13 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/10870

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Plenary

19th Meeting (AM)


Speakers in Assembly Urge Support for Maternal Health, Reproductive Services,


Backing Goals of 1994 International Conference on Population and Development


Fifteen Years after Cairo Conference, Delegations Say, Much Work Remains

To Ensure Women Did Not Die of Preventable, Treatable Pregnancy-Related Causes


While the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) had broken new ground in many areas ‑‑ including clarifying the concept of sexual and reproductive health and setting a quantitative goal for universal delivery of such services ‑‑ substantial progress must be made to stop women from dying of preventable pregnancy-related causes, delegates in the General Assembly stressed today, as they concluded their two-day commemoration of the Conference.


“In many countries, giving birth is the most dangerous thing a woman can do”, the representative of Norway said, asserting that the issue just wasn’t being taken seriously.  In various parts of the world, women were seen as second-class citizens and their low status and a lack of gender equality were to blame for that “disgraceful situation”.  Moreover, unsafe, clandestine abortions continued to occur, and it was imperative to ensure that abortions were carried out in a safe manner.  For its part, the Norwegian Government, this week, would present next year’s budget and uphold its increased aid for women and children within the framework of 1 per cent of gross national income for development.


Gender equality was an immense challenge for the Maldives, that country’s delegate said, and women’s participation in both public life and leadership positions remained low.  A high divorce rate forced many single women to bear the brunt of childcare and require flexible working hours.  The archipelago’s quarter million people lived in dispersed communities, spread over 196 islands, and the Government did not have the resources to bring social and economic conditions into balance with development goals.  Mobilizing resources was central to the new Administration’s development policy, and the Maldives needed civil society, private sector and Government partners to overcome such challenges.


Pakistan, like other developing countries carrying out population planning, faced issues of internal migration, rapid urbanization, a “youth bulge” and a high number of unmet needs, the country’s representative stressed.  With a fast-growing urban population, Government policy was focused on generating work opportunities in both urban and rural areas.  The main goal was to stabilize the population and achieve sustainable human development as the country worked to reach the Millennium Development Goals and cut poverty.  Striking a balance between population and resources was vital to those efforts.


Afghanistan’s delegate said a worsening security situation in his country’s south and south-east threatened improvements made to gender and health over the past few years.   Afghanistan struggled with high levels of maternal and infant mortality, illiteracy, a lack of infrastructure, a shortage of funds for key programmes and a lack of female staff, which impeded access to health services.  While the financial crisis should not impede the provision of technical and financial aid to developing and post-conflict countries, South-South cooperation would be critical to reaching the “mammoth” development targets countries had set for themselves.


Highlighting a positive step to that end in his region, Turkey’s delegate welcomed the high-level regional meeting on Millennium Development Goal 5 ‑‑ maternal health ‑‑ to be held in Istanbul on 11 November.  Organized by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) regional office, it would aim to reinforce political and financial commitments to improve maternal health and increase reproductive services for disadvantaged populations in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.  To address illegal migration, it would be more realistic for countries of origin, as well as destination, to join efforts in tackling the root causes.


On that point, the Observer for the Holy See said Governments and individuals too frequently viewed migration as an unwitting consequence of globalization.  Negative stereotypes were used to promote policies that had a dehumanizing impact on migrants and created unconscionable divisions within families.  To truly achieve all the constructive proposals of the ICPD action plan, greater efforts were needed to enact policies that recognized the shared benefits of migration.  The ICPD’s call for universal access to quality education was the most effective way to promote sustainable economic, social and political development.


Also speaking today were the representatives of Japan, Netherlands, Malta, Kenya, Jamaica, Serbia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Bulgaria, Chile, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, Mauritania, Brazil and Uganda.


A representative of Partners for Population and Development also spoke.


The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 15 October, to elect five non-permanent members of the Security Council.


Background


The General Assembly met today to continue and conclude its commemoration of the fifteenth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo, Egypt in 1994.  (For more information, please see press release GA/10869.)


Statements


MORTEN WETLAND (Norway), recalling that after the landmark Cairo Conference, delegates had also gathered for important meetings in Beijing and Copenhagen, said the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action was crucial to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  While substantial gains had been made in some areas, hardly any progress had been made in reaching Millennium Goal 5, on maternal mortality and maternal and reproductive health.  Citing a statistic that one woman died every minute due to pregnancy related complications, he said “in many countries, giving birth is the most dangerous thing a woman can do”.


The answer for that lay in the fact that the issue had not been taken seriously, he continued.  In many countries, including developed nations, women were seen as second-class citizens and men, who made all the decisions, did not allocate enough resources to women’s needs.  Women’s low status and a lack of gender equality were responsible for that disgraceful situation, and he welcomed the recent Assembly resolution to create a new gender entity to strengthen the United Nations’ capacity to promote women.


Making progress on Millennium Goal 5 required significantly enhanced political will, community engagement and mobilization of resources.  Continuing, he said a lack of reproductive health services made sexual activity more risky for both sexes, and young people’s needs must be addressed in that context.  Also, a stronger focus on young girls would reduce teen pregnancies.  On family planning, he noted that funds available for that purpose had dropped substantially and he expressed hope that that trend could be reversed.


As unsafe clandestine abortions occurred, and often led to death, it was imperative to ensure that abortions were carried out in a safe manner.  His Government, this week, would present next year’s budget and uphold its increased aid for women and children, their health and education, within the framework of 1 per cent of gross national income for development.


TAKESHI OSUGA ( Japan) said his country had made great progress in the area of global health, adding that the Government raised the issue of infectious disease for the first time at the 2000 Group of Eight (G-8) Summit.  The issue was now being discussed at the highest levels and foreign aid for that purpose had doubled.  However, various international goals remained unmet:  maternal and reproductive health, in particular, required a redoubling of efforts and allotted funding should be used in the most effective way to promote prompt delivery of services on the ground.  Donors also should seek modalities of implementation that ensured access to health-care services for all those in need.


On human security, he said the ICPD action plan ‑‑ which underscored the importance of reproductive health and women’s empowerment, notably through their full involvement in decision-making at all levels ‑‑ coincided with the ultimate goal of promoting human security:  to build societies in which all people were protected.  That was why the global community should reinvigorate its efforts to fulfil the Programme of Action, he declared.


Regarding health systems, he said that, to improve maternal and child health, reproductive health and the combat of infectious disease, everyone needed access to health care.  To that end, national policies should be drafted with a bottom-up perspective and implemented in a way that allowed resources to align with real needs.  Japan planned to contribute to human resource development in the health sector of developing countries and had committed to train up to 100,000 health-care workers.


Finally, he said international organizations, including the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), played an important role in implementing the ICPD Programme of Action.  Japan would continue to partner with international and civil society organizations, private foundations, the corporate sector and others in implementing the Programme and related Millennium Goals.  As Vice-Chair of the forty-third session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development for the Asian Group, Japan looked forward to having in-depth discussions on population and development issues.


HERMAN SCHAPER, (Netherlands), also speaking on behalf of Burkina Faso, said although it had taken six years of hard work before the Cairo consensus was duly reflected in the Millennium Declaration, Millennium Development Goal 5b ‑‑ access to reproductive health by 2015 ‑‑ was not added until 2007.  Regrettably, family planning and reproductive health continued to pose challenges for many countries.


If the two Millennium Goal targets on maternal health and on family planning and reproductive health, where not achieved, then the other Goals would not be attained either, he continued, adding that it was thus “smart economics” to invest in Goal 5.  With growing awareness that population issues had long been neglected in the development debate, as well as in national planning, access to reproductive health services, including the widest possible choice of contraceptives, was crucial to help minimize social and economic problems, both at national and household levels.


He said there was also need to boost the involvement of men, to increase their awareness of the importance of reproductive health services for the health of their wives, children and themselves, and consequently for many other aspects of family life, including economic prosperity.  Addressing the needs of young people was essential to that effort because the unprecedented number of them ‑‑ more than half of the world’s population was under 25 years old ‑‑ made it compelling to make their future the priority.


Concluding, he said the Netherlands and Burkina Faso called for more alignment of United Nations and other international actors with national policies and systems, further centralization, high-quality human resources and better communication and monitoring of development results.  In that regard, he welcomed and supported UNFPA’s active and leading role in initiatives to improve inter-agency coordination, harmonization of business practices and joint actions; and also underscored the importance of working with the private sector, with for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.


SAVIOUR F. BORG (Malta) said that, although his country largely shared Sweden’s stance on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), he still wanted to clarify Malta’s position on sexual and reproduction rights, especially with regard to abortion.  He stressed that ensuring women’s empowerment and gender equality did not have to obligate them to consider having an abortion as a legitimate reproductive health right and service.  The right to life ‑‑ a fundamental human right ‑‑ should also include the unborn child, from conception.  Abortion denied him or her that right.  It was in that spirit that Malta held the Cairo Declaration in high esteem.


He went on to say that social and economic factors were still an integral part of the Cairo legacy and that they played a prominent role in development.  The world population was still tackling challenges such as the financial and food crisis, climate change, diseases such as HIV/AIDS, terrorism, natural disasters and trafficking of people and arms.  Those would marginalize the Cairo Consensus and the Millennium Goals unless States committed to renewed efforts to turn the tides, by ensuring the protection of present and future generations.


States had identified many ills that had beset their societies and had singled out remedies, which could help revitalize the economy; adapt and mitigate climate change; protect the rule of law; and bolster democracy and good governance.  He reiterated Member States’ commitment to deliver “global goods”, including through a new climate agreement in Copenhagen, bolstering the United Nations, advancing health, and countering terrorism.  On the occasion of this fifteenth anniversary of the ICPD, he urged Member States to come together and to implement faithfully the Cairo Consensus and the Millennium Goals.


ZACHARY D. MUBURI-MUITA (Kenya) said the failure to fully integrate population, gender and environmental concerns in development planning at all levels was one of the factors that hampered the smooth implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action.  Other factors were the slow and ineffective pace of poverty reduction programmes and inadequate links between HIV/AIDS prevention strategies with care and support.


To address those problems in a comprehensive manner, he said Kenya had instituted the “Kenya Vision 2030”, a long-term blueprint meant to transform itself into a modern, globally competitive middle-income country that provided a high quality of life by 2030.  In the meantime, Kenya had a medium-term plan in place and was committed to slashing the number of people living below the poverty line from 46 per cent, to 28 per cent by 2012.  While Kenya had consistently undertaken policy reforms to improve all sectors of the economy, the task ahead, particularly in the area of population and development, was daunting.


He said the partnerships made over the past 15 years of implementing ICPD were critical, and he lauded the United Nations efforts.  Like many other sub-Saharan African countries, Kenya feared that it would not attain all the Millennium Development Goals and targets.  One of the areas that needed the most urgent follow-up was the sustainability of HIV and AIDS funding, which had been inadequate for prevention programmes.


He said antiretroviral treatment was a lifelong commitment and people on such regimens needed sustained access to the drugs.  Kenya and other deserving developing countries should be considered for debt relief and cancellation without conditions.  Funds targeted to priority areas would promote economic growth and development.  There was a need for enhanced resource allocation for the Programme so the goals set in Cairo could be met, he said.


AMJAD HUSSAIN B. SIAL ( Pakistan) said the 1994 consensus at Cairo had placed individual human rights at the centre of the development process and acknowledged the central role of women and young people.  Today, the international community was aware of the progress made over the last 15 years and the increased challenges prompted by the present crises, particularly the current financial turmoil.


Like other developing countries carrying out population planning, Pakistan faced the issues of internal migration, rapid urbanization, “youth bulge” and high unmet needs.  Pakistan’s urban population was growing rapidly and Government policy was focused on generating work opportunities in urban and rural areas, he said.


As outlined in the ICPD action plan, the main objective of Pakistan’s country programme was to stabilize the population and achieve sustainable human development as it worked to reach the Millennium Development Goals and cut poverty.  Pakistan’s population policy sought to attain a balance between population and resources as it expanded access to education, particularly for girls; reduced mortality rates; and increased access to quality reproductive health services and family planning.  Pakistan was fully committed to the goals and objectives of the International Conference on Population and Development, he said.


FAZLI ÇORMAN (Turkey), associating his country with the statement made yesterday by the European Union Presidency, said more progress was needed to achieve the 2015 ICPD targets on gender equality and sexual reproductive health.  Turkey was pleased to see UNFPA’s strong efforts to lead and promote the Cairo agenda in different parts of the world.  In addition, Turkey was committed to enhancing its cooperation to achieve universal access to reproductive health and enable women’s empowerment.


Within that framework, Turkey welcomed the high-level regional meeting on Millennium Development Goal 5 on maternal health scheduled to be held in Istanbul on 11 November 2009.  That meeting, organized by UNFPA’s regional office, would aim to reinforce political and financial commitments to improve maternal health and increase reproductive services for disadvantage populations in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.  The meeting would precede the high-level regional forum in Istanbul on 12 to 13 November 2009, which would mark the fifteen anniversary of the ICPD, he said.


In today’s global world, migration and development were more closely linked.  As the fundamental cause behind illegal migration was poverty and underdevelopment in the countries of origin, Turkey believed it was more realistic for countries of origin, as well as destination, to work together on initiatives to correct the problem’s root causes.  The magnitude of the illegal migration problem meant that solutions were beyond the means of a single country and required international “burden sharing”, he said.


RAYMOND O. WOLFE (Jamaica) said, notwithstanding the myriad challenges it faced, his country had recorded several important accomplishments in its efforts to implement the ICPD Programme of Action and to make it the cornerstone of all of its policies, plans and programmes pertinent to population and development.  Jamaica was among the first countries in the developing world to have set out an explicit and comprehensive national population policy following the 1994 Conference.


On universal access to reproductive health, he said that Jamaica had long had a relatively well-developed family planning programme, even prior to ICPD.  With the support of UNFPA and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Jamaica had also embarked on a strategic programme that targeted the reproductive health-care needs of adolescents and youth.  Another strategic programme aimed at the reproductive health needs of persons with disabilities focusing on adolescents and youth with disabilities had also been embarked on with the support of the UNFPA and the European Commission.


Turning to measures to control the spread of HIV/AIDS, he noted that the epidemic, which started in 1982 in Jamaica, was among the greatest challenges the country faced.  The Government had formulated a national HIV/AIDS strategic plan in line with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan of Implementation.  In relation to the ICPD and the Millennium Development Goal targets of a two-thirds reduction in maternal mortality between 1990 and 2015, some national programmes implemented to date included one initiative which integrated maternal, child health, family planning and sexually transmitted infections programmes, he stated.


On promoting gender equality and empowerment of women, he asserted that Jamaica had an enviable record in that regard, noting that among the country’s most important achievements had been the establishment in the 1970s of various institutions dedicated to the advancement of women, and introduction of the Women in Development Studies Programme at the University of West Indies.  However, he was quick to point out that despite those successes in education for women, progress in other areas still lagged behind, including representation at the highest levels in both the public and private sectors and as it related to political representation.


MILAN MILANOVIĆ (Serbia) said States should be proud of progress made in carrying out the ICPD agenda, as the majority of countries had adopted national policies, laws and programmes to advance women’s health, including reproductive health.  Many were using population data and analysis to inform economic and social plans, more women were choosing to use family planning and, with the General Assembly resolution to establish a new United Nations gender entity, an important step towards realizing obligations for women had been made.  Despite that, in many countries, mandates remained unfunded, national budgets did not meet demand and international assistance was insufficient.  In Africa alone, there would be some 2.5 million maternal deaths in the next 10 years if urgent action was not taken.


While the amount of resources mobilized had increased, he said, overall funding was far short of what was required to meet current needs.  Effective use of resources and increased coherence among development partners was of utmost importance.  Today’s difficult economic climate threatened progress made, and assistance would be needed more than ever before.  Unfortunately, progress was needed to meet Millennium Development Goal 5, on maternal mortality, which would require a multisectoral approach.  While he was encouraged that country-level coordination among the UNFPA, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank had increased, further work was needed in that regard.


Finally, he said climate change was the main reason for increased frequency of natural disasters and an effective response, based on scientific analysis, must be developed.  He was pleased that the theme of the 2009 World Population Report, to be released next month, would be entitled: Facing a Changing World: Women, Population and Climate Change.  He also welcomed the UNFPA’s regionalization plan and expressed hope for finding a solution for the regional office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which would be based on the same principles that led to the relocation of other regional offices.


KANIKA PHOMMACHANH, (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), reasserting his country’s commitment to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, said it was at the same time mindful of the challenges that lay ahead, and keenly aware that, while it was on track in areas such as reducing child mortality or combating tuberculosis and malaria, maternal mortality was still very high.  Although maternal mortality had decreased in the past 15 years, 405 deaths per 100,000 live births were nevertheless too many.  Also, progress varied between urban and rural areas and among socio-economic quintiles.


Noting that Lao People’s Democratic Republic was transforming itself from a landlocked country to a “land-linked” one with the development of road networks, he said it had a young population and a declining fertility.  It was expecting growth in its working-age population over the next few decades.  The Government was also aware that such factors may put the population at greater risk of reproductive ill health.  Hence, there was a great need to continue investment in universal access to reproductive health for women, men and youth to protect them, to give them greater opportunities for education and employment, to alleviate population pressure on the country’s precious environment, and contribute to improved food security and reduction of poverty.


He said the financial and economic crisis should not lead to a decrease in reproductive health, since such a fall off would derail the achievement of all the Millennium Development Goals.  The Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was, therefore, making efforts to attain greater aid effectiveness through improved coordination of development assistance by implementing the Vientiane Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, a localized version of the Paris Declaration.  To that end, he encouraged UNFPA to further fulfil its commitments in leading the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action, and among other things, welcomed the outcome of the Asia-Pacific “High-level Forum on ICPD at 15” held on 16 and 17 September in Bangkok.


RAYKO RAYTCHEV (Bulgaria) said one of the main achievements of the ICPD Programme of Action was placing people and human rights “in the limelight”.  As it articulated the links among human development, women’s empowerment, health, population dynamics and economic growth, among other issues, the ICPD agenda was more relevant than ever, particularly given today’s crises in food, finance and energy.


For its part, Bulgaria was firmly committed to implementing the ICPD outcome, he said, pointing first to his country’s national demographic strategy for 2006-2020, which incorporated recommendations of the ICPD action plan and of the European Commission.  That strategy was a blueprint for reversing negative demographic trends and guaranteeing sexual and reproductive health and rights.  To address the country’s youth, Bulgaria had partnered with organizations to target young people’s health, education and welfare.  The “Youth Peer Education Network Bulgaria”, created in 2000, had established successful youth-adult partnerships, while an education training and research centre, opened in 2007 connected some 5,000 young people from 42 countries.


Finally, he said Bulgaria took its responsibilities as an emerging donor very seriously.  Promoting health services, education, specialist training, and socio-economic reforms were priorities for the new development cooperation policy, which aimed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals at the global level.  It was clear that, with only five years until the 2015 deadline, urgent action was needed to achieve the common goal:  to improve the lives of present and future generations.  To that end, Bulgaria was committed to sharing its manifold experience.


FRANCISCO DEL CAMPO (Chile) reiterated his country’s commitment to the ICPD Programme of Action.  Unfortunately, the Assembly’s commemoration was taking place amid the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s.  Despite some hopeful indices, gender disparity in primary and secondary education, the spread of HIV/AIDS, and high levels of maternity-related deaths persisted.  Those facts should prompt States to renew their efforts to achieve ICPD goals in the next five years.  In that context, he highlighted Chile’s contribution to UNITAID, the International Drug Purchasing Facility, and was pleased at the adoption of General Assembly resolution 63/311 (2009) on system-wide coherence.


Continuing, he said gender equality and women’s autonomy were pillars in Chile’s 2006-2010 agenda, which, among other things, guaranteed basic pensions for female heads of household, expansion of childcare centres and progressive increases in the minimum salary of household workers.  Also among Chile’s achievements was its “completion of studies” rate, which had exceeded 80 per cent in 2006.  That positive trend also was seen in the number of women who completed university, which, in turn, improved their access to employment.  Chile’s health plan outlined guarantees for women at risk of premature delivery and breast cancer, and for pregnant women battling AIDS.  In closing, he renewed Chile’s commitment to contributing to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).


MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua) said it was utterly important and in her Government’s own interest to reach the goals set out at Cairo regarding eradicating extreme poverty.  Nicaragua also believed in the importance of attaining the Millennium Development Goals.  She pointed out that Nicaragua had won two UNFPA awards; one for defending and promoting the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls within a human rights framework and for working on domestic violence, teenage pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and promoting gender equality; and the other, for making a significant contribution to the lives, health and dignity of women and children.


Unlike previous neo-liberal Governments, the current National Unity and Reconciliation Government had placed eradicating poverty and promoting economic development and social inclusion of previously ignored segments of society at the top of its agenda.  She said that Nicaragua had thus taken strides to include the poorest members of society in public policymaking ‑‑ visibly bringing human development to the fore ‑‑ to ensure equal access to basic public services such as health, education, housing and employment.  Nicaraguans had gone from being marginalized to playing a central role in their country’s development, placing people and not capital at the heart of their goals.  The Government was relying on a four-year plan, which set out strategies to combat poverty and chronic malnutrition among the most vulnerable groups.


She went on to say that, following Nicaragua’s national literacy campaign, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had rendered it an “illiteracy-free zone”.  In terms of health, efforts to improve access had ensured families and communities were included.  As a result, maternal mortality had dropped from 90 for every 100,000 registered births in 2006 to 64 in 2008.  In terms of its “Zero Hunger Plan”, Nicaragua had implemented a food production bonus, which was geared towards impoverished rural families and women.  She concluded by appealing to developed countries to shoulder their share of responsibility to help cope with the effects of a crisis, to which they had largely contributed.


SANTIAGO CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador), aligning his statement with those made earlier in the debate by the Sudan on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and by Mexico on behalf of the Rio Group, said there was no doubt the ICPD Programme of Action had set up the mechanisms to help development and human rights and help countries work towards a more dignified life for all.  But there were many difficulties ahead, and the current economic and financial crisis created by the North posed more threats to efforts to reach internationally agreed development goals.


Ecuador had begun a development strategy to reduce poverty and assure a dignified life for all.  Development was an organized convergence of solid economic, social and environmental policies that would guarantee a good livelihood for all people.  Such policies had to be implemented in a consistent and organized manner.  It had to restore development that would help all people, he said.


The country’s national plan was in line with the Constitution of 2008, he continued.  It included 12 objectives.  Among those were greater social cohesion, diversity, the improvement of people’s potential and quality of life, and the promotion of a sustainable environment and equality.  At the same time, he said that planning for sustainable development faced challenges, especially as countries struggle to address the current multifaceted crises.


He said the devastating impact of climate change had obligated countries to rethink their development strategies.  In addition, the problem of hunger, like so many other current challenges, was not one of resources, but of inadequate systems.  The international community, therefore, must find new alternatives to meet today’s crises, he said.


CONROD HUNTE (Antigua and Barbuda) said that, with just a short while to achieve the ICPD goals, the time was opportune to take stock of progress, assess challenges and determine what was needed to ensure that the next five years would result in complete implementation and achievement.  Indeed, the ICPD had resulted in agreement on issues that were among the most worthy development goals:  providing universal education; reducing infant, child and maternal mortality rates; achieving universal access to reproductive health care and preventing the spread of infectious disease, including HIV/AIDS.


For its part, Antigua and Barbuda had made modest, though significant, achievements, he explained, and recognized that full implementation of the action plan by 2014 would require significant resources and commitment.  His country had been honoured to host, in August, the Caribbean Subregional Meeting to Assess the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action, whose goal was to discuss achievements, challenges and gaps in the region’s implementation of the ICPD agenda.  The meeting showed that countries had made significant progress in economic and human development, due in part, to Governments putting in place social protection policies to address the most vulnerable populations.


However, there were tough choices to make, including in reducing social spending to make up for severe revenue shortfalls and a lack of financing for development programmes, he said.  Despite tremendous challenges, his Government was committed to the ICPD agenda and the Cairo Consensus, and to moving forward with its ambitious social development programmes.  Changing population dynamics brought about new challenges and an urgent call for action towards 2014 had been issued for his region.  That call was needed to ensure that all stakeholders could achieve targets and outline clear priorities for results.  With that, he urged the UNFPA and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) to support that call.


ABDUL GHAFOOR MOHAMED (Maldives) said his nation was a small island developing State with a population of just over 250,000.  Population development was an integral part of its development strategy, yet the Government did not have the available resources and inherent social and economic situation to match its goals.  Spread over 196 inhabited islands, the quarter million people in the archipelago lived in dispersed communities and transportation costs were very high.  The unique physical characteristics of the islands created numerous economic, social and environmental challenges, he added.


A 10 per cent increase in population over the last five years had created a strong demand for housing and other economic and social services, he continued.  The unequal access to education and health facilities in Male, the capital, had attracted more than a third of the total population, leading to overcrowding and increased rates of environmental degradation as the groundwater was contaminated and overdrawn.


He went on to say that Maldives was also grappling with the menace of drug addiction, growing violence among youth and a disturbing degree of increased violence against women.  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) had declared the use of illicit narcotics as the largest challenge facing the development of Maldivian society as many people under the age of 25 were affected by drug use and abuse.  Gender equality also was an immense challenge for the country and women’s participation in public life and in leadership positions remained low.  There was a high divorce rate, which forced many single women to bear the brunt of childcare, and prompted the need for flexible working hours and adequate social safety nets for the complete economic and social empowerment of women.


Resource mobilization was a central part of the new Administration’s development policy and the country now allocated more than a quarter of its development budget towards social development, including education and health.  While making some headway towards the ICPD goals, the Maldives reiterated the importance of strong partnerships between civil society, corporations and government to overcome the challenges of population development.


ABDERRAHIM OULD HADRAMI (Mauritania), outlining steps his country had taken since the International Conference on Population and Development, said that at the political level, Mauritania had adhered to international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The number of women elected to offices had increased due to quotas, with women holding 18 of 95 seats in the national assembly and more than 1,120 seats in municipal councils.  There was also a female mayor in a rural area.  At the institutional level, there were new laws to combat discrimination against women, including legislation on obligatory primary education.  There was also a 20 per cent quota for women’s representation in parliament and municipal councils.  He also highlighted public authorities’ focus on issues like female genital mutilation, tattooing and gender-based violence.


On the economic level, however, he said any gains remained far below expectations.  While Mauritania had paid attention to education in general, and for girls in particular, its efforts had been hampered by a high dropout rate among girls, which reduced their integration into daily life.  While there had been some improvements, including a drop in maternal mortality and the creation of a strategy for children’s survival, there was a long road ahead to overcome obstacles to women’s full participation on all levels.


Among the challenges, he noted that the law making education obligatory had not been accompanied by measures for continued study.  Mauritania’s maternal mortality rate was among the highest in the region and women’s literacy lagged behind that of men.  Women’s access to credit was still difficult, and included a lack of capital and guarantees.  Similarly, women’s unemployment was “very high”, at 47.3 per cent.  National coordination had to be strengthened.  The country faced difficulties to the Millennium Development Goals and expressed hope to see increased support from its development partners.


ZAHIR TANIN (Afghanistan) praised the UNFPA for its leadership in implementing the ICPD Programme of Action, as well as its assistance to Afghanistan.  He underscored that the Conference was a breakthrough in terms of how States collectively understood the link between people and economic development and how it revolutionized approaches to reproductive and human rights.  This, he added, informed the Millennium Development Goals.


Saying that his country remained committed to the ICPD Programme of Action and to the achievement of the Millennium Goals, he noted that, through various national strategies, Afghanistan was aiming to rebuild its battered infrastructure and economy, to improve people’s daily lives through security, access to basic services and health care, and focusing on the rights of women and children.  Although improvements had been made, he hoped that the international community’s support would ensure that all Afghans led healthy, dignified lives.


Noting that health-care indicators had improved since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, he said access to basic health services had jumped from 9 per cent in 2001 to 85 per cent in 2008.  Overall, roughly 15 per cent of women that had given birth in the past two years had done so in an institution.  Up from 1 million in 2001, more than 6 million children were now in primary and secondary education, of which, at least 30 per cent were, unlike under the Taliban, women and girls.


Still he said the country struggled with high levels of maternal and infant mortality, illiteracy, a lack of infrastructure, a shortage of funds for key programmes and a lack of female staff, which impeded access to health services.  A worsening security situation in the country’s south and south-east had affected improvements made in gender and health over the past few years, and was preventing the Millennium Goals from being reached in Afghanistan, he warned.


He urged Member States to redouble efforts to attain those and other internationally agreed development goals within the larger framework of the ICPD Programme of Action.  He stressed that South-South cooperation through regional and multilateral bodies would be crucial to reaching such targets.  He concluded by urging that the financial crisis should not impede providing technical and financial aid to developing and post conflict countries in particular.  Despite groundbreaking progress over the past 15 years, he urged Member States to join efforts to attain the mammoth goals they had set themselves.


MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said it was important to highlight that the Cairo Conference had perceived social and economic development as a critical component of long-term sustainability, particularly as regarding gender balance, social inclusion, environmental protection, and equal treatment and opportunities provided to different age groups.


Brazil had recognized the importance of the Cairo themes before 1994.  In 1988, its Constitution recognized the provision of health services as a right of all citizens and an obligation of the Brazilian State.  She said the Brazilian Government had created a Universal Health System, which guaranteed free public health care and services to all people, including people suffering from sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.  Deeply concerned with the spread of HIV/AIDS among women, the Government had also created specific programmes to reduce the vulnerability of women and teenagers to the virus.


The country had achieved remarkable progress in many areas regarding the advancement of women.  Since the creation of the Special Secretariat on Policies for Women, the Government had adopted a series of cross-cutting policies, plans and programmes to empower women, reduce gender inequalities, and promote social inclusion.  Important steps had been taken to fight violence against women, such as the “Maria da Penha Law”.  That legislation helped enforce legal protection in cases of domestic violence against women and girls.


She said Brazil was fully implementing the Cairo agenda on sexual and reproductive health and its national policy for women’s health, created in the 1980s, had integrated the strategies for reducing maternal and neonatal mortality rates that were laid out in Cairo.  More work was needed to promote gender equality and reduce maternal and neonatal mortality.  Each country had to redouble its national efforts and recommit to greater cooperation towards the fulfilment of the Cairo Programme of Action over the next five years, she said.


RUHAKANA RUGUNDA (Uganda) said the Conference presented Uganda with an opportunity to learn from others about how to make progress in the areas of reproductive health, education and development.  After Cairo, Uganda formulated and adopted a national population policy for sustainable development.  In 2007, that policy had been revised to fit the 2007-2015 national development plan, which aimed to improve maternal, neonatal and reproductive health to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5 on maternal health.


Like other African countries, Uganda had a high maternal mortality rate and strengthened partnership among all stakeholders was needed to meet the goal of reducing it by 2015.  In finalizing its national development plan, the Government aimed to reduce maternal and neonatal morbidity, and all actions under the Maputo Plan of Action.  Further, Uganda was committed to increasing resources, programmes and activities to implement the ICPD Programme of Action, and there was a need for updated population and development data to guide decision-making.


To address priority areas, Uganda had put in place programmes to speed economic growth and provide universal primary education, he said.  It also had put forward a draft bill to reduce female genital mutilation.  The country was making other positive steps in the area of reproductive rights and family planning.  Uganda’s success in reducing HIV prevalence from 18 per cent to 6.7 per cent would be sustained through a focus on prevention.  Addressing unmet needs for family planning would mean that upwards of 60 per cent of women would access reproductive health, a level comparable to any middle-income country.  The initiative to boost secondary education would help delay marriages and provide women with better choices for career and family.  In closing, he said Uganda was committed to working with its development partners to implement the ICPD Programme of Action.


CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer for the Holy See, said that, when the Cairo Conference was held in 1994, many States believed that a population explosion would occur and hamper their ability to achieve adequate global economic development.  That perception had turned out to be unfounded and, in many developed countries, population demographics had declined so steeply that some national legislators were encouraging an increase in birth rates to assure continued economic growth.


At the same time, he continued, development was occurring at previously unachieved rates in many developing countries and the greatest threat to growth stemmed from irresponsible world and local economic management, not a population explosion.  For nearly a century, attempts had been made to link global population with the food, energy, natural resources and environment crises.  Yet human ingenuity and the ability of people to work together showed that people were the world’s greatest resources.


Demographic policies had to take the needs of migrants into account as part of an overall responsibility to place humans at the centre of all development policies.  Governments and individuals too frequently viewed migration as an unwitting consequence of globalization, he said.  Negative stereotypes of migrants were used to promote policies that had a dehumanizing impact and created unconscionable division within families.  In order to truly achieve all the constructive proposals of the ICPD action plan, greater efforts were needed to enact policies that recognized the shared benefits of migration.  The ICPD’s call for universal access to quality education was the most effective way to promote sustainable economic, social and political development.


In addressing the role of the ICPD on maternal health, attempts were made too frequently to promote a notion of sexual and reproductive health that was detrimental to unborn human life and the integral needs of women and men in society.  Suggesting that reproductive health included a right to abortion explicitly violated the language of the ICPD, defied moral and legal standards within local communities and divided efforts to address the real needs of mothers and children, he said.  The Catholic Church remained committed to providing access to health care for everyone and did so with more than 5,000 hospitals, 18,000 health clinics and 15,000 homes for the elderly and disabled and other Catholic-based health-care programmes around the globe.


JYOTI SHANKAR SINGH, of Partners for Population and Development, said the International Conference on Population and Development had many “firsts” to its credit.  Among others, it had marked the first time a comprehensive definition on reproductive health, including family planning, had been established by 179 countries.  Since 1994, the ICPD definition of reproductive health had been increasingly adopted by nations in their formulation of relevant policies and programmes.  The Conference also set the first quantitative goal for the universal delivery of reproductive health services, which also included qualitative goals aimed at improving the quality and effectiveness of family planning, and estimates for mobilizing resources needed to achieve goals.


The Cairo Conference had broken new ground in other areas, too, he continued, as it underscored the importance of instituting and implementing population policies that met the needs of individual men and women.  It gave full support to the concept of partnership between Governments and civil societies, and would especially be remembered for the clear links it established between women’s right to chose and their empowerment.  It also provided unstinting support to the concept of South-South cooperation.  However, insufficient progress had been made, notably in the areas of universal reproductive health services and maternal health.  The current economic crisis made that task “doubly difficult”.  Today’s commemoration provided an opportunity to redouble efforts to achieve the ICPD and Millennium Development Goals.


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For information media • not an official record