Commission on Population and Development Concludes Session with Adoption of Wide-Ranging Text on Health, Morbidity, Mortality and Development

16 April 2010

Commission on Population and Development Concludes Session with Adoption of Wide-Ranging Text on Health, Morbidity, Mortality and Development

16 April 2010
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on Population and Development

Forty-third Session

9th Meeting (PM & Night)

Commission on Population and Development Concludes Session with Adoption


of Wide-Ranging Text on Health, Morbidity, Mortality and Development


Governments Asked to Scale Up Efforts to Ensure Access to HIV Treatment, Prevent

Non-Communicable Diseases, Ensure ‘Health-Enhancing’ Behaviour among Adolescents

Concerned that 9 million children under 5 years old died each year from largely preventable conditions, and that persistent health inequities, both among and within countries, were impeding improved health outcomes, the Commission on Population and Development today concluded its forty-third session by reaffirming the values of primary health care -– including universal access to services -- as the basis for strengthening health systems.

After marathon negotiations, the Commission adopted by consensus an eight-page text on “Health, Morbidity, Mortality and Development”, by which it noted with concern that the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of health -- including through access to medicines, vaccines and commodities -- remained a distant goal.  It called on Governments to strengthen health systems, in part by focusing on health financing, and to reduce maternal mortality by ensuring that universal access to reproductive health, including family planning, was achieved by 2015.

By other terms, the Commission reaffirmed its strong commitment to fully implementing the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development.  Governments were called on to scale up efforts to ensure universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support; do more to prevent non-communicable diseases; and ensure that attention was paid to encouraging health-enhancing behaviour among adolescents, notably by providing information on sexual and reproductive health consistent with their evolving needs.

The Commission also reaffirmed the right to fully use provisions in the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, among other accords, to promote access to medicines and encourage the provision of assistance to developing countries in that regard.  The international community was called on to make assistance, particularly external funding, more predictable and better aligned with national priorities, and to channel that assistance in ways that strengthened recipients’ health systems.

Immediately following adoption, several delegations underscored that the text should in no way be interpreted in a manner that affected the right to life, and registered their reservations on the use of terms including reproductive rights.  Other speakers reaffirmed that the text’s interpretations of any positions taken on sexual and reproductive rights and services should be taken within the context of the International Conference on Population and Development.

A representative of the Holy See said his delegation was committed to improving global health.  Reiterating reservations made at the International Conference on Population and Development, he stressed that nothing in the resolution created any new rights, including any recognition of the right to abortion.

At the other end of the spectrum, Denmark’s speaker, on behalf of the Nordic countries, as well as France and Germany, said her delegation strongly supported paragraphs on sexual and reproductive rights and services, as well as the inclusion of a reference to unsafe abortions, a major cause of maternal mortality.  It was unacceptable that women still died from preventable conditions.

“The many hours of tough negotiations have paid off -– we have an agreed document,” said Werner Haug, Director of the Technical Division at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), speaking on behalf of Executive Director Thoraya Obaid.

He said that, while there had been many success stories pointing to declines in mortality rates and increases in life expectancy, the Commission also had heard that, in some countries, life expectancy had stagnated or even decreased due to AIDS prevalence.  Others faced the double burden of addressing infectious and non-communicable diseases.  Of all the Millennium Development Goals, Goal 5 on maternal health lagged the most.  “We must renew our commitment to mobilize sufficient resources to ensure full implementation of the Programme of Action,” he said.

Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Thomas Stelzer, reminded delegates that if they felt pressure mounting during this period of hard work, it would continue once they left the chamber.  “The risk of missing our targets is very real and there is no time to lose,” he warned.  This week, the Commission had focused on the major health challenges facing countries where the diseases of poverty had receded.  When communicable diseases and maternal conditions no longer caused the most deaths, the disease burden shifted to non-communicable diseases, which accounted for the majority of deaths today and could be prevented by improving lifestyles.

Prevention was not the whole answer, he said, sooner or later everyone would need health care and health-care systems must be shaped to respond to increasing demands for disease management in ageing populations.  Guidance emerging from the session would likely need revision in a few years as countries learned how best to adapt to their evolving demographic and epidemiological realities.  In sum, he commended the Commission for its work on how best to improve health and delay death.

Also commending delegates for their efforts to provide guidance on actions that would improve global health, Hania Zlotnik, Director of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said this year’s theme had enriched the Commission’s views about the diverse challenges that countries faced.  Clearly, life and death issues could not but generate passionate debate.  However, to develop strategies and fine tune approaches, cool heads and persistence were needed.  The Division stood ready to help assess how that persistence might pay off in lower numbers of deaths and longer, healthier lives for all.

Chairperson Daniel Carmon (Israel) said the Commission had again proven it was a useful forum for discussing issues that mattered greatly for development.  This year’s theme –- health, morbidity, mortality and development -- had been particularly relevant for the Commission’s contribution to the high-level plenary meeting on the Millennium Development Goals in September.  It was important to remember that the session was just one small step towards reaching the health-related goals.  There was ample information on what had to be done.  “We need to redouble our efforts to do it,” he said.  The session had shown it was possible to address daunting issues in a professional and goal-oriented manner.  Only by reaching common ground was progress possible.

The Commission also adopted by consensus a draft decision determining that that the special theme for its forty-fifth session in 2012 would be “adolescents and youth”.

Before its adoption, Zambia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that in the spirit of cooperation, his delegation had agreed to support the theme for 2012.  He reiterated the Group’s proposed theme for 2013, namely “international migration and development”.

Mexico’s delegate expressed support for that position.

In other action, the Commission adopted the report of its forty-third session (document E/CN.9/2010/L.3), introduced by Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur Agnieszka Klausa (Poland), as well as the draft provisional agenda of the forty-forth session in 2011 (document E/CN.9/2010/L.2/Rev.1), whose theme was “fertility, reproductive health and development”.

The Commission also took note of the Secretary-General’s reports on Health, morbidity, mortality and development (document E/CN.9/2010/3); Monitoring of population programmes, focusing on health, morbidity, mortality and development (document E/CN.9/2010/4); Flow of financial resources for assisting in the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (document E/CN.9/2010/5); and on Programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2009: Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (document E/CN.9/2010/6), as well as a note of the Secretary-General on the proposed strategic framework for the period 2010-2013: sub-programme 6, Population, of programme 7, Economic and Social Affairs (document E/CN.9/2010/7).

Immediately following the closure of its forty-third session, the Commission opened its forty-fourth session, electing by acclamation Brian Bowler of Malawi as Chairperson, on the recommendation of the African Group.  The Commission also elected as Vice-Chairpersons: Suljuk Mustansar Tarar of Pakistan (Asian States); Easton Williams of Jamaica (Latin American and Caribbean States); Christophe de Bassompierre of Belgium (Western European and Other States).

The Commission will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.

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