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POP/1046
11 April 2016
Forty-ninth Session, 2nd & 3rd Meetings (AM & PM)*

Finding Most Vulnerable Communities to Erase Inequalities Depends on Strong Data, Secretary-General Tells Population and Development Commission at Session Opening

A strong demographic evidence base was critical to leaving no one behind in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today, opening the forty-ninth session of the Commission on Population and Development.

“When people are not counted, they are excluded,” he stressed, noting that people were at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.  The current session of the Commission was a landmark one, as it was the first to be held since the 2030 Agenda’s adoption last September.

The 2030 Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals were fundamentally focused on equality, he said, adding that population data and analysis were critical to ending inequalities, helping people who were hard to reach and ushering in a life of dignity for all.  “When people are empowered,” he said, “we can achieve economic, social and environmental justice.”

Elaborating on the theme of the Commission’s week-long session — “strengthening the demographic evidence base for the post-2015 development agenda” — delegates gave national examples of progress, challenges and concerns during a general debate and asked questions in an interactive discussion with the keynote speaker, Lisa Grace S. Bersales, National Statistician of the Philippines.

Ms. Bersales, in a keynote address, said that in order to transform the world by 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals needed to encompass all aspects of people and planet and take into account partnerships for progress.  Demographic evidence was more relevant than ever before, she said, calling for indicators that were disaggregated by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability and geographic location.

To monitor progress towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations Statistical Commission had endorsed the formation of two groups — the Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goals Indicators and the High-level Group for Partnerships, Coordination and Capacity-Building, she said.  It had also agreed on global indicators.

Also addressing the Commission this morning, Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said the international community’s commitment to strengthen the evidence base for sustainable development was crucial.  The 2030 Agenda was built on the assumption that every country would be able to identify and locate the most vulnerable people, to identify interventions that resulted in the greatest improvements in their welfare and to monitor progress.

John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the Commission had the opportunity in 2016 to contribute expert advice on the collection, dissemination and use of data.  High priority should be given to strengthening national systems for collecting traditional forms of demographic data and household surveys, he said.

Mwaba Patricia Kasese-Bota (Zambia), Chair of the forty-ninth session of the Commission, agreed that the 2030 Agenda was of the people, by the people and for the people.  The availability of reliable and timely demographic data was essential for planning and implementing interventions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to monitor progress towards their achievement, she said.

Delivering statements during the debate were the representatives of Germany, Russian Federation, Uganda (on behalf of the African Group), Thailand (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Bangladesh, Honduras, Egypt, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Poland, Mexico, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Zambia, India, South Africa, United States, Brazil, Guatemala, Philippines, Indonesia, Kenya, Republic of Moldova, Myanmar, Niger, Pakistan, Mongolia, Netherlands, Qatar and Finland.

In other business, the Commission elected, by acclamation, Ebrahim Alikhani (Iran) and Oana Maria Rebedea (Romania) as Vice-Chairs for the forty-ninth session.  It also elected Mr. Alikhani to serve as Rapporteur.

Approving the provisional agenda for its current session (document E/CN.9/2016/1), as orally revised, the Commission took note of the report of its Bureau’s intersessional meetings (document E/CN.9/2016/2), which was briefly presented by the Chair.

José Bravo, Assistant Director of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced a report of the Secretary-General on “strengthening the demographic evidence base for the post-2015 development agenda” (document E/CN.9/2016/3).  Benoit Kalasa, Director of the Technical Division of UNFPA, introduced a report of the Secretary-General on “programmes and innovations to strengthen the demographic evidence base for the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (document E/CN.9/2016/4).

The Commission will reconvene Tuesday, 12 April, at 10 a.m. to continue its general debate.

Opening Remarks

MWABA PATRICIA KASESE-BOTA (Zambia), Chair of the forty-ninth session of the Commission on Population and Development, said 2016 was a crucial year as the United Nations was being reshaped to deliver on its promise of assisting Member States in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  At the same time, the Commission continued with its mandate to support the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development that was adopted in Cairo in 1994.

As both agendas placed a strong emphasis on the importance of data, she said, the Commission’s session would focus on the demographic evidence base, which was built on a foundation of data.  The availability of reliable and timely demographic data was essential for planning and implementing interventions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to monitor progress towards their achievement.  The 2030 Agenda was of the people, by the people and for the people.

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the current session was a landmark one, as it was the first to be held since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda.  As the Commission had a proud tradition of focusing on people, he said “above all, people are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda”.

While people could never be reduced to numbers, statistics were essential to policy planning, he went on to say.  “When people are not counted, they are excluded,” he said, calling for the strengthening of the demographic evidence base for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

He recalled that at the time of his birth, many parents, including his own, had not immediately recorded such events because they were unsure that their babies would survive.  That practice continued in some countries today, he said, stressing that all births and deaths must be registered and all countries must archive them.  “The Sustainable Development Goals are fundamentally focused on equality,” he said.  Population data and analysis were critical to ending inequalities, helping people who were hard to reach and ushering in a life of dignity for all.

Sustainable development demanded securing sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and young people, he said.  “When people are empowered,” he said, “we can achieve economic, social and environmental justice.”  Noting that the world was experiencing both great wealth and abject poverty, he said data were also critical to public health, as countries needed reliable tracking systems for illnesses and causes of death.  When epidemics struck, such systems could make a difference between life or death.  Underscoring the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women, he said countries could benefit from a demographic dividend when families planned the timing and spacing of births.

Describing a number of global demographic trends, including high fertility rates in some countries and rapidly ageing populations in others, he said the world now had the largest youth generation in history.  In addition, one of the most dynamic current population trends was mass displacement, with some 60 million people displaced either within countries or internationally.  Thousands of desperate migrants were dying on dangerous journeys.  With the right policies, the international community could facilitate migration that was safe, regular and orderly, he concluded.

BABATUNDE OSOTIMEHIN, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that the United Nations Statistics Commission had agreed on 230 indicators to measure progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda, its critical aspirations for human well-being and the survival of the planet.  As more than half of those indicators depended directly on demographic data, the international community’s commitment to strengthen the evidence base for sustainable development was crucial.

The 2030 Agenda, he went on to say, was built on the assumption that every country would be able to identify and locate the most vulnerable people, to identify interventions that resulted in the greatest improvements in their welfare and to monitor progress.  Some aims echoed the recommendations of the Cairo Programme of Action, the Key Actions for its further implementation in 1999, and the Framework of Actions beyond 2014.  Each of those documents had crafted a vision of sustainable development based on the achievement of universal human rights and equality, universal access to health, non-discrimination, quality education, security, economic opportunity and the dignity of all persons.

However, in many countries, he said, a lack of core population data, weak data systems and underdeveloped capacity to use such information for development had constrained efforts to address population inequalities and measure progress towards sustainable development.  In that regard, building up and sustaining core population data required strengthening both census and civil registration alongside vital statistics.  Information on births and deaths enabled countries to confer and guarantee citizenship and to plan public infrastructure development and the delivery of health and education services, he said.

Turning to civil registration systems, he noted that they ensured that countries could plan effective public health policies, measure the impact of health programmes, respond to epidemics and halt the spread of disease.  Stressing that advances in big data held huge potential, he said satellite imagery could be used for real-time analysis vis-á-vis people who had been displaced or were in difficult to reach areas or were facing humanitarian crises.  Such approaches, however, needed a strong demographic evidence base for crosschecking estimations.  “We need to embrace innovations and developments in big data and integrate them into the world’s growing data ecosystems,” he said.

Regarding data collection, he stressed that growing support for the collection of census information and even measurable improvements in the dissemination of results had not been matched by the growing use of those approaches.  In order to find and support vulnerable populations, especially in developing countries, he said, much more could be done with geographic information systems, mapping and spatial analysis.

JOHN WILMOTH, Director of the Population Division in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the session came at an important moment — the start of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Building an evidence base required both data and analysis, leading to a better understanding of the topics considered.  Through its deliberations in 2016, the Commission had an opportunity to contribute expert advice on the kinds of population data and on ways of collection and dissemination.

High priority should be given to strengthening national systems for collecting traditional forms of demographic data, in particular data coming from population censuses, civil registration systems and household surveys, he continued.  Elaborating on types of information collection, he said there had been much talk in recent years about “big data”, yet such material was not capable of replacing traditional sources.  There was, however, much to be gained from embracing “open data” policies and georeferencing.  With such information, it became possible to derive estimates that were disaggregated by geographic location, helping to document inequalities between social groups.

Turning to the review of the Commission’s method of work, he said it had been broken and needed to be fixed.  That view stemmed from several factors, including a lack of consensus on various issues.  In that regard, he called upon Member States to try to understand the view of others, commit to flexibility and remain determined to find common ground and consensus.  On the Commission’s multiyear work programme, he stressed planning ahead helped the work of the Bureau and the Secretariat.  It would also help to promote a congenial atmosphere during negotiations by reassuring participants that their preferred topic would be considered, he said.

Introduction of Reports

JOSÉ BRAVO, Assistant Director of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on “strengthening the demographic evidence base for the post-2015 development agenda” (document A/CN.9/2016/3).  The report reviewed major sources of demographic data and addressed the issues including harmonization, consistency and reliability, big data and new technologies and disaggregation.  Focusing on the size, growth and distribution of population alongside births, deaths and migration, the report concluded with a series of recommendations.

He went on to note that the first major data source was population censuses, which were critical to understanding whether any group was being left behind in development.  A large number of countries had conducted at least one census per decade since the 1990s.  However, efforts needed to be maintained to improve the quality and coverage of census data.  Increasing the use of information and communications technology were helping to improve all stages of census data collection, while the online dissemination of results had empowered a new generation of users to access information relevant to their needs.  Population registers were also important, but their use was limited.

Civil registration was another critical source of demographic data, providing information on population events on an ongoing basis; it was particularly useful in recording fertility and mortality data.  Such data tracking ensured that all people had a legal identity and access to State services.  However, more than 230 million children under age five still lacked a birth certificate, he said, noting that the sustained improvement in and expansion of civil registration systems in developing countries would require commitments from both Governments and donors.

Household surveys were complementary to those methods, he said, as they served as primary information sources on such issues as reproductive health, children, knowledge, attitudes and practices.  In that regard, he underscored the importance of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) multi-indicator cluster surveys and longitudinal surveys, which would both be critical in the post-2015 era.  “Having data is the first step,” he said, but data needed to be made relevant for policy planning and development.  He went on to describe trends in big data and in efforts to gather population data disaggregated by income, age, geographical location and other important criteria.

BENOIT KALASA, Director of the Technical Division of UNFPA, introduced a report of the Secretary-General on “programmes and innovations to strengthen the demographic evidence base for the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (document E/CN.9/2016/4).

People were at the centre of the Cairo Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda, he said, noting that each characterized a vision of sustainable development based on the achievement of universal human rights and equality, sexual and reproductive health, gender equality and women’s empowerment, education and economic growth.  The Cairo Programme of Action, when adopted in 1994, had underscored the shared belief that development was the expansion of human opportunity and freedom.

Turning to the demographic dividend, he drew attention to the rising interest in the integrated use of data and population analysis across countries.  For its part, UNFPA partnered with other United Nations agencies, international and regional non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academics, supporting national reviews of population age structures and mapping needs for human capital development.

Regarding measuring subnational inequalities, he noted that mapping tools were expanding widely and data were more available as visual displays.  Subnational development maps offered Governments and partners clear information about where investments should be made to trigger the biggest impact.  One example was that UNFPA was working with the Government of Zambia to identify where girls were at the greatest risks for child marriage.  By mapping risks, the Government had found out which districts needed further social protection.

Emerging innovations such as big data, he said, had among other things promised to help to locate people in humanitarian crises and to assist Governments with their efforts to estimate the size and location of their population after conflicts and displacement.  Concluding, he stressed the need for countries to implement both agendas, to prioritize the long-term growth of institutions and to further develop strategies for data collection.

General Debate

HARALD BRAUN (Germany) said the recommendations of the Cairo Programme of Action were as relevant now as ever before, particularly with regard to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Over the past 20 years, while there had been impressive global progress in improving maternal and child health, a great deal of work remained.  Globally, some 225 million women still lacked access to modern forms of contraception, lacking the ability to control whether and when they would like to become pregnant.  Every day, approximately 800 women died from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, with maternal mortality rates being especially high among young women and adolescent girls.  He reiterated that Germany strongly advocated for a rights-based and gender-sensitive approach to family planning, comprehensive sexuality education and the strengthening of linkages between HIV/AIDS to sexual and reproductive health strategies.

SERGEY B. KONONUCHENKO (Russian Federation) said the Commission should adhere strictly to its mandate and deliver non-politicized recommendations that took into account the interests of all States.  The Cairo Programme of Action remained the basic reference for intergovernmental cooperation in the area of population, he said, adding that the General Assembly had unambiguously decided that that document was not subject to revision.  Worrying trends had arisen, namely “arbitrary interpretations” by certain delegations, he said, stressing the need to adhere to consensus-based terminology and to avoid the introduction of terms that were ostensibly widely used, including sexual and reproductive rights, gender identity and similar concepts.  His country was not bound by any obligation to introduce into its schools sexual education for young people, he pointed out, noting that parents had the responsibility to provide their children with such information.

Keynote Address

LISA GRACE S. BERSALES, National Statistician of the Philippines, speaking on the theme “the demographic evidence base and indicators for the 2030 Agenda:  a global overview”, said that in order to transform the world by 2030, 17 goals and 169 targets encompassed all aspects of people and planet and took into account partnerships for progress.  To monitor that progress, the United Nations Statistical Commission had endorsed the formation of two groups — the Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goals Indicators and the High-level Group for Partnerships, Coordination and Capacity-Building.  The Commission had also agreed on global indicators.

Drawing attention to demographic evidence, she stressed that it was more relevant than ever before.  Sustainable Development Goals indicators should be disaggregated, where relevant, by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability and geographic location.  Under the population segment, according to World Bank reports, the current global estimate of 7.3 billion people was growing at a rate of 1.1 per cent annually.

Turning to education, she said recent estimates had shown that women between ages 10 and 64 had a higher functional literacy rate than men.  For its part, the Government of the Philippines had conducted the 2011 Family Health Survey with regard to the maternal mortality ratio and the 2013 National Nutrition Survey of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute to estimate the proportion of underweight, stunted and overweight children.

Acknowledging the need for the Philippines to use data visualization tools, she stressed that the incidents of poverty and the distribution of poor populations varied within the country.  The poorest provinces were the areas that had been hit by Typhoon Haiyan and those in the southern part of the country, including areas affected by insurgency.  To make progress on national statistics systems, coordination was key at the global, regional, subregional and national levels.  Furthermore, she said, partnerships with non-governmental actors, academia, professional networks and the private sector must be promoted.  Among other things, existing demographic sources such as censuses, surveys, administrative data and registries must be used and strengthened.

During the ensuing interactive discussion, speakers stressed the need for improved collection, analysis and dissemination of demographic data as the world moved into the post-2015 period.

Some delegates raised national concerns.  The representative of Sudan, in that context, highlighted the importance of civil registration, noting that the practice had begun in her country in 2014.  Sudan was also preparing a national census for 2018.  However, the country was facing a number of challenges, including economic sanctions, and was having trouble financing those initiatives.  Going forward, she said, demographic data collection needed to be linked to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.

Ms. BERSALES emphasized that the Philippines was unique because civil registration was conducted by the National Statistical Office.  The challenge was to ensure that everyone was registered at birth.  It had been important to update the law on civil registration to take into account emerging concerns such as the increase in “illegitimate” children.

Addressing query from Uganda’s delegate for details on efforts to improve the status of women, especially with regard to land acquisition and decision-making, she said the Philippines was currently concluding its gender survey, which would help to answer that question in due time.  In the Philippines, which had a matriarchal society, she said, women were of high importance in the family and the country enjoyed a high gender development index.

Responding to a request by Japan’s representative for input on the importance of registering deaths and their causes, she said that while birth registration was high in the Philippines, death registration was only at 66 per cent.  The Asia-Pacific region was working with partners on a number of related goals and targets, including the improvement of death registration and the determination of the causes of death.

With regard to a question from the representative of the League of Arab States as to whether UNFPA should undertake a study on migration, she noted that statistics in that field were not yet well-established.  In the Philippines, Government agencies had differing definitions of migration.  International and national standards were needed to define such concepts as migration and could serve as a starting point for developing good data on migration for the Sustainable Development Goals, she concluded.

General Debate (Resumed)

RICHARD NDUHUURA (Uganda), speaking on behalf of the African Group, associated himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  Noting how youth represented 65 per cent of Africa’s population, he said such a boom represented a potential demographic dividend.  African leaders were committed to moving forward on gender equality and women’s empowerment and they invited the United Nations family and the international community to help make the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) a success.

Expressing concern about obstetric fistula and child marriage, he said that with good policies, demographic change could prove consequential towards fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals.  The African Group called upon the United Nations system and others to support capacity-building and technological transfers and to provide financing for population data collection.  African States had also reaffirmed the sovereign right of each country to implement recommendations of the Cairo Programme of Action consistent with national laws and priorities.

VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77”, said implementing the Cairo Programme of Action was critical to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Developing States must access appropriate and cost-effective information and communications technology, software, equipment and tools while building the capacity of personnel at all levels.  Only then could disaggregated data be efficiently collected, processed, disseminated and analysed.  Data would make it possible to strengthen health systems and to make full use of the demographic dividend while creating decent jobs for a growing work force.

Stressing the need to maintain a strong link with the 2030 Agenda, he said decisions taken today would affect millions of people at least 15 years into the future.  He also expressed support for a review of the Commission’s working methods and reiterated the need for developed countries to fulfil their official development assistance commitments.  Those countries should provide new funding sources to narrow resource gaps.  In that regard, support from the United Nations development system to developing countries, upon their request, would be useful.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union, stressed support for the Cairo Programme of Action, saying its aims should be fully consistent with the 2030 Agenda.  The regular collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative population data was essential for development of health, education and social protection systems and in serving current and future generations.  To inform policies and allow for proper follow up and review, data should be disaggregated by sex, age, income and geographic location.  Free and low-cost birth registration should be the starting point for such inclusive, sustainable policies.  Traditional systems, such as reliable civil registration of vital statistics systems, could be complemented by big data approaches.  As global demographics changed, more efforts were needed to invest in people, particularly young people, to achieve sustainable development.  The promotion and protection of older persons must form an integral part of development policies.

Calling for the swift implementation of the 2030 Agenda, particularly goals related to maternal health and universal access to sexual and reproductive health, he said there should also be a focus on the rights and needs of young people.  They should have full, affordable access to quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health information, care services and supplies, including quality contraception, and should be able to decide on sexuality issues without being subjected to discrimination and violence.  Demand for modern contraception was not being met, hindering the ability of young people and couples to decide freely and responsibly when and how many children to have.

ZAHID MALEQUE, State Minister for the Ministry of Health and Family Planning of Bangladesh, noted considerable national progress in achieving the aims of the Cairo Programme of Action.  By focusing on people’s empowerment, Bangladesh was marching forward, aspiring to soon become a middle-income country, and had make remarkable advances in women’s empowerment and public participation.  Gender parity in primary and secondary school enrolment had been achieved and women’s participation in the formal and informal economy and in political processes had increased significantly.  On the health front, fertility rates had reached replacement levels in two geographic divisions and the prevalence of underweight children and infant mortality had fallen due to well-planned, innovative and sensible government policies.

Continuing, he said migrants and migration had made important contributions to development in countries of origin, transit and destination, he said.  As current Chair of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, Bangladesh was committed to ensure safe, orderly migration and would host the next summit in Dhaka in December.  Noting that much remained to be done to strengthen data systems and to support in depth data generation, disaggregation and analysis, he said donors should support the Global Financing Facility and the Every Woman, Every Child initiative, among other financing mechanisms.

Enhanced international cooperation was essential for sustainable development in developing and least developed countries, he went on to say.  Least developed countries needed incremental and predictable official development assistance to augment their populations, he said, urging stakeholders to fulfil their commitments.  Bangladesh would fully use its membership in the Partners in Population and Development intergovernmental alliance to promote South-South cooperation in demographic evidence-gathering with a view to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

CLARISA MORALES, Deputy Minister of the Interior and Decentralization of Honduras, underscoring how demographic databases reflected progress and shortcomings in the enjoyment of human rights, cited the progress her country had made in fostering development in an orderly manner.  Despite such initiatives as an ongoing household survey and a national housing census, Honduras faced challenges with registering vital statistics, she said.  With a view to ensuring further progress, the Government remained firmly committed to strengthening its demographic database.

MAISSA SHAWKY, Deputy Minister for Health and Population of Egypt, welcomed the endorsed the global indicators framework for the 2030 Agenda as a practical starting point, but noted that they were not always applicable at national levels.  She urged donors to help developing States with capacity-building and technical assistance and stressed the need to revise the Commission’s working methods and its role in implementing the Cairo Programme of Action.  She went on to review the steps Egypt was taking with regard to population and sustainable development, including its strategy to reduce the population growth rate.

EZE DURUIHEOMA (Nigeria) said the Sustainable Development Goals required volumes of data on a range of issues, prompting his Government to implement a national statistical reform initiative.  The new development agenda placed emphasis on “all ages”, which would require countries to formulate inclusive policies that addressed inequality and promoted efforts to leave no one behind.  The most populous country in Africa, Nigeria’s working age citizens constituted more than 62 per cent of the entire national population.  Within efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, all groups, irrespective of age, sex and location, must be accounted for.  As the global community transitioned towards putting the Sustainable Development Goals into action, Nigeria had taken a series of steps, including drafting a national road map to guide implementation.  Nigeria was also on the verge of finalizing its local indicators to help monitor progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. BRAHIMI (Afghanistan) said implementation of the 2030 Agenda would be more problematic in conflict-affected countries such as his own.  It was essential to consider how peace and security considerations should be taken into account when the Sustainable Development Goals were being implemented, measured and evaluated.  Afghanistan had achieved considerable progress under the Millennium Development Goals, including significant improvements in terms of access to education and health.  Despite those gains, there were other areas where the country had fallen behind, including with regard to hunger and poverty.  Inequality had also increased, as women were still highly vulnerable and excluded from fully participating in the economy.  The Afghan population was very young, with about 48 per cent of the total population under age 15.  Fertility in Afghanistan had begun to slowly decline.  In some areas, rapid population growth had hindered progress and exceeded the absorption capacity of the labour market, agricultural sector and education and health systems.

JAROSŁAW PINKAS (Poland) said national demographic challenges included a low number of births, relatively high mortality rates and a shorter life expectancy than the European Union average.  To address those and other issues, the Government Population Council had drafted the Foundations of the Polish Population Policy, which aimed at improving the fertility of Polish women, limiting the emigration of citizens and creating the conditions for their return while increasing the scale of labour immigration.  The Government had also adopted a national action gender equality plan, particularly the issue of gender-based violence.  Since 2008, the number of people at risk of living in poverty or social exclusion had decreased in Poland, although the number of people living in extreme poverty had increased.

PATRICIA CHEMOR RUIZ, Secretary General of the National Population Council and Vice Minister of Mexico, said evidence-based decision making formed the basis of good governance and the efficient management of socioeconomic concerns.  Updated and precise demographic data enabled Governments to anticipate and determine the impact of public policies.  The study of population and demographic trends in Mexico had been crucial for the nation’s socioeconomic development.  The National Population Council had implemented a national policy over the past 42 years that had been integrated into national political policies.  Surveys and censuses carried out by the National Statistics and Geography Institute informed Government social policies aimed at improving the quality of life and well-being of the population.

Population data made it possible to determine the education, employment, health, housing, transport and social security needs of the population and to evaluate and shape policies needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, she said.  Data from the 2015 census had been particularly useful for public administration, academia and the private sector.  A national survey on demographic trends had helped to address fertility, mortality and migration trends.  She pointed to national surveys on housing, social cohesion, employment and the use of time, noting that the latter had helped to shed light on women doing unpaid work.

Last year, UNICEF and the National Public Health Institute had carried out a national survey on children and women, she said.  In October 2015, Mexico had hosted the Regional Conference on Population and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, during which participants had agreed to an operational guide to implement the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development.  Mexico had a long-term vision to address population needs in the coming decades.  That focus proved that it was possible to achieve the Cairo Programme of Action, which should be the strategy for human development.

KHAMLIEN PHOLSENA, Vice Minister for Planning and Investment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said his Government was finalizing its 2016-2020 National Socioeconomic Development Plan, with a focus on graduation from least developed country status by 2020.  The country’s fifth population and housing census, carried out in March 2015, would provide myriad information to set the baseline for the national development plan and the Sustainable Development Goals while providing evidence for strengthening policy framework and implementation.

The Government continued to strengthen data collection, analysis and use in all areas, he went on to say.  Still, quality data and its use was limited, he said, stressing the importance of international support to build capacity in that area in order to improve monitoring, review and reporting on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Cairo Programme of Action must be continually reviewed and implemented within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, she said, noting that her Government was committed to its implementation.

Pointing to important changes in the population field in the last four decades, she noted the reduction in maternal mortality, the increase in life expectancy and their contribution to fuelling the economy and reducing poverty.  But challenges remained, among them the highest adolescent fertility rate in the region, a low-skilled youth population and increased disparities within the country, she said, noting support from UNFPA to help her country implement the Programme of Action.

SIMON MITI (Zambia) associated himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, underscoring the need to strategically focus on improving the reliability, timeliness and accessibility of demographic data.  Civil registrations, especially birth and death registers, deserved special attention given the implications they had for citizenship, identity and education.  Such data could help inform decision-makers about the factors that contributed to changes in mortality and fertility rates.  Zambia’s Civil Registration System remained underdeveloped, rendering the usage of the data to merely administrative purposes with limited statistical manipulation due to the incompleteness of registration and inaccuracy of the information collected.  His delegation called for partnerships with the United Nations, multilateral institutions and others to assist in the enhancement of national capacities for data collection.

SYED AKBARUDDIN (India), associating himself with the Group of 77, said it was hard for many developing countries to have access to timely, reliable and disaggregated demographic evidence.  The 2030 Agenda could only succeed if the international community came together to collectively invest in strengthening the national capacities of those who needed them most.  India, home to one sixth of humanity, had a long tradition of demographic data collection in the form of a cost-effective and robust decennial census.  Its online digital identity platform, the largest in the world, provided data useful for defining development policies and a web-based maternal and child tracking system captured details of every pregnant woman and child up to age five.

ZANE DANGOR, Special Advisor to the Minister of Social Development of South Africa, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Africa Group, attached great importance to the Commission reaching a negotiated outcome.  South Africa would always speak out against exploitation and oppression, he said, including the oppression of people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  South Africa was pursuing a number of strategies to better equip its young people to become economically independent.  While national population growth was slowing, there were proportionally fewer very old and very young people.  To reap the benefits of the demographic dividend would require investments in job creation, health, family planning, education, skills and development, resulting in turn in higher per capita income.

MARGARET POLLACK (United States) strongly supported open, new and usable data to better inform decision-making to end extreme poverty and ensure healthy lives for all.  The Demographic and Health Surveys Programme, started in the United States in 1984, had, to date, provided technical assistance to more than 300 surveys in nearly 90 countries.  “We must take into account evolving global demographic realities if we are to achieve the goals set out in Cairo and the 2030 Agenda,” she said.  Collective efforts must target where they would have the greatest impact, including women and girls’ reproductive health and rights and providing resources for survivors of gender-based violence.  By 2050, the number of women with an unmet need for family planning would increase by 40 per cent as a record number of young people entered their reproductive years.  Along with opportunities for education and employment, adolescents needed access to information and health care, including access to comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly health services, so they could make informed and responsible decisions.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said his country recognized and valued the importance of collecting, analysing and disseminating disaggregated demographic data as key for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Due to historical, social, cultural and economic factors, vulnerable groups faced specific hurdles for the full realization of their human rights.  For that reason, demographic data must be disaggregated by gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and socioeconomic condition, with special attention paid to the most vulnerable.  The Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics had conducted the first digital census in the world through the use of mobile electronic data collection and smart phones.  More broadly, he said, the collection of data enabled the dissemination of timely and reliable demographic evidence.

EDNA ABIGAIL ALVAREZ OCH, Under-Secretary for Public Policy at the Ministry of Planning and Programming of the Presidency of Guatemala, said structural and situational problems had prevented the majority of citizens in her country from achieving well-being, generating inequalities, especially for indigenous and rural populations, women and girls.  Among them were chronic malnutrition, environmental deterioration and high rates of maternal mortality, fertility among the youth and HIV/AIDS.  Her country had taken steps to protect the environment and had fully reviewed its development model.  All Guatemalans were entitled to a life free of poverty and full of health, education and employment.  Guatemala had created a social development ministry which fostered the coordination actions between institutions.  Social protection efforts were also coordinated, especially those dealing with children, women and teenage mothers.  A timely, quality, updated data system with disaggregated information had been implemented in Guatemala to show the differences in development for various social groups across the country, she concluded.

GERARDO V. BAYUGO (Philippines) said in his country, the census remained the primary source for the collection of population data such as size, location, distribution, age, gender, and other socioeconomic characteristics, including marital status, educational information and housing characteristics.  The Philippines was regularly conducting periodic surveys that provided demographic evidence for tracking the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals throughout the country.  It also had a functional and localized civil registration and vital statistics system for births, deaths and marriages.  There was a need to strengthen the country’s administrative data system, however, to improve tracking of international migration, health statistics, educational performance, employment status and other indicators.

SURYA CHANDRA SURAPATY (Indonesia) said quality data was vitally important to ensure the greatest impact of development efforts.  The principles and guidance for the provision of data streams should be made in coordination with the United Nations Statistical Commission and Member States.  For its part, Indonesia was experiencing a demographic dividend that required a sufficient development programme.  The national development plan was addressing issues and factors that were affecting the population.  On data collection, he stressed the need for taking into account informed consent, ethical considerations, values and age.  Concluding, he said demographic data access must also respect national laws and regulations.

JOSEPHINE-KIBARU MBAE (Kenya) said the theme of the session called for special attention on strengthening national statistical systems to ensure reliability, timeliness and accessibility of demographic data.  For its part, Kenya had enacted a law, the Statistics Act, establishing the National Bureau of Statistics.  Her country had also made progress in the generation of demographic data generated through population and housing censuses, civil and vital registration systems and household surveys.  Furthermore, it had conducted five national population and housing censuses, providing the country with overall population figures by age and sex, marital status, educational attainment, occupation, ethnicity, migrant status and household composition.  In the area of health, six surveys had been conducted, making remarkable progress in generating data and information to guide its development efforts.

VLAD LUPAN (Republic of Moldova) said the Commission was particularly important in light of setting the stage for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  The people-centred agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals had human rights and the empowerment of people at its core.  As the agenda aimed at leaving no one behind, a strong statistical base was needed to accomplish that goal and identify vulnerable people in need of interventions.  Her country was striving to improve its national population data system.  Its Centre for Demographic Research, established in 2013, aimed at strengthening institutional capacities in the demographic research areas which would hopefully, with donor assistance, help the country to implement its National Strategic Programme in the field of demography (2014-2016).  The country was one passing through substantial population changes marked by ageing, relatively low fertility and low birth rate, as well as migration.  The preliminary findings of the census showed a population decrease of almost 25 per cent over the last decade.  Among other things, data integration could help the country take advantage of its youth population.  

U NYI NYI (Myanmar) underscored the importance of understanding and accounting for demographic changes and how they were expected to contribute to, or hinder, the achievement of inclusive and sustainable economic development.  Future population dynamics would themselves be influenced by the successes, challenges and shortcomings in the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda.  In 2014, Myanmar had conducted the first nationwide population and housing census in more than 30 years, with findings that had enabled the country to better understand and integrate into its plans population issues such as fertility, childhood mortality, maternal mortality, migration, urbanization, gender, young people and population ageing.  He urged members of the Commission and donor countries to facilitate the realization of the goals of the Cairo Programme of Action through the provision of adequate resources, technology and knowledge transfer, South-South cooperation and ensuring access to commodities and services, particularly for young people, women and adolescent girls.

ZOUMARI ISSA KALLEKOYE, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Population, the Advancement of Women and the Protection of Children of Niger, associated himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, saying his country grappled with the combination of a high level of demographic growth, high fertility rates and a high level of early marriage.  The result was that 69 per cent of Niger’s population was under age 25, most not having been educated.  That put a great deal of pressure on the resources of the country, he said, also pointing out the low level of economic growth which prevented adequately addressing the population’s needs.  Those dynamics were undermining the country’s overall development efforts.  If strategic investments were made and good economic policies put into place, then the critical mass of young people could become a huge window of opportunity for the country.  It was important to have an appropriate system of follow-up and evaluation, including in terms of the quantity and quality of available data.

ZAFAR HASSAN (Pakistan) said his country was aware of the need to strengthen the demographic evidence base for strong development planning.  His Government had carried out different surveys, including demographic and health surveys, and was due to conduct another national census.  Pakistan was the sixth most populous country in the world, with around 191 million people.  That was projected to grow to 227 million by 2025, with people under age 30 comprising 63 per cent of the total population.  New research was being conducted to generate high quality data, better manage the growing population and to meet the basic needs of all citizens, including access to basic, essential services.  Pakistan was committed to improving maternal and child health, ensuring sustained economic growth to generate jobs for young people and eradicate poverty, with a special focus on vulnerable groups in society.

TUGSDELGER SOVD (Mongolia), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said the Cairo Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had been crucial in strengthening the legal and institutional environment of her country.  The Millennium Development Goals had also become effective tools to enhance capacities in the areas of policy formulation and monitoring in Mongolia.  The country had recently endorsed the Sustainable Development Vision 2030, which outlined important priorities for the coming 15 years, emphasizing national accountability.  The 2030 Agenda substantially increased demand for improved development statistics at both national and international levels.  Monitoring and reporting on the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals required large volumes of reliable, robust and timely data, she said, noting that her country was currently focusing on the development of its national and thematic Sustainable Development Goal indicators and the technical aspects of harmonizing its statistical work with the Goals’ indicators.

LOTTE DIJKSTRA (Netherlands), aligning herself with the European Union, said “to fulfil our promise of leaving no one behind, we must measure who we are leaving behind.”  Data collection was critical with regard to adolescents, especially those related to sexual and reproductive health and rights.  Recalling that she had taught comprehensive sexuality education to young people aged 10 to 14, she said she always received many questions about puberty, menstrual hygiene and gender relations.  She had spoken with youth who were worried about friends already being pregnant or forcibly married by age 13 and those who were experiencing violence and discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  “Adolescents are still being left behind,” she said.  Alongside Governments, civil society organizations also played a crucial role in collecting relevant data, she concluded, stressing the importance of recognizing that role in the 2016 review of the methods of work.

Mr. AL-KUWARI (Qatar), commending the work of the Commission, underscored the key role played by the United Nations Statistical Commission and UNFPA.  The 2030 Agenda had an ambitious agenda, which was to ensure that no one was left behind, he said, stressing the need for efficient data allowing the international community to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals on time.  For its part, the Government attached great importance to the issue of population and development and had initiated relevant policies.  Further, his country had implemented the majority of recommendations made in Cairo in 1994, while voicing reservations about conclusions that ran counter to Sharia law and the Constitution.  Turning to migration and needs of the most vulnerable people, he noted that it was crucial to develop innovative tools and to take advantage of available technology to address current challenges.

KAI SAUER (Finland) said his country had long-term interests in sexual and reproductive health and rights as they were essential for human life.  Finland had a long tradition of health monitoring systems, which included the use of statistical information, registers and population-based surveys.  Finland’s maternal and new-born mortality rates had been low for decades and that trend was expected to continue.  The number of teenage pregnancies had decreased remarkably after introducing mandatory health education in schools.  Among other things, the Government had strengthened reproductive health services at the local level.  Data gathered globally had shown that much progress had been made in enhancing the lives of people, yet development had been uneven.  Demographic evidence, including population dynamics and trends, must be translated into better planning, he concluded.

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* The 1st Meeting was covered in Press Release POP/1041 of 17 April 2015.

For information media. Not an official record.