United Nations Population Award Shines Light on People, Groups Saving Lives, Supporting Progress, Says Deputy Secretary-General at Awards Ceremony

8 June 2012

United Nations Population Award Shines Light on People, Groups Saving Lives, Supporting Progress, Says Deputy Secretary-General at Awards Ceremony

8 June 2012
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

United Nations Population Award Shines Light on People, Groups Saving Lives,

Supporting Progress, Says Deputy Secretary-General at Awards Ceremony


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the United Nations Population Awards Ceremony, in New York, 8 June:

Thank you for joining us at this important Award ceremony.  I especially appreciate the New York Symphonic Ensemble, the United Nations Staff Recreation Singers and the Harmony Basket Choral Group for such inspiring performances.  Above all, I am grateful to this year’s laureates for their outstanding contributions to our world.

These front-line experts know that when you empower a woman, you empower a family, a community and a country.  When you give youth a better future, you raise prospects for everyone.  And when you care for families, you lift up whole societies.  This was the main message of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development. 

Since then, global population has passed the 7 billion mark.  But as our laureates understand, population is about individuals — not numbers.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, will convene in less than two weeks.  This is our opportunity to focus on helping people to thrive while respecting the planet’s finite resources and fragile ecosystems.  I am personally committed to promoting health — especially women’s health — as a driving force for sustainable development.

The United Nations Population Award shines light on people and groups that are saving lives and supporting progress.  I congratulate this year’s winner in the Individual Category:  Adrienne Germain.  Ms. Germain has done pioneering work linking fertility and population policies with the status of women.  She has spent decades researching these issues and providing advice on international population programmes. Her professional accomplishments are many.

But tonight I want to say a word about her personal motivation.  When she was just starting her career as an advocate for women’s health and rights in the Amazon region of Peru, Ms. Germain witnessed a family mourn the death of a young mother who died giving birth to her sixth child.  Ms. Germain could never forget that family, or the many other women who said goodbye to their loved ones before going into labour because they rightly feared that they might not survive.

For four decades, she has worked to help these women and countless others. At the same time, she has spoken about the need to “back a new generation of activists as they gain the political strength and the skills to protect their health and determine their futures”.  Ms. Germain, this new generation will stand on your shoulders, reaching greater heights thanks to all that you have built.

It is also my pleasure to congratulate this year’s institutional laureate, the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations, Malaysia — the country’s leading and largest non-governmental organization devoted to reproductive health.  When adolescents have questions, when people need reproductive health information, when pregnant women require care, they turn to the Federation.  It serves one in six of all people using family planning services in Malaysia.

The Federation works in close collaboration with the International Planned Parenthood Foundation.  Its motto “Not too early, not too late and not too close” has raised visibility of key reproductive health issues in Malaysia and beyond.  I am especially grateful for the Federation efforts to address the sexual and reproductive health needs of people who suffer stigma and marginalization.

Dr. Mary Huang Soo Lee, who represents the Federation here tonight, has learned a great deal from her many years of experience.  She once observed that the major lesson Malaysia gained over the years is to “Be patient”.  It may take time, but with hard work, policies turn into programmes, and programmes benefit people.

These results come thanks to individuals and institutions like Adrienne Germain and Malaysia’s Federation of Reproductive Health Associations.  I hope they take this Award as an affirmation of their invaluable contributions and as an inspiration to accomplish even more in the years to come.  Thank you.

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