus on population and development concerns overall, he said, noting room for improvement in such areas as teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and unmet family planning needs.
Several small island States boasted low maternal mortality rates, thanks to the presence of trained birth attendants in the delivery room. Their representatives stressed that increased access to sexual and reproductive rights, including to modern contraception, was essential for maintaining those gains. In the Cooks Islands, no maternal deaths had been reported since 1991, according to Nandi Tuaine Glassie, the country’s Health Minister. All mothers received antenatal care, resulting in an infant mortality that was among the lowest in the world.
Bhiedradatt Tewarie, Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister for Planning and Sustainable Development, pointed to the de-urbanization process occurring in his nation. To address that, the Government had established an agenda for the devolution of power, in order to spread services and infrastructure development across the country.
Others cited strategies to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS. Michel Blokland, Suriname’s Health Minister, said an increase in HIV knowledge, testing and early treatment had resulted in “a declining HIV/AIDS curve” in his country. Like others, he stressed the importance of linking the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development’s aims to other development agendas, including the Beijing Platform of Action, and to draw on regional conclusions, such as those set forth at the Montevideo Conference.
Charles Kauvu Abel, Papua New Guinea’s Minister for National Planning, agreed, adding that population concerns must be integrated into strategies for poverty eradication, food security and human rights protection. Moreover, population management and stabilization should remain at the heart of the next set of global sustainable development goals.
In a keynote address, David Lam, Research Professor in the Population Studies Centre at the University of Michigan, discussed how population would affect development from 2015 to 2030. During that period, the world was expected to add 1.1 billion people — a 15 per cent increase — but considerably smaller than increases of the last several decades. The growth would be highest among middle-aged people and the elderly. The slowing growth rate in children should help achieve the Millennium Development Goals, notably in education, and relieve pressure on health services, schools and youth employment in most regions.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Brazil, Chile, Burundi, Swaziland, Senegal, Uruguay, Bolivia, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Ethiopia, Grenada, Mexico, Georgia, Mozambique, Sweden, Bangladesh, Peru, Mongolia, Republic of Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Philippines, Zimbabwe, Paraguay, Uganda, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and the Dominican Republic.
Civil society representatives of Fundacion para estudio e investigacion de la mujer, Institute for Family Policy, Asian Pacific Forum on Parliamentarians on Population and Development, Red de Salud de las Mujeres and Alliance Defending Freedom also spoke.
The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 9 April, to continue its session.
The Commission on Population and Development met today to continue its forty-seventh session.
ELEONORA MENICUCCI DE OLIVEIRA, Minister for State Policies for Women of Brazil, said that in the last 10 years, Brazil had sought to fully integrate the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development, while promoting and respecting human rights. Conditional cash transfer programmes had lifted 36 million people out of poverty. National policies on sexual and reproductive rights were in line with the Programme of Action, while in 2011, same sex unions were given equal rights by the country’s Supreme Court. Between 1980 and 2012, 10 years were added to the life expectancy of the Brazilian population and there were marked decreases in the fertility rate due to declines in teenage pregnancy and increases in contraceptive use. Those achievements had significantly changed the Brazilian demographic configuration, which now had an ageing population.
CLAUDIA PASCUAL, Minister for Women’s Affairs of Chile, associating herself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said her country was working to fulfil the Cairo Programme of Action’s goals by empowering women and achieving their equality. A new gender agenda aimed to mainstream gender into electoral reforms and labour policies, while a childcare reform was also under way. Measures for women’s equal participation in Congress and political parties were being promoted. Chile also would develop a national fund for strengthening women’s leadership based on the Montevideo Consensus. In the area of health, a draft law sought to remove barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health care. Chile also would decriminalize the voluntary termination of pregnancy. In sum, Chile was investing resources and designing instruments to reduce social gaps, so that dignity was irrevocable for all its citizens.
CLOTILDE NIRAGIRA, Minister for National Solidarity, Rights of Human Persons and Gender of Burundi, supported the Addis Ababa Declaration on population and development in Africa, underlining that the Government had prioritized human rights. The Burundi 2025 Vision outlined goals to accelerate economic growth and halve poverty from 67 to 33 per cent. One programme sought to recover local economies by promoting private entrepreneurship. Maternal mortality had fallen between 2005 and 2010, thanks to the free care for pregnant women. The number of births assisted by trained personnel had also increased between 2005 and 2013. While the high fertility rate remained a challenge, contraceptive use had increased four-fold in eight years. Burundi was committed to achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and the enjoyment of those rights by ensuring comprehensive education for adolescents.
AISHATH SHIHAM, Minister for Education of the Maldives, said that her country had made significant gains in implementing the Cairo Programme of Action and had achieved five of the Millennium Goals. It had ensured women’s participation in national development and instituted affirmative action programmes. It had reduced maternal mortality from 500 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 49 in 2012. By 2009, 94.8 per cent of deliveries were attended by skilled health professionals. Increased access to sexual and reproductive rights was essential for maintaining those gains. Violence against women remained a concern. In 2012, Maldives adopted its first-ever Domestic Violence Act, which gave victims protection and safeguards through law enforcement and rehabilitation. The Government set up safe houses for victims of abuse and violence. Maldives recently passed a landmark decree enabling services and support to pregnant victims of rape and incest. The Government also introduced a universal pension scheme for the elderly, and created a “No Child Left Behind” policy to give socioeconomic support children at high-risk.
PRINCE HLANGUSEMPHI, Minister of Economic Planning and Development of Swaziland, pointed to several laws protecting the rights of society’s most vulnerable members. A domestic violence and sexual offense bill, passed by both houses of Parliament, awaited the King’s signature. A marriage bill seeking to give women equal rights as men was awaiting approval. Last year, the Government adopted its first-ever national policy on sexual and reproductive health, which guaranteed universal access to related information, education and services. He noted significant progress to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. In 2010, 83 per cent of pregnant women were tested for the disease and more than 95 per cent of those who tested positive were treated with antiretroviral therapy. The goal of zero new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths by 2015 was the key driver of the national HIV/AIDS response. The Government had introduced free primary education, a fund for orphaned and vulnerable children, and had set up a youth development fund.
CHARLES KAUVU ABEL, Minister for National Planning of Papua New Guinea, said his country’s population and development plan must be based on human dignity and the broader sustainable development context. Population concerns must be integrated into plans for poverty eradication, food security and human rights protection. Population management and stabilization should remain at the heart of the next set of global sustainable development goals. Papua New Guinea supported the 2013 Sixth Asian and Pacific Population Conference Outcome, which underlined the imperative of sexual and reproductive rights and access to modern contraceptive measures. Papua New Guinea agreed with the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) High-level Task Force on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, as well as the Montevideo Declaration. A new population policy was also being formulated.
ABDOULAYE BALDE, Minister for Planning of Senegal, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the Group of African States, said his country had prioritized the combat of HIV/AIDS, having achieved a 0.7 prevalence rate, among the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa. It had taken steps to reduce the costs of health and reproductive services, and expanded the range of contraceptive methods. Modern contraceptive use had increased from 12 to 16 per cent between 2011 and 2013. It had devised a plan to end female circumcision and put laws in place that punished female genital mutilation. A women’s mentoring programme aimed to improve maternal health. In the area of education, Senegal was aligning training with youth employment opportunities.
GABRIEL FRUGONI, Minister for Planning and Budget of Uruguay, stated his firm commitment to the Cairo agenda. The Government had set up a sectoral commission on population issues and had a long-term vision to ensure sustainability of its national development model. It had enacted a national equal opportunity policy to ensure gender issues were mainstreamed into all State policies, and a labour policy to protect vulnerable groups in the workforce. Policies were in place to ensure the burden of childcare was shared by men and women. Laws existed to ensure access to sexual and reproductive rights and health care, including contraception. In 2012, the Government adopted a law for the voluntary termination of pregnancy to ensure safe access to abortion. Uruguay had the lowest maternal mortality rate in South America and ranked third in Latin America, and it was on track to achieve the Millennium Goal on maternal mortality. He pointed to initiatives for affirmative action and children’s rights.
LORD TU’I’AFITU, Minister for Health of Tonga, said last week the Legislative Assembly set up a committee to focus on population and development. More than 95 per cent of deliveries were attended by trained health-care personnel. Tonga had achieved the Millennium targets on maternal and infant mortality, with between 9 and 21 infant deaths per 1,000 live births and between zero to two maternal deaths annually. Tonga had among the highest percentages of university graduate per head in the world. In September, Parliament enacted a family protection bill, demonstrating the nation’s commitment to families and eradicating domestic violence. He noted room for improvement in the areas of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and unmet family planning needs.
CLAUDIA PEÑA CLAROS, Minister for Autonomy of Bolivia, associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said her country’s Constitution had received more than 61 per cent of the vote, an event in which more than 90 per cent of Bolivians had participated. The Constitution incorporated gender sensitive language. Citing gains, she described a policy that provided conditional income for mothers and older adults. Yet, there were concerning rates of violence against women, unequal access to sexual and reproductive rights, high rates of adolescent pregnancy and unequal access to productive resources. To address gender inequality, Bolivia recognized that women’s situations stemmed from a patriarchy, and there were indicators in place to tackle that issue and ensure equality. More broadly, she urged democratizing international organizations, including the United Nations.
NANDI TUAINE GLASSIE, Minister for Health of the Cook Islands, said the elements of the International Conference were embedded in his country’s development plans. His country comprised 15 islands and atolls spread over 1.8 million square kilometres of ocean. With 12 per cent of its population over 60 years old, key concerns were the declining population and ageing. In the area of health, he said no maternal death had been reported since 1991. One hundred per cent of births were attended by skilled birth attendants and the country boasted 100 per cent antenatal coverage. Infant and under-five mortality rates were among the lowest in the world. In addition, children were exposed to comprehensive sex education. He recommended an integrated response to gender-based violence in all sexual and reproductive health programmes and services.
MABEL BIANCO, Fundacion para estudio e investigacion de la mujer, noted great disparities in the Latin American region to achieve the Cairo action plan’s goals, particularly regarding maternal mortality. Women and girls were often refused access to sexual and reproductive health services. She noted the reticence of Governments for addressing cultural values in place, particularly in rural, indigenous communities that prevented access to such services, leading to high pregnancy rates for girls aged 15 to 19. Such values hindered the adoption of public policies. High teen pregnancy was also due to a lack of sex education, norms and cultural values that perpetuated gender inequality. Violence against women and children was on the rise in certain areas.
MAWUSSI DJOSSOU SEMODJI, Minister for Planning, Development and Lands of Togo, said her country two weeks ago introduced a report that reviewed progress towards achieving the Cairo action plan. Youth accounted for 60 per cent of the population, causing the rate of youth dependency on the elderly to rise. The Government had made significant gains in population and development, particularly within the framework of the 2008-2011 national education and health-care strategy and an employment plan through 2017. By the end of 2012, Togo had achieved the Cairo goal regarding HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Women’s empowerment was becoming a reality. Education had increased to 87 per cent at the primary school level. Maternal mortality had fallen from 580 to 350 per 1,000 live births. Programmes were in place to help young people enter the job market. He supported the Addis Abba Declaration adopted last October during the region’s ministerial meeting to review progress in implementing the Cairo action plan.
BHOENDRADATT TEWARIE, Senator and Minister for Planning and Sustainable Development of Trinidad and Tobago, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and CELAC, said his country was working to implement the goals of the International Conference. In 2010, it had prepared a human development “atlas”, followed by a census in 2011, which showed that the country was “moving against the global current” with a process of de-urbanization. Two new population centres had been created, spurring the Government to bring jobs to them. It established an agenda for the devolution of power, in order to spread services and infrastructure development across the country. Poverty eradication was among the seven pillars of socioeconomic development, he said, noting the link between education and poverty reduction. The Ministry of Health was the major provider of sexual and reproductive health-care services, including fertility management, contraception and family planning.
DAVID LAM, Professor, Department of Economics and Research in the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan, discussed how population would affect development from 2015 to 2030, saying that the world would add 1.1 billion people during that period — a 15 per cent increase — but considerably smaller than increases of last several decades. Over the last 50 years, the world had grown faster than it ever had. It was unlikely to see such growth again because it was attributed, in part, to the rapid fall in death rates in developing countries.
On the economics front, he said food production today was 3.4 times higher today than in 1961; per capita production was 50 per cent higher. Globally, poverty rates had declined fast enough to offset population growth, with low- and middle-income countries having shown remarkable progress. As for education, he said the school-age population had grown rapidly in developing countries, which had led to small families making large investments in children, rather than the opposite, as in years past.
The last 50 years had seen the biggest improvements in living standards, he said, even amid unprecedented population growth — gains attributed to technological advances, market responses, globalization, declines in fertility and increases in education. Caveats to that picture included unequal outcomes across and within countries, environmental problems and recent commodity price increases.
Going forward, he said that between 2015 and 2030, the number of children 0 to 14 years would grow at a 4 per cent rate. Youth aged 15 to 24 years would grow at a 7.3 per cent rate; those between 25 and 44 years at a 9.4 per cent rate; those between 45 and 64 years at a 24.8 per cent rate; and people over 65 years old would grow at a 61 per cent rate. Those trends mattered because the slow growth rate in children should help achieve Millennium Development Goal targets, notably for education.
Summing up, he said the global working-age population would increase by 650 million between 2015 and 2030 — a 14 per cent increase. More than 40 million jobs annually would be needed to maintain current employment rates. Sub-Saharan Africa would need 1.6 million new jobs a month by 2025-2030. He took an optimistic view of the future, noting that the working-age population had increased by 960 million — 25 per cent — between 2000 and 2015. Further, the slowing growth rate of children in most world regions would relieve pressure on health services, schools and youth employment.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Indonesia asked how to facilitate mobilization among migrant workers in countries with different labour forces and about policies to ensure that a country benefited from the “demographic dividend”.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago asked how to reconcile the inherent tension between optimism and the fact that more wealth was being generated among smaller percentages of people.
The representative of Egypt asked for comments about consumption patterns, particularly in developed countries.
Mr. LAM, responding, said international migration had been an extremely important factor in the success of the last 50 years. On the demographic dividend — accelerated growth that may result from a decline in a country's mortality and fertility, and subsequent change in the population’s age structure — he said some worried about the downside if working-age people were not employed or young people were not moving into productive jobs.
Finally, he said inequality had not been increasing everywhere. Brazil had achieved “impressive” declines as had most of Latin America. Market forces did have the downside of increasing inequality, however, which was a huge challenge.
The best measures of consumption were found in surveys that examined poverty, he added. Food distribution continued to be a problem.
FERNANDO DELFIM DA SILVA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Guinea Bissau, said the new population and development challenges required responses and he expressed support for the series of consultations organized by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to ensure States were informed. It was necessary to address inequalities around sexual and reproductive health. Reaffirming the importance of achieving national development priorities, he said clear progress had been made, despite continued difficulties, and his Government would work to strengthen national human capital to ensure people’s welfare. With that, he renewed Guinea Bissau’s commitment to the objectives of the International Conference in the post-2015 period.
MICHEL BLOKLAND, Minister for Health of Suriname, associating himself with CELAC, and the Group of 77 and China, said his country was determined to transform its economic growth into human development that was equal for both women and men. It was of utmost importance to link the ICPD agenda to other development agendas, including the Beijing Platform of Action, and draw on regional conclusions, such as those achieved at the Montevideo Conference. Suriname was guided by its national development plan, as well as specific policies for youth, reproductive rights, safe motherhood and adolescent health. In the area of health, 91 per cent of pregnant women had had one prenatal visit, while an increase in HIV knowledge, testing and early treatment had resulted in “a declining HIV/AIDS curve”. More broadly, he said rapid urban population growth, changes in family structures and the unmet needs of youth were new challenges that required attention.
KESETEBERHAN ADMASU, Minister for Health of Ethiopia, said the bulk of Ethiopia’s unmet needs for family planning were in rural, hard-to-reach areas and the country’s road to ensuring full access to reproductive health options had been a long and arduous one. To improve access to health care, Ethiopia had equipped and relied on more than 38,000 Government salaried extension workers who had fanned out to the farthest villages across the country, as well as 3 million female volunteers across the country. As a result of the efforts, the number of women using modern contraception had risen from just 3 per cent in 1991, to nearly 39 per cent. Ethiopia had also reformed its laws to improve access to safe abortion services, while there had been progress made in tackling harmful traditional practices, such as early marriage and female genital cutting. Further efforts were being made to reach out to adolescents with a view towards reducing teenage pregnancies, while delivery systems to ensure the availability of contraception methods were being improved.
DELMA THOMAS, Minister for Social Development, Housing and Community Development of Grenada, said her country had embraced the drive to enhance individual capabilities and ensure sustainable development, setting up several programmes to accomplish that. Through such efforts, it had widened access to education, health care, social safety net programmes and programmes for youth development, and human rights protections for the most vulnerable segments of society. It had implemented policies to end domestic violence. Almost 3 per cent of the population were involved in the Imani youth training and internship programme. Thousands of unemployed youth, many of them skilled, were provided generous Government stipends to survive. To better care for people in danger of falling through the cracks, the Government recently launched a social enhancement regime. It was pushing ahead with juvenile justice reform to ensure those at risk were properly rehabilitated and intended to set up a long-delayed juvenile centre in the eastern part of the island.
PATRICIA CHEMOR, Secretary-General of the National Council for Population of the Ministry of the Interior of Mexico, said protecting the human rights of young people — giving them access to education, including sex education and job opportunities — was necessary for their development. The Montevideo Consensus included measures on the strategic areas of population and development. Mexico would host the Second Regional Conference on Population and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, scheduled for 2015. The national Population Council was carrying out ongoing consultations with representatives of other Government offices, academia and civil society. The 2014-2018 national population programme would be linked to the new general population law adopted to address the country’s demographic needs of the twenty-first century.
MARIAM JASHI, Deputy Minister for Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, reported that, in the last 20 years, historic gains had been documented in reproductive health, including decreases in maternal, infant and under-5 mortality rates in Georgia. Through its universal health-care programme, every citizen was guaranteed a basic health services package, while the expansion of social protection schemes provided security nets for those most vulnerable. Women’s empowerment was another priority on the national development agenda and Georgia had been highly successful in its efforts to combat human trafficking. However, the country continued to face challenges, including high unemployment rates, while 25 per cent of children continued to live in relative poverty.
AMELIA MUENDANE NAKHAR, Deputy Minister for Planning and Development of Mozambique, said 74 per cent of children — 3 million aged 6 to 12 years — were in school, while 52 per cent of people aged 15 to 49 years could read, write and count in Portuguese. In the area of health, infant mortality had dropped to 34 deaths per 1,000 live births, showing that Millennium Development Goal indicators had been achieved. On women’s empowerment, 40 per cent of parliamentarians were women. As Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Mozambique had hosted technical and ministerial meetings to implement the Programme of Action. The report from those meetings had shown that the region, despite constraints, had improved living conditions for its peoples.
TANJA RASMUSSON, State Secretary to the Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden, said that Swedish women had obtained their rights to participate in the political and economic arenas, and to decide if, when and how they would have children. Anti-discrimination laws had been strengthened to protect peoples’ rights to freely express their gender identity. In the last 30 years, no woman in Sweden had died as a result of an unsafe abortion, she said, stressing that making abortion illegal only drove it underground. Sweden had introduced a law that criminalized the purchase — not sale — of sexual services, designed to punish clients, rather than the prostitutes. With that, she called for mainstreaming gender targets and indicators across the post-2015 agenda.
ZAHID MALEQUE, Minister for Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh, said that significant advances had been made in his country with regard to women’s opportunities, empowerment and public participation, while the country had already achieved gender parity in primary and secondary school enrolment. On the health front, maternal mortality rates had declined and the total fertility rate had been significantly reduced. Nevertheless, Bangladesh faced many challenges, including a rapidly growing population and young age structure, urbanization and international migration. To address those issues, the Government was working to strengthen institutions to ensure the necessary capacity for the effective integration of population dynamics into development planning. Migration was also a major contributor to the country’s population dynamics. Bangladesh attached great importance to decreasing violence against women, reducing child marriage, as well as the adolescent fertility rate.
JULIO ANDRÉS ROJAS JULCA, Vice-Minister for Vulnerable Populations of Peru, said that, between 2001 and 2012, overall poverty had declined by 30 per cent thanks to sustained economic growth that allowed for a better quality of life. But, there were still major development gaps between urban and rural areas. Peru had integrated the Cairo goals into national action plans, establishing a strategy for maternal and neonatal care and for reducing maternal mortality and teen pregnancy. The national population plan guaranteed access to sexual and reproductive rights and health, including modern contraception, and focused on prevention and care of sexually transmitted diseases. He cited national plans to end violence against women, ensure gender equality, aid the elderly and street children and to promote labour market integration, and adequate housing, water and sanitation services. Due to the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters, the Government had enacted legislation to manage environmental risks.
JAZAG AMARSANAA, Deputy Minister for Health of Mongolia, said his country had made remarkable progress in areas such as maternal mortality, noting that since 1990, rates had decreased by 75 per cent. The incorporation of reproductive health and rights concepts into public health programmes was also noteworthy, as were steps to promote comprehensive sexual education in and out of school. The approval of an important domestic violence law was a big step forward towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, although youth unemployment had remained unacceptably high and age structure challenges persisted. Mongolia had taken steps to ensure the rights of migrants were protected and made efforts to implement a human rights-based approach to development, which ensured equality and non-discrimination for all.
VALERIU CHIVERI, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova, welcomed conclusions by the Economic Commission for Europe, especially those on human rights, dignity and population matters as core factors in achieving sustainable development. The ICPD review had shown that societies could prosper in periods of slow or no economic growth if immigration and employment opportunities were provided. More broadly, he said the impact of demographic changes on the environment, as well as depopulation caused by immigration or low demographic growth, should be addressed in a balanced manner. The Republic of Moldova had adopted appropriate socioeconomic policies to address low population growth, and was determined to contribute to the ICPD follow-up process.
ANA TRIŠIĆ-BABIĆ, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, believed that investing in individual human rights, capabilities and dignity across multiple sectors was the foundation of sustainable development. She was pleased to see that human rights and equality were being given due consideration in the international discourse and that focus had shifted to issues, such as wealth and income disparities, gender equality, building human capabilities and universal access to sexual and reproductive health services. Increasingly diverse household structures and living arrangements required the global community to plan and build sustainable cities and strengthen urban-rural linkages. The impact of population dynamics on the micro and macro-levels also required the integration of population planning at the national, regional and international levels.
JANETTE GARIN, Under-Secretary for Health of the Philippines, said poverty remained a significant factor impacting full socioeconomic development in the country. The economic and political status of Filipino women had been lauded, although substantive gender equality, especially of poor and marginalized women remained a critical development concern. Older persons, those with disabilities and indigenous peoples were among the most neglected groups in the Philippines, although it had initiated laws and programmes that ensured the social protection and well-being of such groups. Initiatives had been undertaken to strengthen existing structures and improve the access of women and adolescents to sexual and reproductive health-care services and education. The Government was also seeking ways to address rapid urbanization, while placing emphasis on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction and mitigation strategies.
TONGAI MUZENDA, Deputy Minister for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare of Zimbabwe, said his Government had mainstreamed the Cairo Programme of Action into national plans for education, health, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, family planning, gender equality and women’s empowerment. The country boasted the highest literacy rate in Africa thanks to large investments in education. Between 1997 and 2007, HIV/AIDS prevalence fell from 29 per cent to 13 per cent. Zimbabwe had made great strides in family planning; its contraception use rate was among the best in Sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, it ratified the Disabilities Convention. It was taking steps to redress high unemployment, poverty, rape, HIV/AIDS and pregnancy among youth. Despite gains in providing access to safe water and sanitation services, the percentage of urban households with those resources had slipped due to the impact of economic sanctions on the country. Poverty alleviation was the Government’s leading development priority. Public-private partnerships should focus on financial and technical aid to developing countries to enable them to achieve the Cairo goals. He expressed deep concern that the Programme of Action prioritized sexual and reproductive health and rights. To realistically achieve the Cairo goals, such rights should not overshadow the socioeconomic needs of people.
CLAUDIA GARCIA SAMANIEGO, Vice-Minister for Equality and Non-Discrimination, Ministry for Women of Paraguay, said that her Government had made inclusive economic growth and poverty alleviation a priority. It was implementing a national “planting opportunities” programme to reduce poverty. The Government set up a programme to buy agricultural products from family farms. A programme in the Guarani language provided cash transfers to help the elderly, pregnant women and indigenous communities. Since 2009, the Government had enacted a monthly food stipends equivalent to 25 per cent of the minimum wage to aid the elderly.
MATIA KASAIJA, Minister for State Planning, Uganda, said through the implementation of the Programme of Action, his country had reduced poverty levels from 39 per cent in 2002, to 22 per cent in 2013. Campaigns against HIV/AIDS had resulted in a dramatic reduction, as well; from 18 per cent in the 1990s, to a current rate of about 6.4 per cent. In the education sector, Uganda had seen progress, with enrolment numbers increasing and a nearly one-to-one ratio of boys to girls. Given the large number of young people, Uganda had put into place youth programmes to promote employment opportunities, while similar measures had been taken with respect to persons with disabilities. However, family planning issues and maternal mortality rates remained areas of concerns for his country.
SOMCHIT INTHAMITH, Vice-Minister, Ministry for Planning and Investment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said investing in individual human rights and dignity across the ICPD sectors was the foundation of sustainable development. Issues such as income inequality, unfulfilled gender equality and disparities in access to sexual and reproductive health services were relevant to his country as it advanced towards middle-income status. To address them, it had put in place a five-year health sector reform plan to improve primary care provision, as well as a pro-poor policy to provide free maternity care. With 50 per cent of its population under 20 years of age, his country was committed to addressing the needs of young people. He also agreed that population dynamics must be integrated into development planning at the national, regional and international levels.
JUAN TOMÁS MONEGRO, Vice-Minister for Economics, Ministry of Planning and Development of the Dominican Republic, associating himself with CELAC, said the Cairo agenda had created greater awareness of sustainable development, as seen in the Constitution and the national development strategy, which had become law in 2012. Prosperity in the Dominican Republic was not inclusive and had not created enough jobs. More broadly, unemployment and precarious employment harmed human dignity. While unemployment had dropped in the last 10 years, the rate among women was more than double than among men. The wage gap, as measured by the average wage per hour of work, was almost closed as more girls were in school and job training programmes. The Dominican Republic had made strides in recognizing rights and developing a “national conscience” that respected tolerance.
LOLA VELARDE, Institute for Family Policy, said her United States-based research organization had found that a family-centred approach for developing and implementing policies yielded better results in such areas as poverty reduction, health and education. She supported the statement by Belarus’ representative, which, along with other nations, called upon Member States, United Nations agencies and civil society to put the family at the centre of the post-2015 development agenda and to adopt a stand-alone goal to strengthen the role of the family as a driver of sustainable economic and social development.
MALAKAI TABAR, Asian Pacific Forum on Parliamentarians on Population and Development, said its members had acknowledged and were committed to address in their respective Parliaments persistent and pervasive gender-based violence, including laws and practices that discriminated against women and girls; the damage caused by natural disasters and environmental degradation; ageing in Asia; and social protection for migrants. Without intensive support, some nations in the Asia-Pacific region would show no major improvement in achieving many of the Cairo aims. The Forum’s members were committed to reviewing and amending existing laws in order to promote a rights-based approach and good governance to advance the Cairo agenda.
CRISTINA GONZALEZ VELEZ, Red de Salud de las Mujeres de America Latina y el Caribe, said that some Governments that had attended the International Conference still wondered whether to work on a consensual resolution. Women were the masters of their own rights, waging a battle so that Governments guaranteed the exercise of those rights. Expressing support for the Montevideo Consensus, she called for a General Assembly resolution to help define the post-2015 agenda. “We need development in balance with nature and focused on people”, she said, calling for an end to structural inequalities based on gender, race, ethnic group, age and class.
LAURA MIRANDA-FLEFIL, Alliance Defending Freedom, urged a shift away from policies that held a negative view of the person, including those that promoted smaller family sizes and access to abortion. She called on States to focus on the first 1,000 days of life, from conception to age two. She also urged them to promote the needs of children and young people through education, which was an essential solution to poverty. States should rely on evidence-based medical facts on maternal mortality. People were the most important valuable resource of any nation.