Speakers Debate Place of Sexual, Reproductive Rights as General Assembly Charts Progress towards International Population and Development Goals

GA/11568
9 October 2014
Sixty-ninth session, 22nd Plenary

Speakers Debate Place of Sexual, Reproductive Rights as General Assembly Charts Progress towards International Population and Development Goals

In a detailed discussion examining progress in implementing the goals set forth at the landmark 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, delegates today traded views on the place of sexual and reproductive health rights.

Societies where women and girls were safe were more prosperous and stable, said the representative of the United States, adding her delegation’s firm support for sexual and reproductive rights for all.  Contraception was not just a matter of convenience, she said, but a matter of life and death.  Family planning could prevent a third of the maternal deaths that occurred each year. 

But the representative of the Russian Federation, noting the lack of international consensus on the issue of sexual and reproductive health, said that it was counterproductive to focus on concepts that were not universally supported. 

For his part, India’s representative detailed the current political situation surrounding reproductive health care in his country, noting that reproductive care, including abortion, was among 20 comprehensive health services provided free of cost.  Furthermore, on the topic of women’s health and safety, and on combating violence against women, India had made amendments to criminal law which had significantly broadened the definition of sexual assault and harassment to include voyeurism, stalking and other behaviour.

Halfway around the world, in New Zealand, a key challenge facing the nation was the persistence of ethnic disparities when it came to reproductive health issues; Maori and Pacific populations were affected disproportionately by negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes, said that country’s representative.

For another island nation, Cabo Verde, challenges included the education of a young population and job creation, according the country’s representative.  As a consequence of sound policies and a lower fertility rate, new challenges had been created concerning immigration.  That was starting to pressure the country’s social and economic structures. 

But migrants were a resource, argued the representative of the International Organization for Migration, noting that migration was not only inevitable, but also necessary to meet labour demands.  Migration was desirable for migrants and host nations alike.

At the start of the meeting, the Assembly adopted by consensus two draft resolutions, submitted by its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).  By the terms of the first, the Assembly endorsed the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions that it allow the Secretary-General to enter into commitments of up to $49.9 million for the period from 19 September to 31 December 2014 to fund the newly created United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).

By the second, the Assembly allowed the Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia to retain their voting rights despite failing to pay their annual contribution to the Organization.

Also delivering statements were the representatives of Côte d’Ivoire, Qatar, Argentina, Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Georgia, Japan, Iran, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Ireland, Fiji, Bhutan, Australia, Sudan, Brazil, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Nigeria, Malta, Eritrea, Malaysia, Philippines, United Kingdom, Madagascar, Cambodia, Zambia, Kiribati, and Maldives, as well as the Holy See and the League of Arab States. 

Background

Meeting this morning to consider follow-up to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the General Assembly had before it two related reports of the Secretary-General: Framework of action for the follow-up to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development beyond 2014 (document A/69/62), and Recurrent themes and key elements identified during the sessions of the Commission on Population and Development (document A/69/122).

Action on Drafts

At the start of the meeting, the Assembly adopted by consensus two draft resolutions, both submitted by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).

The first, entitled “United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response”, was contained in the Committee’s report on the Programme budget for the biennium 2014-2015 (document A/69/422).  By its terms, the Assembly took note of the Secretary-General’s report on that subject and endorsed the recommendations set forth by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) in its own report.  The Assembly also stressed that adoption of the text was without prejudice to any subsequent review of the Mission and any decision it might take regarding the Mission’s budgetary arrangements, organizational structure, staffing and operational requirements, when it considered the detailed budget submitted by the Secretary-General.

The second draft, on the Scale of assessments for the apportionment of expenses of the United Nations, was contained in the Committee’s eponymous report (document A/69/428).  By its terms, the Assembly agreed that the failure of four countries - the Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia – to pay their respective minimum contributions to the Organization was due to conditions beyond their control and therefore could continue voting in the Assembly until the end of its sixty-ninth session.

YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA (Côte d’Ivoire) said a decade of crisis in his country had slowed down progress towards meeting the Cairo goals.  School enrolment had improved from less than 72 per cent in 1998 to 94.7 per cent 2013, and the Government had adopted legislation, effective as of the 2015-2016 school term, making school attendance mandatory starting at age six.  Thanks to steps combatting HIV, the HIV prevalence rate fell to 3.7 per cent in 2012.  Both child and maternal mortality rates had fallen since 1994, the use of modern contraceptives tripled from 1994 to 2012 and family planning was on the rise.  He pointed to national strategies related to development, population, health, the environment, education and youth empowerment.  Cote d‘Ivoire’s population growth rate was among the highest in the world.  The drop out rate for school children remained high, especially for girls.  The effects of climate change, along with soil degradation, had exacerbated food insecurity and public health concerns.  The Government was working to ensure universal health care coverage and to end pregnancy among school-aged girls. 

YOUSEF SULTAN LARAM (Qatar) said that there remained gaps in implementation since the holding of the Cairo Conference.  Some challenges and inequalities of a socioeconomic nature were being faced, as many people had been living in poverty throughout the world.  Tireless efforts had been made to implement development objectives, and Qatar had established a national comprehensive strategy on development.  A national vision sought to transform the country into a developed State.  Reiterating that there was no consensus on “controversial” goals involving issues related to sexual orientation, abortion, reproductive and sexual health, and global sex education, he noted the sovereign right of all countries to implement recommendations in line with national legislation, with respect to different moral and religious values.

BHAGWANT SINGH BISHNOI (India) pointed to substantial declines in infant and maternal mortality rates thanks to targeted solutions and other interventions.  Promoting the health and well-being of young people was a Government priority.  Reproductive health care, including abortion, was among 20 comprehensive health services provided free of cost.  Contraceptives had been given to 100 million women, and the health programme was committed to adding 48 million new clients by 2020.  There had been an expansion of secondary and tertiary education and access to skills development, particularly for women and girls.  The recently launched national adolescent health strategy would offer counselling and services on reproductive and sexual health, nutrition, mental health, violence and injuries, substance use and non-communicable diseases to 250 million young people.  Combating violence against women remained a priority.  Amendments to criminal law had significantly broadened the definition of sexual assault and harassment to include voyeurism, stalking and other behaviour.  Protocols had been developed with police, investigating agencies and other service providers to improve coordinated responses to female victims of violence.  The Government had worked with experienced activists on medical and legal guidelines and protocol for survivors of sexual violence.  India had shared its development experience with developing countries and it was a major source of good quality medicines critical to other countries’ health strategies. 

JOSEFINA BUNGE (Argentina) said that the Assembly was gathered to renew and deepen commitment to the Cairo programme beyond 2015.  Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General, she noted that human rights were at the core of it, and that investment in individual such rights, capacity-building and dignity for all, were the basis of sustainable development.  The Argentine Government had achieved goals more demanding than those set internationally, she said, listing accomplishments including the rights of migrants to social services.  Argentina was fully committed to implementation of the Programme of Action pending regional review and beyond 2015.

LESLIE BERGER KIERNAN (United States) said that societies where women and girls were safe were more prosperous and stable.  While strides had been made, progress had been uneven.  According to the Review, many countries agreed that those gaps required urgent attention.  Women, young people and those caught in crisis must have access to reproductive rights if such rights were to be for all.  Young people must be empowered.  Their choices would have consequences for the world.  Female genital mutilation, early marriage, and early birth were particular challenges facing young women, and more concrete and decisive steps had to be taken for the empowerment of women and girls.  Gender-based violence must end, and impunity for perpetrators equally so.  Integrating sexual and reproductive health services was also a priority — contraception was not just a matter of convenience, but a matter of life and death.  Family planning could prevent a third of the maternal deaths that occurred each year.  The international community had to continue to push forward; the post-2015 development agenda offered an opportunity for the world to come together.  The United States stood behind that, and fully supported gender equality, which could be one of most transformative goals of the agenda.  That chance must be seized.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, expressed his commitment to the framework of action for follow-up to the Cairo action programme beyond 2014.  The Secretary-General’s report on that review provided a solid foundation for establishing universal access to reproductive health and rights.  He underlined the need for comprehensive access to sex education.  There was also a need to include in the post-2015 development agenda the right to reproductive healthcare services and access to such services.  It was time to go beyond the Cairo Programme of Action.  Everyone had a right to be free of discrimination.

DILYARA RAVILOVA-BOROVIK (Russian Federation) attached great significance to the review of the International Conference on Population and Development, including global socioeconomic cooperation in the post-2015 period.  The key challenge was satisfying the basic requirements of the population, those having to do with access to health care, food, water, energy, and jobs.  It was counterproductive to focus on concepts that were not universally supported, or ran counter to entire countries.  Achieving progress and demographic development, in a sustainable development context, was the state policy of her country.  The challenges were overcoming demographic crises and providing support to the family.  Deeply regretting that the delegations of the Russian Federation and 60 other countries were not able to present those remarks at an earlier opportunity, she noted that her statement was intended to be presented at another level.  Her country wanted to continue dialogue with all, and was prepared to strengthen multilateral cooperation in all areas.

KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia) said her country had made significant progress in implementing the Cairo agenda, despite going through socio-economic and political transitions.  National development plans and legislation reflected Cairo priorities in several areas, with historic gains in reproductive health and infant and maternal mortality.  She discussed Georgia’s universal health programme and expansion of social protection schemes for vulnerable populations.  Women’s empowerment was proceeding, with 10 per cent representation in Parliament, and 30 per cent of households led by a female breadwinner.  Success had been recorded in efforts to combat trafficking under the leadership of a National Coordination Council, and a national youth policy had been adopted in 2014.  Much remained to be done, however, and measures to tackle remaining challenges, such as Georgia’s Socioeconomic Development Strategy 2020, targeted sustainable and inclusive growth, demographic improvements and ensuring equal opportunities.  A national human rights strategy and action plan were in place for 2014-2020, as well as an anti-discrimination law.

MR. NEKIGUCHI (Japan) said that, in 1994, Japan had launched the Global Issues Initiative on Population and AIDS, and had committed $3 billion to help developing countries with family planning, HIV treatment, maternal and child health and the empowerment of women.  Three months ago the Government organized a symposium on women in Tokyo.  In support of the Nigerian girls kidnapped earlier this year by Boko Haram, it pledged $855,000 to organizations supporting those girls and their families and communities.  The Japan Parliamentarians’ Federation for Population, the world’s first parliamentarian group dedicated to population and sustainable development, had made every effort to advance population issues with counterparts around the world.  He called on the international community to coordinate efforts to address emerging challenges, such as rapid demographic changes and the rapid increase in fertility, unemployment, malnutrition and lack of access to health services in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The low fertility rates found in Asia were also troubling.  The rate at which Japan’s population was ageing was the highest in the world; 1 in 4 people were over 65 years of age.  The world beyond 2015 must deal with complicated challenges and tasks, ensuring maternal and child health, empowering girls and young people, providing health and sexual services and supporting an ageing society.  There may be no miracle solution.

GHOLAM HOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran) commended the forward-looking approach of the Cairo action plan, stressing the need for progressive attitudes as the world population aged.  With population age structures undergoing an historic transition, Governments needed to focus on improving their citizens’ economic and social lives.  More than half of Iran’s population was under the age of 30, offering a “golden opportunity” to achieve sustainable development.  But it was also necessary to account for ageing.  His country had achieved many of the Millennium Development Goals and aims of the Cairo action plan before their deadlines, notably in health care and education.  Iran faced “illegal, inhuman economic coercive measures” that negatively impacted its ability to provide basic human rights and pursue development.  The sanctions contravened the United Nations Charter and the aims set forth in Cairo.

DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) said his country’s implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development plan of action had seen poverty decrease from 17 per cent in 2007 to 11.4 per cent in 2013 because of pro-poor, pro-rural development policies.  Known as a leader in family planning, Indonesia’s policies and goals had changed in emphasis from being target-driven to focusing on demand fulfilment.  Indonesia would reach the zenith of its population dividend between 2028 and 2031, when 65 million people would be contributing to the country’s long-term socio-economic development.  Efforts would focus on protecting their health, education and employment rights; and women’s empowerment and gender equality would also be integral to national development.  There had been an increase in the understanding of the interplay between population dynamics and climate change thanks to education policies in Indonesia’s coastal and agricultural areas that focused on risk reduction.  Local Government capacities to undertake mitigation and early warning had also been expanded.

FRED SARUFA (Papua New Guinea) pledged to consolidate the gains made in his country since the Cairo conference.  A cornerstone of his Government’s efforts involved encouraging women to take leadership and responsibility for their futures.  Poverty, environmental degradation and inequality must also be addressed.  The natural environment could provide for mankind, but not for man’s greed. Papua New Guinea had committed $10 million for various population and development initiatives.  It was partnering with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for contraceptive implants, and with other organizations to support development of midwifery skills to deal with complicated pregnancies.  The Government had created a National Bank for women and implemented microcredit programmes.  A national strategy aimed to improve the nation’s statistical information management system.  He urged Member States to collectively ensure that every woman throughout her lifetime had access to sexual and reproductive health services, contraceptives and education, and were assured protection of their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

EDEL DWYER (Ireland) aligned with the European Union’s statement to the Assembly on 22 September.  Much progress had been made since adoption of the Cairo action programme, but “aggregate progress” often masked “significant unfinished business,” especially where it concerned women’s empowerment, and access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.  Inequalities stubbornly persisted.  Those who had been left behind by inequality and discrimination, especially women and girls, must now be given priority.  Ireland was committed to implementing the Cairo action programme.  Last year his Government launched its latest Policy for International Development to protect and promote human rights in all its work.  That included a specific commitment to the Cairo action programme, to reduce maternal and infant mortality, promote universal access to reproductive healthcare and family planning services that supported safe motherhood and to fertility control.

IOANE NAIVALURUA (Fiji) said there was much progress in the last two decades on population, development and human rights, but there was much to be done.  Fiji, a small country dispersed around outlying islands, had experienced environmental challenges due to climate change, and thus unique challenges for implementing the sustainable development goals.  Fiji’s 2010 Constitution guaranteed the right to health care services, including reproductive health care.  Empowering women was important for equitable development.  Fiji was committed to increasing the participation of women and young people in political, social and economic processes.  On the eve of International Women’s Day this year, Fiji launched its National Gender Policy, a guiding document for mainstreaming gender issues across all sectors.  Noting that statistical data on gender-related issues was often missing from United Nations reports, he stressed the importance of timely data in designing evidence-based programmes as well as adequate resources to implement them.  He called for collaboration among Governments, United Nations agencies and other stakeholders to provide disaggregated and verified population data on the Pacific region.

KUNZANG C. NAMGYEL (Bhutan) said the United Nations analysis in her region showed that many significant challenges still required urgent attention to sustain the achievements made since the Cairo Summit.  Bhutan was committed to ensuring development was both inclusive and sustainable, and to remain carbon neutral while overcoming multidimensional poverty.  Bhutan was experiencing a rapid demographic change, with 65 per cent of the population aged 25 and below.  The potential for a “demographic dividend” was at its peak.  Ensuring access to quality education, creating jobs and developing private-sector enterprises were key Government priorities.  A new challenge was providing opportunities for the urban poor as the pace of urbanization intensified and put pressure on infrastructure capacities.  The country’s current five-year development plan placed high priority on gender disaggregated data and steps to foster gender equality in local governments.  Bhutan continued to promote women’s rights and had taken concrete measures to encourage a strong role for civil society.

JIM MCLAY (New Zealand) expressed concern for the high rate of violence against women in the Pacific region and nationally.  Providing survivors with immediate, safe access to critical services and involving men and boys in violence-prevention initiatives were essential.  All women should be entitled to accurate information and counselling on a range of affordable, accessible and high-quality contraceptive methods.  New contraceptive technologies in Zealand had  resulted in significant improvements in access to contraception.  In 2010, the Government fully subsidized contraceptive implants.  A key challenge facing the nation was the persistence of ethnic disparities; Maori and Pacific populations were affected disproportionately by negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes.  Addressing the social and economic factors disadvantaging indigenous people was a must.  New Zealand was focused on assisting the Pacific region in implementing the Cairo action programme, including by supporting key multilateral organizations in the region, including UNFPA, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

SHARMAN STONE (Australia) said it was an outrage that on the twentieth anniversary of the Cairo Conference the world was still struggling to ensure fundamental human rights for women and girls, protect them from discrimination and violence and prevent early marriage and early pregnancy.  That women and children bore the brunt of increasingly violent conflict and protracted humanitarian crises around the world must also be addressed.  Advancing the rights of women and girls would take commitment and action.  Australia was committed to ensuring that gender equality, and sexual and reproductive health and rights, were firmly embedded in the post-2015 development agenda.  The country had set a benchmark for its aid programme that at least 80 per cent of all development activities must have a gender-equality focus.

FERNANDO JORGE WAHNON FERREIRA (Cabo Verde) said that his country had been putting human beings at the centre of its endeavours.  Listing Cabo Verde’s achievements, he noted that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had said his country was on track to achieve Millennium Goal number four on maternal health.  However, the education of a young population and job creation continued to pose challenges to his country.  As a consequence of sound policies and a lower rate of fertility, new challenges had been created on immigration.  That was starting to pressure his country’s social and economic structures.  Cabo Verde was fully committed to the Cairo action programme, and would like to count on the continued strong support of UNFPA in its review of the country.

HASSAN HAMID HASSAN (Sudan) recalled that the challenge for his country today was the elimination of poverty, and that the effects of that issue required coordination and cooperation in order for root causes to be dealt with at all levels.  Sudan was going through a phase of demographic transition.  According to a 2008 census, the population was 30 million, a number which was expected to double by 2035.  The secession of South Sudan had established a new reality, and support was required to update demographic data through a new census.  Economic sanctions on the country were adversely affecting development, which was in need of investment to create further opportunities for a better future. 

GUILHERME DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) highlighted the 2013 Montevideo Consensus, which not only recognized the importance of universal access to health and reproductive rights, but also advanced progressive commitments on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Noting the progress his country achieved since the Cairo Conference, he said the percentage of Brazilians living below the extreme poverty line was a third of what it was then.  Per capita income of the poorest Brazilians had increased almost four times faster than that of the richest 10 percent, leading to an unprecedented decline in inequality.  Over the last two decades, average labour income was 60 per cent higher and life expectancy grew by 10 years.  Still, many challenges lay ahead.  Government programmes sought to reverse an historic negative trend resulting from years of insufficient attention to marginalized and vulnerable groups.  Brazil hoped that a global consensus based on the Rio+20 outcome document would foster effective international cooperation to overcome crucial hurdles to equality.  Realizing rights entailed promoting equality and equity within and among countries, securing respect for diversity and improving education, work conditions and opportunities for all.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia) said that his country had decided to implement the Cairo action programme with full support for all population and development rights, including sexual and reproductive rights.  That agenda was fundamental in guiding public policies, and progress had been made on combating poverty.  Colombia had a tailored approach to the needs of many groups, including: children: youth: adolescents; women; the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community; people with disabilities and older persons.  Great progress had been made regarding adolescent pregnancies, he said, adding that sexual and reproductive health for all persons was a universal human right.  The synergy between population, development goals and sustainable development was undeniable.

TALAIBEK KYDYROV (Kyrgyzstan) said that the Programme of Action on population and development adopted in 1994 still remained relevant today.  Despite challenges, his country had achieved good progress in implementing it.  Kyrgyzstan was a socially-oriented State.  It had ratified seven of nine United Nations conventions on human rights, as well as accepted more than 40 international obligations in the sphere of human rights.  Kyrgyzstan had also adopted laws on international labour migration, internal migration, refugees, combating trafficking and attached great importance to improving health care.  Child mortality has been reduced in the last years, and progress had also been made in reproductive health.  Much remained to be done, however, and to reach its objectives, a national sustainable development strategy had been adopted.  Kyrgyzstan was committed to strengthening international cooperation with other United Nations agencies.

ABDERRAZZAK LAASSEL (Morocco) said important progress had been made since the 1994 Cairo Conference and periodic reviews of progress in implementing its action programme.  He welcomed studies and consultations that allowed them to identify areas of difficulty in addressing the issues.  The country had made progress in many areas, he said, pointing to universal access to health care and declines in infant and maternal mortality.  Prenatal consultations and birth monitoring had increased as well, reaching 77.1 per cent and 73.6 per cent respectively, in 2011.  The country had established a strategy to meet the health needs of young people and adolescents in areas such as high-risk abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, gender-based violence and unwanted pregnancies.  The Government had enacted legislative and institutional reforms, as well as harmonized legislation and public policy with internationally ratified conventions relating to population and development.

GORDON BRISTOL (Nigeria) said a window of opportunity had been provided for Member States to share best practices to improve the lives of the vulnerable.  He stressed the need for an effective framework for emerging population and development issues.  There must be an assessment of the amount being invested in the lives of people, especially women and young girls.  He affirmed his country’s commitment to the Cairo action programme.  Beyond 2014, the population and development agenda must focus on quality investment in education, improved healthcare, the democratic dividend, eradication of hunger, improved health of adolescents, and reduction of maternal and infant mortality.  It must also include policies that supported the elderly, especially older women, and that fostered capacity-building and the use of modern technology for effective monitoring and evaluation of population and development programmes.

CHRISTOPHER GRIMA (Malta) said the Cairo Conference in 1994 resulted in the recognition that “population was not just about people, but about making people count”.  The action programme had shifted focus from numbers to human rights, and conference outcomes had been endorsed in the Millennium Development Goals, being featured prominently within them.  They should also form part of the post-2015 development agenda.  Future progress had to be universal, ensuring individual dignity and a human rights-based approach.  He identified progress for women since adoption of the Programme of Action, including participation across economic sectors and improvements in education.  Acknowledging the challenges of poverty, climate change and diseases, he noted the threat they posed to fulfilment of the Cairo action programme.  He regretted a recent focus on chapters in the Programme of Action dealing with reproductive rights and stated that no part of the document imparted an obligation that abortion be considered a legitimate reproductive health right.  The right to life was fundamental and it began at the moment of conception.  Abortion was a denial of that right.  

AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea) said the post-2015 development agenda must take into account the specific priorities of every State.  The overarching goal to eradicate poverty must be met.  The Eritrean Government had promoted the involvement of grassroots communities in the design of development programmes.  That had proven to be a successful strategy.  But more needed to be done to further empower women and girls, end child marriage and continue to build human capacity especially among youth, among other objectives.  Since the adoption of the Cairo action programme, migration issues had become an increasing concern of world organizations.  The relationship between migration and development in developing countries had to be addressed.

HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia) said that significant progress had been made since 1994.  However, the changing world had been presenting both opportunities and challenges to the post-2015 development agenda.  Malaysia had achieved most of the objectives of the Cairo Programme of Action, and key enabling factors had been the country's political stability, unity, strength in diversity and abundant natural resources.  All that had contributed to the country's success in achieving the programme’s goals, as well as other development goals.  Poverty eradication programmes had been effective in reducing poverty to just 1.7 per cent in 2012, and the rate of extreme poverty had also decreased.  The Government had given special attention to women's education, and announced its intention to increase the number of women in the public sector.  Listing several achievements within the health care sector, he turned to demographic issues, noting that as the country's total fertility rate had been declining, that would have profound effects on the nation's composition.

LIBRAN L. CABACTULAN (Philippines) said that his country had translated economic gain to generate employment and sustainable livelihoods, and had provided basic services to around 4.4 million poor families.  His country was a "front liner" in championing the empowerment of women and gender equality, with Filipino women being listed as among the ten highest worldwide in economic and political status.  The country has supported initiatives to eliminate discrimination among women and girls in all forms and the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, in tandem with the Universal Health Care framework, had mobilized a wide range of family planning information and services.  Also being set in place were policies for the right to move internally and be ensured access to social protection, basic services, employment and the use of natural resources.  Those protections had been extended to the 10 million Filipinos living overseas who contributed $22.8 billion in remittances in 2013.  Population dynamics had been consciously integrated in development initiatives, particularly climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.  Nonetheless there were significant challenges still, especially in the area of promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights.

AARON HOLTZ (United Kingdom) said that in this anniversary year for the Cairo Programme of Action, the review process had allowed the international community to reflect upon achievements.  The process had also highlighted that while progress had been made, much remained to be done.  Many girls were still unable to decide on family planning matters, and too many were denied the comprehensive sexuality education needed to make informed decisions about their lives.  Sustainable development could not be achieved if discrimination prevailed.  Two critical barriers to progress were female genital mutilation and early forced marriage.  Culture and tradition should never be invoked by Member States as a reason to deny rights to their citizens.

ANDIANARIVELO RAZAFY (Madagascar) said five years of political crisis had left his country drained, and as a result, the majority of the Madagascar population was vulnerable.  The country had been working on new initiatives using multi-disciplinary studies to achieve improvements in health, nutrition, access to drinking water and environmental preservation, among others.  It had drawn up a legal framework to respond to the needs of older persons, updated policies in the health sector, and conducted anthropological studies of households in order to understand the causes of and solutions for poverty.  The Government had worked to improve nutrition and health care services and had launched programmes for basic social services and child and maternal health.  Looking forward, the country’s development plan would form the core for sustainable action.  Madagascar faced huge challenges, and needed a harmonized social protection system and improvements in governance and public affairs.  The country was advancing towards inclusive development and was “ready to fight” to overcome all obstacles.

TUY RU (Cambodia) said that considerable progress had been made since his country had affirmed its commitment to the Cairo Programme of Action, in areas of health and gender equality, in particular.  Endorsing UNFPA’s operational review of the implementation of the Programme of Action, he listed areas in which Cambodia had made extensive progress.  These included strengthening women's empowerment, forging new partnerships with civil society and addressing issues of adolescent sexual reproductive health and rights.  To enable developing countries to fully implement the Programme of Action, the mobilization of resources and effective use of financing were essential.

MWABA PATRICIA KASESE-BOTA (Zambia) stressed that the 2014 review of the Cairo Conference had significant links to and implications for the Beijing+20 reviews as well as the post-2015 development agenda.  Zambia prioritized investments in the development needs of the young, who comprised 45.5 per cent of the population, and gender equality and women’s empowerment were central to its development agenda.  Zambia was committed to the full implementation of the action programme beyond 2014, she said, stressing that sexual and reproductive health and rights, population and development, and education and gender equality, were integrally linked to the eradication of poverty and achievement of sustainable development.

Mr. BARNIKO (Kiribati) stressed the need to continue the “innovative and courageous” work encapsulated in the Cairo Programme of Action and ensure such responsibility encompassed the conception of people as global citizens of a global village.  Investments in people such as reducing prejudice, improving choice, lowering barriers and preserving the environment, were investments in the future.  The recent Summit on climate change had to be followed by action.  Noting the world’s great diversity - from development progress to demographics to security challenges – unity was needed in agreeing a new development framework.  It was important to appreciate the intricate linkages between individual national development paths.  Melting Arctic ice sheets, for example, would affect the opposite side of the globe, particularly low-lying atoll island nations like his, which were on the frontline of climate change and sea-level rise.  Immediate, visionary and innovative leadership and action were needed, as climate change was a survival issue, a security issue and an issue of human rights and dignity.

AHMED SAREER (Maldives) said his country had brought down maternal and infant mortality rates and was consistently maintaining a national reading rate of 98 per cent.  Five of the eight Millennium goals had been realized.  Although "on-track" towards realizing the remaining three goals, climate change threatened that achievement.  The Government had adopted a zero tolerance policy for violence against women and a reproductive health policy.  With children and youth accounting for 44 per cent of the population, catering to their needs had been a priority.  Because unemployment was a grave concern, there were plans to develop a youth city, programs to identify and support vulnerable groups, and an umbrella program that included a “no child left behind” policy.  Conducting a national census would play a central role in understanding the population.  Collecting data on the migrant population would also allow the Government to provide for migrant workers who make up an estimated one third of the population.  The country’s most precious resource was its people, he said, adding, "without human development, sustainable development cannot be accomplished."

ARCHBISHOP BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, expressed deep concerns for the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty.  Noting the importance of the family to social and economic development, Governments should show solidarity with poor families and the most vulnerable.  Policy-makers and segments of societies viewed migrations negatively, promoting policies detrimental to migrants’ rights and dignity.  Quality education was the most effective means to promote sustainable development, and he emphasized the importance of women’s education to their empowerment within society.  Efforts to address maternal health were at times hampered by policies that failed to account for the right to life of the unborn child.  The idea of a “right to abortion” violated language of the International Conference on Population and Development, he said.

AMY MUEDIN, representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that one of the most significant contributions of the 1994 conference was catalysing the global debate on migration that had happened since that time.  Contemporary migration patterns were today more complex than they had been in the 1990s, as migrants were now of more diverse backgrounds, among other differences.  IOM fully supported recent reports of the Commission on Population and Development, which noted that migration had increased in scope and impact.  Her Organization further supported the call on all States to protect the human rights of all migrants.  The action programme on migration provided important lessons as the international community transitioned to the post-2015 development agenda.  Working with its partners, civil society among them, IOM was helping to monitor the development potential of migration.  Migration was inevitable and also necessary to meet labour demands.  It was desirable for migrants and host nations alike.

ISLAM ABDULLAH HASSAN AL-AMRI, representative of the League of Arab States, said that today’s meeting was an important one, emphasizing the weight the Arab League accorded to issues discussed.  Obstacles in the face of achieving the Millennium Development Goals must be overcome, he said, adding that the Arab League commended efforts made by Arab States in meeting challenges in areas of population as well as the advancement of women's rights and gender equality.  The 2013 Cairo Declaration, which was endorsed by all Arab states, had expressed the Arab League’s commitment to International Conference on Population and Development goals beyond 2014 as well as post-2015 development goals.

For information media. Not an official record.