For young people to reach their potential as “agents of progress”, it was crucial to involve them in the planning, development and monitoring of programmes that affected their lives, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Youth told the Commission on Population and Development today, drawing particular attention to the situation of adolescent girls.
In opening remarks, Ahmad Alhendawi said that with half of the global population under the age of 25, the world was undergoing a socioeconomic transition. How countries navigated changes in education, for example, would determine the lives of young people and the broader development picture. Yet, investments in adolescents and youth were lagging. Young people were over-represented among the unemployed — 197 million globally — while education programmes offered skills that were less relevant for a changing job market.
Adolescent girls were particularly at risk, he said, discriminated against because of their gender and age. An estimated one third of girls in developing countries married before their eighteenth birthday, while those coming of age were often taken out of school because their safety could not be guaranteed. Young people were asking for investments to empower them to deliver a better world. “I warn of a lost generation if we don’t do more,” he said. “That would be the biggest gamble we make with our future”.
Throughout the day, senior officials from around the world highlighted measures their Governments had taken to deliver on commitments made at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). Young people accounted for almost one third of the global population, some said, and more must be done to fulfil their aspirations.
In Africa, said Egypt’s representative, young people represented 20 per cent of the population. Events in his country had shown that they were “agents of change” and Egypt was implementing policies to harness the benefits of a “youthful population bulge”. More broadly, young peoples’ perspectives must be better integrated into development processes, he said.
Several speakers supported targeted efforts to enable girls to stay in school and to keep them free from violence so they could reach their true potential. Others stressed the importance of equal access to health care. South Africa’s representative said too many women struggled to access the services to which they were entitled, stressing that young females in his country were 3.5 times more likely to be HIV positive than their male counterparts.
Similarly, Nandi Tuaine Glassie, Minister for Health of the Cook Islands, called for stronger protection for girls and young women. Given that teen pregnancy was prevalent in many Pacific States, comprehensive sex education was vital.
Norway’s representative said her country had stood by its Cairo promises “because sexual and reproductive health and rights makes sense”, especially for the girl who was able to say no to unwanted sex and the woman who could access contraceptives in order to space her children.
Ahmad Jan Naeem, Afghanistan’s Vice-Minister for Health, said that despite major achievements in education, performance in his country was among the poorest in the world. Only 25 per cent of men and 10 per cent of women over age 25 had completed any formal education. Special outreach efforts targeting youth were underway to promote their participation in peace and reconciliation programmes, as well as those addressing sexual and reproductive health.
The day also featured a panel discussion on “ICPD beyond 2014: an unfinished agenda”, during which three experts weighed in on the elements of the ICPD process that were essential to include in the post-2015 development agenda.
The Commission was also briefed by Oh Joon, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, and Ann Biddlecom, Chief of the Fertility and Family Planning Section, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Also speaking today were ministers and senior officials of Cambodia, Belize, Albania, Angola, China, Sierra Leone, Germany, Mexico, Indonesia, Morocco, Thailand, Netherlands, Ghana, India, Cuba, Belarus, Malaysia, United Republic of Tanzania, France and Sri Lanka.
Representatives of Egypt, Malta, Austria, Israel, Iran, Denmark, Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland and Portugal also spoke.
Civil society representatives of IPAS, Mary Stopes International Ethiopia, Amnesty International, Norwegian Association of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, and Global Youth Action Network also delivered remarks.
The Commission on Population and Development will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 10 April, to continue its forty-seventh session.
The Commission on Population and Development met today to continue its forty-seventh session.
AHMAD ALHENDAWI, Envoy of the Secretary-General on Youth, said the Cairo Programme of Action was among the most important internationally agreed vows for a better future. He had had the opportunity to attend the regional conferences of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), meeting with youth and civil society in Cairo, Geneva and Montevideo. Just yesterday, a group of youth delegates had given him a petition outlining their call for human rights and dignity. They shared their concerns and aspirations for the future, which were remarkably similar around the world.
With half of the global population under the age of 25, he said, the world was undergoing a socioeconomic transition. How countries navigated changes in education, active citizenship and other issues would determine their broader socioeconomic development picture. The findings of the multi-stakeholder ICPD review process had shown that investments in adolescents and youth were lagging. Many youth continued to experience a lack of access to education, health services, work and opportunities to participate in society. Efforts were needed to protect, promote and fulfil their rights.
The story of education had many faces, he said, noting that while significant gains had been made, education was costing more and delivering less relevant skills for a constantly changing job market. Improving the formal and informal education system should be a goal of both the ICPD process and the post-2015 agenda.
He noted that tackling inequalities were fundamental. Young people were overrepresented among the unemployed and accepting informal or insecure jobs. They represented 197 million of the global unemployed in 2012, meaning that 600 million new jobs must be created throughout the lifespan of the new agenda. “I warn of a lost generation if we don’t do more,” he said. “That would be the biggest gamble we make with our future”.
Further, he said that adolescent girls faced discrimination, due to their gender and their age, placing them at serious risk. An estimated one third of girls in developing countries married before their eighteenth birthday, while those coming of age were often taken out of school because their safety could not be guaranteed. He supported the call for targeted efforts to enable girls to stay in school and to keep them free from violence so they could reach their true potential.
Among the most defining features of the Programme of Action, he said, was its recognition of the centrality of sexual and reproductive health to well-being and development in general. Yet, there were still laws and policies restricting access to those services. The lack of progress on that front had contributed to the disturbing figures in ICPD reports: more than 15 million girls aged 15 to 19 years had given birth resulting from non-consensual sex. Pregnancy and childbirth were the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19 years in low- and middle-income countries. Comprehensive sex education that emphasized human rights was essential for young people to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and HIV infection, and to develop healthy behaviours.
Today’s youth were more tuned into the world than ever, he said. Fortunately, they saw challenges in a fresh way and were responding with enthusiasm. With the right investments, they could reach their full potential as agents of progress. He said it was crucial to involve young people in the planning, development and monitoring of programmes that benefitted them. “Youth are the biggest opportunity and asset we have today”. They were asking for investments to empower them to navigate their lives and participate in efforts to deliver a world of human rights for all. He urged the Commission to be bold and concrete in its recommendations.
NANDI TUAINE GLASSIE, Minister for Health, Internal Affairs, Parliamentary Services and the Office of the Ombudsman of the Cook Islands, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Countries, said that in August 2013, Pacific parliamentarians discussed progress toward achieving the Cairo Programme of Action during the Pacific Parliamentary Conference. The meeting endorsed the Moana Declaration, which underscored key priority actions needed to follow up the Cairo Programme, notably the need to ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights for everyone. He reaffirmed the region’s commitment to address its vulnerability to climate change as a critical issue for national security and survival, and as it related to populations issues, globalization and environmental degradation. Pacific countries were committed to increasing the participation of women and young people in decision-making in all political, social and economic processes.
He called for stronger protection for girls and young women, including enhanced access to education, including sex education. He endorsed the right to contraception and information to make free, informed decisions about the number and timing of children, thereby preventing unwanted and unplanned pregnancies and reducing the need for abortion. He called for an integrated response to gender-based violence in all sexual and reproductive and health services. Given that teen pregnancy was prevalent in many Pacific States, comprehensive sex education was vital. Fourteen Pacific countries took part in the global review of the Cairo Programme. They committed to scale up national efforts to halt the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, address the unprecedented pace of ageing and to apply a human rights-based approach to deal with internally displaced persons, refugees and asylum seekers. The outcomes of the 2013 Regional Asia-Pacific Population Conference in Bangkok should guide the post-2014 Cairo Programme.
THAVRAK TUON, Secretary of State, Ministry of Planning of Cambodia, said his country had made considerable progress in the areas of maternal mortality reduction, fertility decline, gender equality and the containment of the spread of HIV. Through these efforts, Cambodia was going through a phase of rapid demographic transition, which included an increase in the size of the labour force through the entry of a large number of working-age youth. Among Cambodia’s priorities included reducing income inequalities, empowering women, addressing inequalities in universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, and strengthening health-care systems in rural and urban areas. Investing in human capital and recognizing individual human rights and choices would provide the foundations for the sustainable development of countries.
JUDITH ALPUCHE, Chief Executive Officer for Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation of Belize, said her country had taken a rights-based approach to development, which had been ramped up over the last five years. For Belize, national development and the full realization of human rights for all were two sides of the same coin. All people must be assured a certain minimum standard of living. Considerable efforts had been invested in the reform of social protection systems, particularly focusing on the modernization of social safety net programmes. Belize had adopted a comprehensive approach to addressing gender-based violence and domestic legislation had been strengthened to broaden the range and scope of protections available to victims. Great strides had also been made with regard to expanding coverage and ensuring broader access to sexual and reproductive health services.
AHMAD JAN NAEEM, Vice Minister for Health of Afghanistan, said efforts had been made to strengthen women’s rights and gender equality and that some extraordinary achievements had been made, particularly in education and democratic governance. Initiatives in the health sector were also moving ahead, including a national immunization campaign that had reached all provinces and districts, which targeted children under the age of 5. Basic health coverage had expanded from 9 per cent of the population in 2003 to over 60 per cent in 2013. Life expectancy had also increased from 45 years in 2002 to 64 years in 2010. Despite those major achievements, education performance in his country was among the poorest in the world. Only 25 per cent of men and 10 per cent of women over the age of 25 had completed any level of formal education. Special outreach efforts targeting youth were underway to promote their active participation in peace and reconciliation programmes, as well as those addressing sexual and reproductive health.
ELONA HOXHA, Deputy Minister for Interior Affairs of Albania, said great progress had been made in achieving key targets, including those addressing extreme poverty and gender inequalities, as well as improving health and nutrition, particularly for those most vulnerable. Regarding reproductive health, special attention had been given to improving the quality of health care in the area of maternal and child health and educating people on family planning. Several outreach campaigns had been launched related to the use of modern contraceptives, while other initiatives had been devoted to Roma persons. Albania was also taking steps to adapt to its ageing population and address the social, economic and health challenges people faced later in life and ensure they were able to stay active in society and live independent lives.
ANA PAULA DA SILVA DO SACRAMENTO NETO, Secretary of State for Family and the Promotion of Women of Angola, said her country had consistently addressed population issues. Doing so had created programmes related to reproductive health, education and sanitation, as well as for sustained economic growth and development in line with the Cairo Programme of Action. The Government continued to strengthen the national policy framework for promoting youth development and empowerment, with a focus on skills training. Gender equality had been mainstreamed into the education system to ensure women had a real political platform, as leaders, not just observers, in Government. The Ministry for Family and the Promotion of Women coordinated all gender-related activities. Upgrades to the country’s health facilities had led to a reduction in maternal and infant mortality. A national strategy for reproductive health and a programme to prevent and control HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted disease was closing gaps in reproductive health services’ coverage. The Government had set up a special population unit with the Ministry of Planning and Territorial Development to monitor and evaluate national population policy.
ZHANG YANG, Deputy Director General for the Department of International Cooperation of China, said her country had made serious efforts to honour its commitments under the Cairo Programme of Action through a holistic approach. It had effectively controlled excessive population growth, reduced its fertility rate to below replacement, and successfully achieved a historic demographic transition. From the 1970s to 2013, maternal mortality fell from 120 to 100,000 live births to 23 to 100,000 live births, while average life expectancy rose from 61 to 75 years. It was the first country to achieve the Millennium Goal of halving extreme poverty. It provided full pension coverage and basic medical care for the elderly. A national urbanization plan for 2014-2020 would drive forward human-centred urbanization, facilitate the settlement of rural migrants in urban areas and promote the rational distribution of urban services. The Government had improved family planning and reproductive health services, which included free contraception, interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, and providing adolescent health education.
MOOTAZ AHMADEIN KHALIL (Egypt), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the African Group and the Arab Group, said the spirit of tolerance in the Cairo consensus had “stood the test of time”, with the extension of its Programme of Action beyond 2014 testifying to its relevance. As the most populous country in the Arab world, Egypt had prioritized population issues, and its new Constitution guaranteed they remained at the heart of national sustainable development policies.
He said the 2015-2030 population strategy would integrate population issues into education, youth and health policies. Events in Egypt had shown that young people were “agents of change” and their perspectives must be better integrated into development processes. Renewed high-level political commitment to the Programme was essential, as were new and additional resources for developing countries. The Arab Regional Conference on Population and Development provided guidance to States on ensuring full implementation of the Programme of Action.
MIATTA B. KARGBO, Minister for Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone, associating herself with the African Group, said health, gender equality, youth empowerment and human rights were among the eight priorities of the Agenda for Prosperity. The situation in Sierra Leone was changing, amid improved maternal and child indicators, as well as policies and laws that promoted women in Parliament, and sexual and reproductive health. Most Government programmes focused on youth, as their employment remained a challenge. The health system must be strengthened, resources must be mobilized more quickly and based on country needs. “We need to sustain the momentum of the work we are doing,” she said, stressing that Sierra Leone was becoming more sensitive to the needs of its people.
INGRID SKØTSKIFT ( Norway) said her country stood by its Cairo promises “because sexual and reproductive health and rights makes sense”. In Norway, comprehensive sex education was taken seriously, and today, few girls reported that they had been forced into sex. That such issues were perceived as sensitive did not mean that they should not be discussed. Every year, some 50,000 women died because of illegal and unsafe abortions. Girls who were married before they were ready for pregnancy were especially at risk. There was a moral obligation to respect women’s right to self-determination vis-à-vis marriage and childbirth. Commitments must be backed by resources and accountability, she added.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMA ( Malta) said that with nearly one quarter of its population 60 years or older, his country faced related social, economic and cultural challenges. At the other end of the spectrum, the younger generation faced challenges to realize their aspirations. Malta had introduced legislation to legalize civil union for same sex couples, while modern contraception methods had become more widely available and accessible. He regretted that the ICPD had almost exclusively been linked with reproductive rights and health, reaffirming that any discussion of those items could not take place outside the framework of the right to life. Abortion as a means of resolving health or social problems denied that right.
URSULA MÜLLER, Director-General for Policy Issues and Political Governance of Bilateral Development Cooperation, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, said her country had worked with partner countries to implement the Cairo Programme of Action. Since 1994, it had spent $4.3 billion on bilateral and multilateral population aid, including for sexual and reproductive rights. Through its initiative on rights-based family planning and public health, it was committed to ensure more women could exercise the right to how many children to have and when to have them. It provided consultations to help prevent and treat HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Germany had profited from a demographic dividend, but in the next two decades, its population would age significantly, creating challenges for geographical sustainability. To address that, a broad multi-stakeholder dialogue was started to strengthen family, keeping workers motivated and healthy, ensuring the basis of sustainable growth and keeping Government effective. In May 2013, the first results of the consultation process were presented. Demographic change and population ageing would impose unprecedented challenges. Population dynamics were incorporated as a central issue into German development cooperation.
ELIZABETH MAGUIRE, Ipas, said one of the greatest gaps to achieving the Cairo Programme of Action was the persistence of deaths and injuries due to clandestine or botched abortions. Since 1994, by conservative estimates, more than 1 million women and girls had died and more than 100 million had been injured by abortion. It was intolerable for such deaths and injuries to continue in the twenty-first century when they were entirely preventable with available, low-cost technologies. If laws did not change, tens of millions of women would continue to risk their lives and health each year. In contrast, when laws were reformed, as in Ethiopia and Nepal more than a decade ago, an enabling environment was created and women’s health improved. In those two countries alone, millions of women and families had benefitted from improved access to safe abortion care and contraceptives.
MERON HAGOS, Marie Stopes International Ethiopia, said Ethiopia had taken “historic” steps, which had led to increased contraceptive use, from 6.3 per cent in 2000 to 29 per cent in 2011, and a related drop in the fertility rate. The programme offered a model for how low-cost interventions could improve gender equality and long-term prosperity. Comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services were a convenient way to provide other services, such as cervical cancer screenings. Targeted strategies were needed to reach underserved communities, requiring more health finance and health infrastructure. Indeed, one woman died every eight minutes from an unsafe abortion, half of them under age 25. Investing in comprehensive sex education and a range of family planning methods was key to reducing those numbers. The post-2015 agenda must integrate the findings of the ICPD global review.
SABRINA FRYDMAN, Amnesty International, reaffirmed that gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights were essential for well-being in the post-2015 context. Some 1.8 million young people faced human rights challenges, especially adolescent girls, many of whom had no access to information, contraception or health services without the consent of their parents or husbands. Young girls were subjected to female genital mutilation and early marriage, and further, lacked access to justice. Young people must participate in decisions that affected their lives. Her organization had launched a petition to prioritize sexual and reproductive health rights of girls in the post-2015 period, she said, urging universal access to sexual and reproductive health and education.
The Commission then held a panel discussion entitled “ICPD beyond 2014: an unfinished agenda”. Moderated by Barbara Crossette, journalist, author and former correspondent of the New York Times, it featured presentations by: Gamal Serour, Director of the International Islamic Centre for Population Studies and Research at Al-Azhar University, Egypt; Oluwafunmilola Dare, CEO of the Centre for Health Sciences Training, Research and Development, Nigeria; and Carmen Barroso, Regional Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region.
Ms. BARROSO asked how people could favour the Programme of Action but not comprehensive sex education. She asked if the Commission was happy about the huge numbers of women and girls who were forced to become pregnant, or insensitive to the enormous costs such an event represented for them, or to entire societies. She asked whether participants cared about the gender inequality that was at the root of gender violence, a global epidemic.
There was a fear that sex education would encourage early sex, she said, or lead someone to adopt another sexual identity. In the Internet age, that fear did not make sense and she asked what kind of culture or religion participants wanted to leave to their children. She hoped they would support practices that promoted the respect, protection and fulfilment of everyone’s human rights.
Ms. DARE said priorities in Africa must remain focused on the sustainable development goals and the post-2015 development agenda. All goals and targets for women and children would not be achieved if the international community failed to pay attention to how partnerships were managed. All partners at the global level, including those among civil society organizations, agencies and countries alike, must be held to account, particularly those active in areas that were lagging behind in achieving the Cairo Programme of Action. Monitoring violations of human rights and the rights of women deserved more attention. Governments must ensure proper alignment of domestic and international resources. Official development assistance must be predictable and aligned to priority programmes. Moreover, financing must be employed to create sustainable livelihoods for young people. Youth must be guided through education, training for enterprise development and the promotion of protective forms of sexual and reproductive behaviour in all relationships. The rights of women must go beyond protective documents; solid action on the ground was needed. She called for a standalone goal on gender equity in the sustainable development goals.
Mr. SEROUR said safeguarding the rights of young people and investing in quality education, job opportunities and youth-friendly health-care policies was essential. Forty per cent of the world’s unemployed people were youth. During the next decade, 40 million jobs must be created annually. In Africa, the youth population was rising, but it had limited access to sexual and reproductive health rights and services. Youth needed better access to such services in order to prosper. Empowerment of women and girls, as called for in the Cairo Programme, had not been achieved. One in three girls and women were still subjected to gender-based violence by boys and men. More than 14 million underage girls were forced to marry and have children, resulting in high levels of fistula, infection, and, in some instances, death. Most left school. Some 275,000 women died annually from cervical cancer, which was preventable. Most of those deaths occurred in developing countries. There were 220 million women with unmet needs of contraception; 25 per cent died due to maternal-related causes. Moreover, girls needed long-term family planning advice. Issues of fertility and reproductive rights, including female genital mutilation and sexually transmitted diseases, must be addressed in the post-2015 development agenda. Solidarity and cooperation between youth and the elderly were also important.
In the ensuing discussion, a representative of Egypt said her country was strengthening its health system to ensure provision of sexual and reproductive health services. In addition, it was enhancing sexual and reproductive health commodities, establishing “youth friendly” clinics, and focusing on ending child marriage through a strategy that enforced laws and kept girls in school. It also had devised a communication strategy to end female genital mutilation. While the Government was working to secure resources for such work, it had woven accountability principles into all monitoring and evaluation plans.
The representative of El Salvador asked whether there was a need for parental education programmes in order to create a conducive environment for implementing youth policies. Teachers, tutors and other educators should be included.
Ms. BARROSO, responding, said she had been impressed at Brazil’s approach to involve parents in creating such a positive environment. In the home, parents reinforced the message of respect for young people.
Mr. SEROUR said he had convinced his university to include sexual and reproductive health in its curriculum for all students, as the results of a survey had shown their knowledge of the topic was “appalling”.
The representative of Jamaica asked panellists for their thoughts on the inclusion of boys.
The representative of Tonga said women participated in his country’s Parliament, which he believed should take priority over the participation of young people.
The representative of Nepal asked how to ensure that culture and religion protected and promoted the rights of women and adolescents, rather than inhibited them.
Ms. DARE, responding, said men and boys required information on how to support the protection of women and girls. It was important not to forget them. In Nigeria, men were often the gatekeepers of access to various services, so it was important they were informed about the benefits of such access.
Ms. BARROSO said the Government was obliged to ensure that every citizen had the right to his or her own belief, notably by building spaces for freedom of religion and non-religion.
Mr. SEROUR said he taught at a conservative university. Generally, religious leaders and faith-based organizations were very supportive of the humanities and the promotion of life. The sexual and reproductive health programme which he taught was supported by the leaders of his university, as well as the Grand Imam.
RON PROSOR ( Israel) said overcoming the challenges to physical and sexual abuse faced by women, less pay for equal work and maternal mortality would depend on the international community’s ability to support the most vulnerable members of society. In a region where women were often excluded from public life, Israeli women stood out as leaders, serving in Parliament and on the Supreme Court. They led political parties and had leading roles in academic. Women were the cornerstones of a society and the stepping stones to a better future. Empowering women was a basic human right. Women must have a right to control their own bodies, live free from violence, have a voice in their communities and choose whom they will marry. Ensuring women’s sexual and reproductive rights was a fundamental precondition of sustainable development.
OH JOON, Vice-President, Economic and Social Council, said the Cairo Conference had reaffirmed the fundamental role of population issues in development. Describing the Council’s recent reform process, he said the 54-member body would select an annual theme, based on input received from subsidiary bodies and States, to be addressed by the entire Economic and Social Council system. The Council had established an integration segment to consolidate inputs, including from subsidiary bodies, on how to best integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development. Recently, it had decided that its first integration segment, to be held in May, would be devoted to sustainable urbanization, offering an opportunity for the Commission to incorporate key demographic trends.
Further, the Council would conduct reviews of the activities and recommendations of its subsidiary bodies, he said, noting that the Commission’s annual report would be considered at one of its meetings. Recalling that the theme of this year’s Annual Ministerial Review would address emerging and ongoing challenges for meeting the Millennium Development Goals and sustaining gains in the future, he expressed confidence that the Commission’s deliberations would lead to recommendations for addressing the gaps in the ICPD process.
There was little doubt that future demographic trends would shape development opportunities, he said, as recognized by the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. For its part, the Council was committed to ensuring that the reform process would lead to fuller consideration of population issues and better integration of the Commission’s work in the Economic and Social Council’s machinery.
ANN BIDDLECOM, Chief, Fertility and Family Planning Section, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, gave several examples of how population dynamics addressed ongoing and emerging challenges to attain the Millennium Development Goals and sustain development gains. They related to population growth, persistent gaps in reproductive health, shifts in the age structure of populations, international migration and the increasing demand for population growth. Population growth had a crucial role in planning for health service expansion and monitoring progress. Since 1990, in sub-Saharan Africa, progress toward expanding coverage of antenatal care — to just half of all pregnant women in 2011 — had stagnated, while coverage of skilled birth attendance — which rose from 42 per cent to 48 per cent over that period — was minimal. Contraceptive use among married or in-union women increased from 12 per cent to 27 per cent. The gaps to achieve universal access to reproductive health cut across almost all countries, regardless of population growth. For many countries, contraceptive use was not keeping pace with the growth in demand.
The shift in the population’s age structure — by 2047, people aged 60 and older would outnumber children, with most growth in developed countries — would create a “window of opportunity”, she said. That opening for potential economic growth depended on investments in young peoples’ education, training and job opportunities aligned with the Millennium targets on productive employment, education and ending gender inequality. International migration was expected to shape future population change and sustain development gains in a growing number of countries. Globally, 7 of every 10 migrants originated from developing countries; half moved between countries in the South. Remittances by migrants were often invested in human capital, health and education. Migrants also filled gaps in the labour market and helped offset some of the effects of population ageing. Population data was required for accurate estimates for many of the Millennium indicators. Vital statistics were important. Some countries were making strides in drawing on mobile technology to extend coverage and accuracy of birth and death records. Surveys could help fill the gap in data availability.
MERCEDES DEL CARMEN GUILLÉN VICENTE, Under-Secretary for Population, Migration and Religious Issues, Ministry of the Interior of Mexico, said the Government reaffirmed to eight major goals and had achieved 94 per cent of the indicators on the official United Nations list, with a high probably of achieving the rest by 2015. It had achieved the goals related to poverty and hunger. Mexico also would focus structural reforms to recover economic growth and move towards an “inclusive Mexico”. It had taken a comprehensive approach to address food insecurity among the 7 million Mexicans living in extreme poverty. Mexico was meeting the goal to achieve universal access to primary education, and working to improve women’s access to the labour market and quality jobs.
HANNE LOTTE MOEN, Board Member, Norwegian Association of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, said she was a non-governmental representative of her delegation. Addressing the importance of civil society, she said: “We need all young people of the world today on board,” as they had experience to inform today’s decisions. Yet, they could only contribute to development if their human rights were fulfilled, including those for jobs, a life free from discrimination based on gender identity and other factors, and reproductive and sexual rights. All Governments must provide comprehensive sex education. Reproductive and sexual rights for young people were a precondition for their valuable contributions.
FASIL JALAL, Head of the National Population and Family Planning Board for Indonesia, said national management of population had helped his country achieve the Millennium Goals. Various population management policies and programmes had particularly facilitated strides in several areas, namely poverty eradication, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS and environmental sustainability. Population-centred development issues had been integrated into the 2005-2025 national long-term development plan. He called for stronger efforts to mainstream population issues into relevant sectors of the post-2015 development agenda.
MAHJOUB EL-HAIBA, Interministerial Delegate for Human Rights of Morocco, said his country was committed to the post-2014 Cairo agenda. His country had made significant progress in reducing maternal mortality, increasing sexual health care for youth, and in preventing and ending cancer. Morocco had shared its experiences with other African countries concerning population issues. In 2011, it adopted a new Constitution. It had formed a new criminal code, a declaration on equality, and steps to end violence against women. It had adopted strategies to improve the rights of the family and had strengthened human rights.
SUTHA JIENMANEECHOTCHAI, Deputy Director-General, Department of Health, Ministry of Public Health of Thailand, encouraged the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other relevant United Nations agencies to implement the conclusions of the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Thailand’s national policy on sexual reproductive health emphasized the promotion of quality reproductive health for all ages. The Government also placed high priority on providing affordable and equitable health care. To date, 33 million women had free access to reproductive health care and family planning services.
ANDREAS RIECKEN (Austria) said the Millennium Development Goals could not be reached unless the ICPD goals were achieved, urging that the Programme of Action extend beyond sexual and reproductive health and rights to cover education, gender equality, protection of vulnerable groups, democracy, good governance and the rule of law. Agreeing that sexual and reproductive rights should be central parts of the post-2015 agenda, he said linking the ICPD debate to the Council’s Annual Ministerial Review was particularly important, as the Council was central to the elaboration and implementation of the new development agenda.
JOHANNA BAAK, Policy Officer, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said population influenced inclusive economic growth, security and sustainable development. Demographic development was not an autonomous process. Fertility was an important factor that influenced it. More than 220 million women lacked access to modern contraception that wanted access to it. Meeting that need was imperative. Population development planning required the promotion of human rights, equality and social justice. All individuals must have universal access to quality sexual and reproductive health services. Abortion must be available. All regulatory restrictions to such services must be removed. Sustainable development could only be achieved if no one was left behind. The Netherlands remained committed to fully implement the Cairo Programme of Action beyond 2014.
STEPHEN KWANKYE, Executive Director for the National Population Council of Ghana, noted challenges in Africa and other countries in the South to address the youth bulge and reap its demographic dividend. More efforts should be made to realize those gains. He welcomed the upcoming ministerial review meeting of the Cairo Programme of Action. The post-2015 development agenda must enhance countries’ ownership and political will to achieve agreed goals. Increasing gender parity in education was essential. Women and girls must be put at the centre of the development discourse.
HADAS ESTER MEITZAD ( Israel) called for an end to forced marriage, female genital mutilation and domestic violence. States also must strive to guarantee inclusive education, as it empowered young people. They must do all to secure young people’s transition into adulthood, as a lack of education did not deter young people from sexual activity. Israel had hosted an international women leaders’ conference in Haifa, where participants had called for ensuring the centrality of gender equality post-2015, and explored how to integrate a gender perspective in the new development agenda.
DOCTOR MASHABANE ( South Africa) said his country had seen an “unparalleled” five-year increase in life expectancy since 2005, thanks to the world’s largest HIV/AIDS drug treatment programme, and more women were accessing reproductive health services. Yet, poverty, unemployment and inequality disproportionately affected women. Too many of them, especially adolescent girls, struggled to access the services to which they were entitled. Young females were 3.5 times more likely to be HIV-positive than their male counterparts.
MESBAH ANSARI Dogaheh ( Iran) said more than half of his country’s population was under age 30, providing an opportunity for resilient and sustainable development. Yet its population was also ageing fast. The Government had achieved many of the ICPD targets. UNFPA said it had surpassed targets on under-five and infant mortality. Laws required premarital counselling. Pregnancy health-care coverage was at 96 per cent, a 4 per cent increase from between 2000 and 2010. Also during that period, delivery attended by skilled birth personnel had increased from 89 per cent to 96 per cent.
LOV VERMA, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of India, said the country’s focus on education was to improve quality, expand primary and secondary education and access for girls and women to skills development. With significant declines in infant and maternal mortality, the focus was now on meeting the challenges due to demographic shifts and the shift of burden from communicable to non-communicable diseases. A programme was recently rolled out to bring services related to reproductive health, nutrition, injuries and violence, non-communicable diseases and mental health care to young people. The 2013 Criminal Act broadened the definition of rape and criminalized a greater set of violations. In December, a new law took effect to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace. India was sharing its development experiences with other developing countries. For example, it had linked major hospitals in Africa with specialized hospitals in India through a pan-African e-network project for providing quality telemedical services.
MARIELA CASTRO ESPIN, Member of Parliament and Director of the National Centre for Sexual Education for Cuba, said a human-centred approach was needed to public population and development policy. A just, equitable system that eliminated growing gaps between developed and developing countries was essential. Cuba, which suffered from an economic blockade, continued to develop programmes to improve the quality of life of women, children and youth in particular. It had achieved the second, third and fourth Millennium target. It was working hard to achieve the remaining goals. Women comprised more than 60 per cent of working professionals and 48 per cent of parliamentarians. In 2013, the child mortality rate was 4.2 per every 1,000 live births. Contraception and abortion were legal and free. The population was fully literate. The 2014-2018 national programme sponsored by UNFPA focused on sex education, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and statistics for decision-making.
IB PETERSEN (Denmark), associating himself with the European Union, welcomed the extension of the Programme of Action beyond 2014, as it had significantly contributed to progress for millions of people. Yet, Governments had not fulfilled all of their 1994 promises and some regions had been left behind. Issues requiring attention included the fact that one in nine girls married before age 15, and that pregnancy and childbirth were the primary causes of deaths of adolescent girls in many countries. “We need to invest in women and girls to achieve sustainable development”, he stressed. It was also disturbing that 140 million women and girls were living with the painful consequences of female genital mutilation.
SVETLANA BELASH, Adviser, Division of Population, Gender and Family Policies, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Belarus, said a “population security” programme focused on increasing families’ quality of life, increasing life expectancy and optimizing external migration flows. Birth rates had stabilized in 2013, while infant mortality had increased. Her Government’s efforts to improve the quality of life had been commended by the Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights. It also was implementing cooperation programmes with United Nations bodies to achieve sustainable development. She urged a focus on retaining and supporting families.
NOORUL AINUR MOHDNUR, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development of Malaysia, said her country had achieved most of the Millennium and Cairo goals. Poverty had fallen to 1.7 per cent in 2012. In 2013, primary school education enrolment stood at 96.6 per cent and secondary school enrolment was 91 per cent. To better empower women, the Government had created a strategy to increase by 2015 women’s participation in the labour force. Women occupied at least 30 per cent of decision-making posts in the public sector. Malaysia had among the lowest maternal death rates in Asia, with 4.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012. But there was a rise in HIV/AIDS cases among youth. In 2010, Malaysia introduced a national HPV vaccination programme to prevent cervical cancer in young girls. Malaysia had become a major destination of migrants. To address related challenges, it required health-care testing of migrants to screen those with communicable diseases and it was enforcing the 2007 anti-smuggling of migrants act.
CHARLES PALLANGYO, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of the United Republic of Tanzania, said the post-2015 development agenda should focus on unfinished business in poverty reduction, eliminating gender inequality, girls’ education, health care, and interventions to eradicate malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. He said his country had made significant progress toward achieving the Cairo Programme of Action in the areas of reproductive health and rights, infant mortality, education, gender equality and empowerment. The infant mortality rate had decreased from 91 to 81 deaths per 1,000 live births from 2007 to 2010. But he noted slow progress in reducing maternal mortality and fighting diseases such as HIV.
STEFAN HENNIS, youth representative of the Netherlands, said he had received comprehensive sex education and lived without the fear of unplanned pregnancy, as he and his partner had access to contraception. His experience had no major life-changing events, something the ICPD process hoped to bring to everyone around the world. The Dutch family planning programme had led to one of the lowest abortion rates in the world. Such programmes explained its success in preventing unwanted pregnancy. Everyone had the right to education, employment and health care, regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The Netherlands was among the first countries in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
GUILLERMO RISHCHYNSKI ( Canada) said his country was a leader on maternal and children’s health. Maternal and infant mortality had decreased over the last five years. Yet, 6.6 million children around the world died before the age of 5. Protecting kids from trafficking and other abuses was critical. Canada was developing child protection systems and was committed to working with its partners around world to end child and early forced marriage, which affected some 14 million girls annually. The world was characterized by population mobility, whose volume was unprecedented. As such, migration must be managed in a secure, organized and balanced manner to meet the expectations of both migrants and societies.
DANIELLE BOUSQUET, Chair, High Council of Equality between Women and Men of France, said sex education in her country aimed to encourage responsible sexual behaviour from an early age, by providing stronger access to services, commodities and information regarding sexual and reproductive health. France provided free contraceptives to young people, access to voluntary termination of abortion, and screening for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns had led to changes in sexual behaviour. Since 2008, 80 per cent of sexually active youth were using contraceptives. France had developed mechanisms that allowed for better work-life balance, so families could better care for children. The Government had strengthened economic aid to single heads of households. France had joined the 15 countries that in last 10 years had permitted same-sex marriage. Issues such as unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion, and inequality of access to sexual and reproductive rights and information must be addressed in the post-2015 period.
PALITHA MAHIPALA, Director-General for the Ministry of Health of Sri Lanka, endorsed the regional outcome document of the Asia-Pacific Population Conference. His country had taken several steps to implement the Cairo Programme of Action, which had resulted in a continuing decline in maternal and child mortality and increased life expectancy and contraceptive use. It was one of the few countries in Asia with a sex ratio favourable to women thanks to longer life expectancy for women. It also had the fastest ageing population in Asia, which had led to several political, economic and social challenges. For that reason, population must be given priority in the post-2015 development agenda. The national youth policy, young persons’ health-care policy and the adolescent health strategy would address current challenges to further strengthen sexual and reproductive health services. Heavy Government investment in maternal and child health programmes had led to a reduction in maternal and infant mortality. Free education had led to higher female literacy. Sri Lank would host the World Conference on Youth in May.
STEPHEN KWANKYE, Executive Director for the National Population Council of Ghana, said his country’s development agenda placed people at its centre. There was increased awareness of upholding the rights of women and children. The Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs had outlined a policy to mainstream gender into the development agenda. Female genital mutilation and cutting had been criminalized, while community-based health services had been provided to those in need, including for reproductive health. The Government also had carried out family planning efforts and those to discourage early marriage.
PAUL SEGER ( Switzerland) said all the aims of the Cairo Programme of Action should be integrated into the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. He supported stand-alone goals on gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as on health. Sexual and reproductive health and rights should be integrated in both. Since 1994, Switzerland had made progress in gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights. They had attained the same education level as men, but there were still gaps to fill in terms of equal salaries, work-life balance and political participation. Switzerland’s development cooperation had enabled it to help partner countries strengthen decentralized health systems, reduce HIV infections and improve sexual health among youth. Deaths due to unsafe abortions were avoidable. In 2002, abortion was decriminalized. Today, Switzerland’s abortion rate was among the lowest in the world. This year, Swiss citizens voted to maintain health insurance coverage for abortion.
ÁLVARO MENDONÇA E MOURA ( Portugal) said his country’s low fertility rate, along with substantial increases in life expectancy, was creating an age structure with potentially grave socioeconomic implications. It would like to see a growing convergence between real and desired fertility rates, and thus, conditions should be created for people to have their desired number of children. Free access to all types of family planning services was available to all, without discrimination. Prevention of HIV/AIDS was a priority, as was combating violence against women.
ANASTASIA GAGE, International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, urged reducing population growth in sub-Saharan Africa, where fertility decline had been slower than expected, and underlined the importance of extending sexual and reproductive health services to adolescents, irrespective of their marital status. She also drew attention to the need to rethink employment and retirement policies as a population aged. Funding for demographic research and training also had not kept up with demand for information.
LARA COUSINS, International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS and the Global Network for Reproductive Rights, pointed to “institutional violence” when girls and young women were unable to access sexual and reproductive health services, particularly when they were unmarried, poor, living with HIV, disabled, or had diverse sexual orientation or identities. Nowhere was the abuse more evident than when girls and young women in vulnerable situations underwent forced sterilization or abortion, or were forced to carry unwanted pregnancies. It was high time to ensure young women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights and to eradicate violence against them in all its forms.
DAREEN ABU LAIL, Global Youth Action Network, speaking on behalf of the Arab Youth Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and members of the CPD47 Youth Caucus, called on Member States to ensure that young people everywhere had access to comprehensive sex education. Such education was essential for young people to be able to make responsible, informed decisions and experience fulfilment in their sexual and reproductive lives. Yet, it was still lacking in countries and regions where it was needed most. Culture could not be invoked in incidents of gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, early and forced marriage, marital rape, sexual violence and violence in conflict situations, or to deny access to safe, legal abortion and post-abortion health care.