11 April 2008


11 April 2008
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on Population and Development

Forty-first Session

8th Meeting (PM)

concluding forty-first session, commission on population and development adopts

text calling for prompt action to address urbanization, internal migration

Draft Seeks Economic Growth, Poverty Eradication, Environmental Sustainability

Recognizing “a historic and unprecedented transformation” of the world’s population from being predominantly rural to predominantly urban, the Commission on Population and Development concluded its forty-first session this afternoon with a call for prompt, forward-looking and sustained action to address the challenges and opportunities of urban growth and internal migration.

Such action should ensure that urbanization and internal migration had a positive impact on economic growth, poverty eradication and environmental sustainability, according to the six-page text (document E/CN.9/2008/L.4), which was adopted by consensus, as orally amended.

The draft on population distribution, urbanization, internal migration and development -- the special theme of this week’s week-long session -- called for participation by and representation of all relevant stakeholders in planning for the urban future, calling also upon the international community to support the efforts of developing countries in that regard.

It emphasized, bearing in mind national priorities, the importance of establishing and funding active policies for the promotion of full employment and decent work for all, and urged Governments to improve the plight of the urban poor.  The Commission urged the promotion of development that would encourage linkages between urban and rural areas, in recognition of their interdependence.

By other terms of the text, the Commission recognized that effective implementation of the Programme of Action of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) required an increased commitment of financial resources, calling upon developed countries to complement national efforts by developing countries with respect to population and development.  It also noted that recent increases in the flow of financial resources for assisting in the implementation of the Programme of Action had resulted primarily from increased funding for HIV/AIDS activities, expressing concern that funding for family planning was far below the suggested targets.

Among other issues addressed by the text was the need to promote healthy living in both rural and urban areas in all spheres of health, including sexual and reproductive health; to increase the capacity and competence of city and municipal authorities; to ensure that all persons, irrespective of where they lived, had adequate economic and social protection during old age; and to practise sustainable urbanization in order to address environmental issues.

Prior to action on the text, the representative of Cuba voiced his intention to show the necessary flexibility to enable its adoption, notwithstanding that it had not been issued in all six official languages.  Hopefully that would not create a precedent for the future, he said, a sentiment echoed by several other delegates, including those of France, Slovenia (on behalf of the European Union), Russian Federation and Antigua and Barbuda.

The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of position after adoption, said that, while he considered the text a success, future resolutions would benefit from a sharper focus on the theme of the session.  The United States endorsed the important political goals of the ICPD and its Programme of Action.  Key actions for further implementation were an important policy framework, but did not create international rights or legally binding obligations on States under international law.  Similarly, references to reproductive health, and all associated terms did not create any new international human rights and could not be interpreted to constitute support, endorsement, or promotion of abortion.

He said his country recognized the important role of increased financial resources, including official development assistance, to help promote economic growth in developing countries.  However, the assistance suggested in operative paragraph 13 of the text could only be effective in the context of an appropriate national policy mix to mobilize domestic resources, increase productivity, and encourage the private sector, while attracting and making effective use of international investment.  Foreign assistance, in the context of good governance and sound domestic policy, could play a catalytic role but it could not substitute the more significant financial flows available through trade, foreign investment, capital market credits and domestic resources.  Those largely private-sector flows fuelled economic growth and development.

In other action, the Commission adopted an oral decision setting “Health, morbidity, mortality and development” as the special theme for its forty-third session in 2010.  It also adopted the report of its forty-first session (document E/CN.9/2008/L.3) and approved the provisional agenda for its forty-second session (document E/CN.9/2008/L.2), as orally revised.

Cuba’s representative said in that connection that, in preparing documentation, the Secretariat should adhere to the language agreed by delegations.  That would save time and avoid revisions, which could delay the Commission’s work.

The Commission also took note of the Secretary-General’s report on programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2007:  Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (document E/CN.9/2008/6), and his note on the proposed strategic framework for 2010-2011:  Subprogramme 6 on population, of programme 7 on economic and social affairs (document E/CN.9/2008/7).

In a closing statement, Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, said that, given the variety of national experiences, Government responses were being tailored to each particular situation.  The statements made during the session had documented the creativity and flexibility needed for successful policy responses.  Among the aspects of urbanization that caused most concern, were those generated by the marriage of urbanization and poverty, including poor housing conditions, lack of services, overcrowding, environmental degradation, pollution, and lack of security.  If poverty was to be eradicated, those deficiencies must be addressed.  The Commission had recognized that the development of cities must go hand in hand with that of rural areas.  Consequently, strategies to improve the livelihoods of both men and women living in rural areas had been outlined.

In sum, he said, the Commission’s work had laid a solid foundation, not only for continued national action to address the challenges posed by urbanization and the need to promote the integrated development of urban and rural areas, but also for future discussion within the Economic and Social Council of sustainable development goals.

Rogelio Fernandez-Castilla, Director of the Technical Division, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), speaking on behalf of Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, said the changes in distribution of the world population presented many opportunities and major challenges.  Cities, centres of innovation, commerce, technology, culture and economic prosperity, also suffered from overcrowding, pollution and the proliferation of slums.  Good governance and urban policies could help unleash sustainable growth in cities.  There were policies and programmes to address housing and living conditions, ensure access to public services, including health, and promote employment.

He said policies to address urban growth should recognize the interdependence between urban and rural areas and take into account the linkages between the spatial distribution of urban economic activities and environmental protection.  Despite increased financial flows, costs had grown considerably since the Cairo targets were agreed in 1994.  UNFPA was particularly pleased to see that urgent need reflected in the resolution adopted today.  The Fund would continue to support efforts to meet the needs of both rural and urban citizens, encourage the incorporation of urban and spatial distribution issues, and advocate proactive innovation in urban growth, with an emphasis on the poor and most vulnerable.  It would also promote the inclusion of human rights in all policies and programmes for all social groups.

Hania Zlotnik, Director of the Population Division, said that during this week’s lively debate, everybody had clearly agreed that urbanization had a major impact on many aspects of human life, some of them positive and others detrimental.  Deciding how best to ensure that its potential benefits were realized, while at the same time combating its detrimental effects, was a challenge.  Nevertheless, despite the difficult task it faced, the Commission had proven again that it could make progress and provide useful guidance for the way ahead.  All participants in the session would remember that urgent action was needed to combat poverty in both rural and urban areas, so that the ills accompanying urbanization could be minimized, if not avoided.

Chairman Ivan Piperkov ( Bulgaria) described the session as productive and enlightening, saying the Commission had proved again that, with the engagement of all parties, it could produce useful guidance for future action.  This year’s theme was particularly important because there was almost no aspect of life not influenced by where people lived.  Population distribution, in fact, encompassed some of the most dynamic, engaging and sometimes troubling aspects of development.  The session had touched on all those aspects, endeavouring to find ways to mitigate the negative aspects of urbanization and urban growth, particularly in the context of poverty.

Immediately following the conclusion of its forty-first session, the Commission held the first meeting of its forty-second session to appoint a new Bureau, electing, by acclamation, Eleanor Zuniga, Secretary-General of the National Population Council of Mexico, as Chair.  Ivanka Tasheva of Bulgaria, Raja Nishirwan Zainal Abidin of Malaysia, Yeva Ortiz de Urbina of Spain and Irene B.M. Tembo of Zambia were elected Vice-Chairpersons.

* *** *

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