IMPACT OF FOREIGN DEBT PROBLEM ON POPULATION PROGRAMMES, IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION OF GIRLS TO IMPLEMENT CAIRO OUTCOME DISCUSSED

POP/718
26 March 1999

IMPACT OF FOREIGN DEBT PROBLEM ON POPULATION PROGRAMMES, IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION OF GIRLS TO IMPLEMENT CAIRO OUTCOME DISCUSSED

26 March 1999


Press Release
POP/718


IMPACT OF FOREIGN DEBT PROBLEM ON POPULATION PROGRAMMES, IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION OF GIRLS TO IMPLEMENT CAIRO OUTCOME DISCUSSED

19990326 As Population and Development Commission Continues Meeting as Preparatory Body for Assembly Special Session on ICPD

The international community should alleviate the problem of external debt to allow States adequate resources for development programmes, the Commission on Population and Development was told this morning as it met as the preparatory committee for the special session of the General Assembly on review of implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) (Cairo, 1994) outcome.

The representative of Ghana said that, without a fundamental improvement in debt servicing and repayment, many countries would not be able to meet the agreed objectives of Cairo, even if official development assistance (ODA) targets were met. The review process should lead to a renewal of commitments made in Cairo and, where needed, the international community should make even greater commitments.

Resource mobilization for population programmes was compromised when half of internal resources went to debt servicing, said the representative of United Republic of Tanzania. In order to realize the goals of the Cairo Conference, it was important to address the problem of debt burden. Though some considered debt relief outside the Commission's mandate, it should be recognized as a critical aspect of implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action. The Commission needed to take note of that problem and make the right conclusions.

On the issue of children, a representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said the expansion of girls' education was key to fulfilling the rights of girls and women and realizing the Cairo Programme of Action. Education provided girls with increased opportunities to make independent life choices and enabled them to defend, claim and realize rights as adults. In order to remove barriers to girls' rights, there was need to

promote life skills development, create a school environment that encouraged girls' participation in learning and supported girls in building self-esteem and confidence.

Also on children, the representative of the Women's Coalition for IPCD, said the Cairo Programme of Action called upon Governments to provide adolescents with the full range of sexual and reproductive health information and services, with respect for confidentiality. Nonetheless, sexually transmitted diseases and infection, including HIV, were increasing dramatically among adolescents. She added that the human rights of women, including liberty, security of the person, and development, were only attainable if the right to decide about fertility and sexuality was respected.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Senegal, El Salvador, Fiji (on behalf of Pacific Island Countries), Jamaica, Panama, Uganda, Hungary, Turkey, Nepal, Jordan, Bolivia, Nigeria and Belize. A statement was also made by Patricia Flor (Germany), Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women. A representative of Latin American and Caribbean Women's Health Network spoke.

The Commission will meet again at 3 p.m. today to take action on draft texts before it.

Commission Work Programme

The Commission on Population and Development met this morning to continue its session as the preparatory committee for the special session of the General Assembly for reviewing implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) (Cairo, 1994). (For background information, see Press Release POP/709 of 18 March.)

Statements

PATRICIA FLOR (Germany), Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, said that it had been understood that no major conference could stand on its own and the world could not achieve economic prosperity without stabilization of population growth. It was also understood that countries could not stabilize their populations without empowering women. Thus, both the Cairo and Beijing conferences called for equality between women and men and the empowerment of women in all spheres of life, including in the sector of health and reproduction.

Two major points had so far been affirmed in regard to the review and implementation of the major conferences, she said. The review processes should identify and further action and initiatives to facilitate, accelerate and ensure full implementation of the respective outcome of the conferences.

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With regard to the work of the Commission on the Status of Women, it was too early to say what kind of strategies might be agreed upon in the special session on implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, to take place in June 2000.

It had also been agreed that the review processes must not re-open or renegotiate the outcomes of the conferences, she said. That was a very nice principle on paper, but it might be rather challenging to observe in practice, especially when sensitive issues were discussed. Matters of sexuality and reproduction certainly were among the most sensitive issues. However, the Commission on the Status of Women had complied with that principle in discussing the critical areas of health just two weeks ago in New York.

OMAR DEMBA BA (Senegal) said his delegation endorsed the statement made by the representative of Guyana on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China. The Government of Senegal had adopted an economic and social development plan for the period 1996-2000 whose objectives met the declaration of the conference. It included respect for fundamental human rights; the need for individuals to act responsibly as parents; preservation of the single family unit in society; the right of persons to choose the size of their family; and access to education and health. It also covered the right of children to health and education. There was a great deal to be done in vital areas as education for all and health.

He said lack of proper policies was one of the reasons impeding progress in the achievement of the objectives of the ICPD. Senegal considered education as key to the quality of life. It also gave priority to the improvement of the conditions of women. He drew attention to the need for harmonization of policies to improve the condition of ageing populations.

RAFAEL FLORES Y FLORES (El Salvador) said the special session of the General Assembly should not just repeat the goals of the International Conference on Population and Development, but help to solve development problems. The Programme of Action was a real recognition of the dignity of all human beings which should be guaranteed by laws and governments. El Salvador's national efforts in that regard included policies in favour of children, women and elderly. Efforts had been made to address the problem of AIDS, with particular attention paid to young people.

His country would continue to institute programmes in the area of population including reproductive health programmes and actions to counter domestic violence and prevent maternal mortality, he said. There would also be efforts to strengthen the relationships with non-governmental organizations in regard to development activities.

SADIG RASHEED, Director of Programmes for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said the expansion of girls' education was key to fulfilling

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the rights of girls and women and realizing the ICPD Programme of Action. Education provided girls with increased opportunities to make independent life choices. It enabled them to defend, claim and realize rights as adults and to delay marriage and childbearing. That was a critical pathway to a better life and equality for women and girls, it would enable them to more actively participate in decision-making at home, in the community and in their nation and ultimately lead to improved outcomes for children.

He said that 130 million children were denied their rights to education; almost two thirds of them were girls. Nearly a billion children were illiterate -- the majority of them women. In order to remove barriers that preclude girls and women from realizing their rights to equality, there was need to promote life skills development and create a school environment that encouraged girls' participation in learning, responded to their needs, sensitized boys to respect and support girls' rights, and supported girls in building self-esteem and confidence. There was also a need to interact with and support families in changing their attitudes and behaviours towards girls in the home and in the community.

LEPANI WAQATAKIREWA (Fiji), speaking also for the Pacific Island countries of Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, drew attention to statements made by their Ministers of Health at a conference convened by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Fiji in November 1998. The Ministers acknowledged their countries' agreement to the key recommendations of the ICPD Programme of Action and the intricate relationship between population and resources.

The Ministers emphasized the uniqueness of their region as reflected in the central role of the family in Pacific Island society; the importance of customs, tradition, culture and religion; and the strong affinity of their people with land and sea. They also drew attention to the vast challenges they faced because of their countries' vulnerability to natural disasters, vast distance between them and in the largest ocean of the world, their various resource base, population and land size.

The Ministers further identified a number of key areas for progress in achieving the goals and objectives of the Cairo Conference, he said. Those areas included the recognition that because of the current and past high levels of fertility, population momentum would ensure that population growth would continue to be significant well into the new millennium. Under reproductive rights, the Ministers endorsed the extended domain of the ICPD- Programme of Action. The key issues facing the Pacific Island countries included the high prevalence of reproductive tract infections and their complications, especially infertility, which must be seriously addressed. There was also a high prevalence of nutritional anaemia, which had become chronic and would need a regional concerted effort to address it.

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The Ministers urged an increase in mobilization and improvement in domestic resources to ensure that population programmes continued to be implemented along the lines of the Programme of Action of the Cairo Conference.

PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said the review process of the International Conference on Population and Development should lead to the following actions: intensified efforts and commitments to address the AIDS pandemic; addressing the linkages between adolescent fertility and the perpetuation of the poverty cycle; ensuring that population strategies were geared towards achieving the goal of poverty eradication; and increased cooperation for capacity-building in developing countries in the area of reproductive health.

Over the past 40 years, she said, Jamaica had to deal squarely with the challenge of population growth; and today it enjoyed a relatively low rate of population growth, fertility and infant mortality. That had only been possible because of the partnerships between government, the private sector and the non-governmental community. Attainment of the ICPD goals was incumbent upon the world's ability to take concrete action. By the end of the review process, the international community should have advanced a practical set of recommendations which would guide action at all levels for the next millennium.

MARKELA CASTRO (Panama) said that, in spite of the Cairo Conference, a number of developmental problems still existed. There were still high incidences of poverty and unemployment as well as limitations of the full rights of the individual. There was still considerable inequality such as in access to general health services as well as reproductive and sexual health services. In regard to poverty, she had found that socio-economic information and data was crucial in combating the causes of it.

She added that it was necessary to strive toward gender equality at all levels as well as to replace a man-centred development strategy with one that was women-friendly. There must be efforts to support women who were victims of violence. It was important to see that both men and women were allowed to realize their rights in reproductive health. It was necessary to make serious changes in health infrastructure to make it accessible to all. Such health services should also address the problems of HIV/AIDS as well as uncontrolled abortion.

MATIA SEMAKULA KIWANUKA (Uganda) said his Government had pledged itself to reproductive health and rights. It had agreed that population programmes should have the human person at the centre. During the past 10 years, the Government had intensified action to combat AIDS. The President of Uganda had spoken publicly about the disease, drawing attention to the problem. Consequently, progress in combating the disease had been seen, at least in the urban areas. The Government's open policy towards HIV/AIDS had galvanized

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international assistance and it was willing to share Uganda's experiences with others. It had also embarked upon programmes to help meet neglected needs of women. It had, through programmes, helped women to enter public life. The Vice-President of Uganda was a professional woman, and the parliament had high women representation.

He said the three East African countries of Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda had established the East African Reproductive Health Centre. Uganda had registered some successes. Infant mortality had not been reduced appreciably. Fertility rates were declining; poverty had been reduced from 55 per cent in 1988 to 46 per cent. Population programmes were considered of high priority. The Government still needed assistance from its development partners.

GEORGE BENNEH (Ghana) said his country was determined to continue to implement the ICPD Programme of Action to the letter as it was committing as much resources as it could to the social sector in that regard. However, like most other developing countries, Ghana faced serious resource gaps as a result of polices taken to ensure macroeconomic stability and due to unsustainable external debt repayment terms and diminished economic potential arising from problems of market access. The impact of those factors restricted Ghana's ability to deal with problems encountered in the implementation of the Programme of Action.

He added that his country suffered from a shortage of trained manpower, a lack of current demographic data for planning, inequitable distribution of health services, inadequate access to clinic services and limited resources to deal with negative socio-cultural beliefs. Without a fundamental improvement in the area of debt servicing and repayments, efforts of countries like Ghana would not lead to the agreed targets of Cairo, even if official development assistance (ODA) targets were met. It was his delegation's hope that the review process would lead to a renewal of commitments made in Cairo and, where needed, the international community should make even greater commitments.

GABRIELLA VUKOVICH (Hungary) said there were a number of issues that should be given greater attention in the review process. One such issue was mortality and morbidity, which was an issue of serious concern for many countries, including Hungary. Another issue was the role of the family. Despite the changing nature of family life, it was still the basic unit of society and the basic unit of reproduction. Her delegation strongly supported and advocated measures that promoted the cohesion of the family and the ability of families to raise children.

Another important issue for the review process was the challenge of demographic ageing, she said. Human dignity was the right of all members of all generations, and that fundamental right had to be translated into policy

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action of care and support for the elderly and the promotion of inter- generational solidarity at the family and society level.

FEZA OZTURK (Turkey) said his country had solidified the ICPD Programme of Action by developing some national action plans. Turkey believed that population programmes would not be successful unless they were developed and implemented in collaboration with civil society. Different sectors, including public, private and non-governmental organizations, should be included in the decision-making process, taking account of the needs of both individuals and the society, as well as the rights of individuals. Turkey, which had the capacity of building expertise in the areas of human resource and institutional development, was sharing its experience with neighbouring countries.

Turkey adopted management information systems in population related areas, hosting a seminar last year, on the use of information technologies for IPCD advocacy, he said. Five years after the Cairo Conference, Turkey continued to observe pressures, stimulating the movement of the young working age population from areas of restricted opportunities into the economies which demanded their labour. The influx of young age labour from developing countries also facilitated the transfer of funds for improving social security and pension schemes in receiving countries.

ANANTA RAJ PANDEY (Nepal) said the Cairo Conference was a landmark event in the approach to population and development issues. The task of the preparatory committee was to work together to attain more institutional reforms, increased service integration, policy coordination, more effective decentralization, empowerment, gender mainstreaming and wider involvement of women in policy and decision-making. There was, however, an urgent need for renewed and sustained political commitment to the principles and goals of the Cairo Programme of Action.

Nepal's population was estimated at 22 million and would reach 30 million by 2011 at an annual growth rate of 2.4 per cent, he said. The total population had more than doubled since 1961, straining the quality of natural and human resources. During the last 40 years, Nepal had significantly reduced the death rate from 22 to 13 per cent per 1000 population while the birth rate still remained high at 37 per cent per 1000 population. The total fertility rate was declining very slowly from 6 to 4.6 in the last 20 years mainly because of the young population in the reproductive age, early marriage, son preference, prevailing socio-cultural environment and low literacy among women. Nepal had made substantial progress in reducing infant and maternal mortality rates, increasing educational access and reducing gender gaps. Still, it lagged behind its South Asian neighbours on many social indicators, including reproductive health.

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Its ninth five-year plan strove to reduce the total fertility rate to replacement level in 20 years by promoting a two-child family norm, he said. Its experience showed that without effectively integrating population issues into development programme, not much could be gained in fertility reduction.

EMILY NAFFA (Jordan) said governments should work to allow women to take a decision-making role in society. Despite efforts in that area, however, women were still unable to play an active part in society and in the development process. The issue of poverty was also a fundamental issue and women suffered most from it. Economic policies were needed to offer employment opportunities to women. Jordan efforts in that regard however were hampered because it needed to allocate 25 per cent of its annual budget for debt servicing. Those funds could be channelled toward social programmes. Nations needed to take measures to strengthen health services as well as ensuring employment. There was a need to find new resources to provide for such programmes.

CARMEN BASAURE (Bolivia) said her country's population policies were based on the principles of human rights and development as well as the need to preserve the environment. In the five years since ICPD, Bolivia had made a number of achievements in implementing its goals. Greater international cooperation, however, was needed to realize the Cairo Programme of Action. In the area of reproductive health, policies had concentrated on maternal health as well as the prevention of diseases. Important achievements had also been made in the areas of family violence, economic development and gender equality. Developing countries needed to received greater support and commitment from developed countries to enhance population policies.

DEBO ADEYEMI, Minister of Health of Nigeria, said that with its transition to democratic rule, Nigeria was poised to play more effectively its expected role in the United Nations system and programmes. It looked forward to a substantial increase in its financial contributions to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). His delegation was actively involved in informal discussions going on alongside the debate. Several factors needed to be considered in reaching agreement on what the outcome of the preparatory committee meeting should present to the General Assembly special session next June. Nigeria would welcome a provision in the outcome which demanded, among other things, orderliness and peacefulness in the area of internal and international migration. Cultural relativity should be seriously considered in the issues of the aged in view of the benefits of the extended family system in most developing countries.

Similarly, he said that emphasis should be placed on education. The outcome of the preparatory work should also emphasize the mobilization of resources, especially financial resources. He assured the meeting that Nigeria stood ready to play its part on the vital issue of population and

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development, both at home and at the international level, in full partnership with other stakeholders.

MABEL BIANCO, Latin American Caribbean Women's Health Network, said the Cairo Conference placed proper priority on women, health and development. Every day thousands of women around the world died because they did not have access to reproductive health care, safe abortions or AIDS. All countries should show the desire to find real and concrete solutions rather than wasting precious time on theories and abstract subjects. The Programme of Action should continue to be expanded to specific activities and progress should be made to achieve a consensus in that regard.

DAUDI MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania) said the ICPD review process had allowed for the exchange of ideas and experiences in the area of population and development in order to facilitate the attainment of the Cairo goals. In order to realize those goals, it was important to address the problem of debt burden. Though it may be said that it was not an issue for the Commission, debt should be recognized as a very critical aspect to programme implementation. Resource mobilization was compromised when about half of the internal resources went to debt servicing. The Commission needed to take note of that problem and make the right conclusions.

On the issue of migration, he said Tanzania was a receiver of many migrants who flee countries in the Great Lakes region because of civil strife. While his country would continue to protect such migrants, the burden, the environmental degradation and disruption of internal social stability resulting from the influx of refugees was beyond the capability of its resources. The international community should address that problem by providing assistance to countries hosting refugees.

VANITA NAYAK MUKHERJEE, representative of Women's Coalition for IPCD, said the organization was a broad-based group of 68 non-governmental organizations from every region of the world. The group stressed three priorities for the implementation of the Programme of Action of the Cairo Conference: the centrality of the human rights framework; sexual and reproductive health; and links between health, development and rights.

She said the session should codify the commitment given by Governments at Cairo that population and development policies should give primary importance to respecting and ensuring human rights. Governments must act affirmatively and urgently to end maternal mortality and morbidity. The Programme of Action called upon Governments, in collaboration with non- governmental organizations, to provide adolescents, both male and female, with the full range of sexual and reproductive health information and services, with respect for confidentiality. Nonetheless, as acknowledged during the meeting, sexually transmitted diseases and infection, including HIV, were increasing dramatically among adolescents.

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The human rights of women, including liberty, security of the person, and development, were only attainable if the right to decide about fertility and sexuality were respected, she said. Health, empowerment and development were all human rights, she added.

MLYRTLE PALACIO (Belize) said there should be greater attention paid to international migration in the review process. Migration had a direct effect on population and development. Her country received a large number of migrants who were at risk of social and economic marginalization because they had few work skills. Her country had an open-door policy, maybe the most lenient country in the world in regard to migration. Internal migration from rural to urban environments also required further investigation. One-third of such migration came to Belize City, which made the city vulnerable to disasters. It was imperative that actions be focused on investigating the patterns of migration, where migrants go and why they left. The review process should also keep in mind the rights of indigenous peoples.

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For information media. Not an official record.