Print
POP/1050
14 April 2016
Forty-ninth Session, 7th Meeting (AM)

Steering Efforts into Post-2015 Era, Population and Development Commission Adopts Text to Shape Work on Policy Guidance for New Sustainable Goals

The Commission on Population and Development adopted today a draft decision that would guide its future efforts through the post-2015 era, as the body continued a general debate on agenda items that included strengthening the demographic evidence base for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and streamlining its working methods.

Sharing views on the relevance of population issues to the High-Level Segment of the Economic and Social Council, Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, commended the Commission’s progress during the current session in reviewing its methods of work.  The process, he underlined, aimed at further enhancing the impact of the work and contribution to the Council.

He went on to say that during the General Assembly’s seventieth session, in resolution 70/1, the world body had decided that the progress review of the Sustainable Development Goals would be supported by reviews taking place in the functional commissions.  Given that, the Commission’s contribution to policy guidance in the substantive areas was more important than ever, he stressed.

The Commission, by adopting the draft text today, decided to streamline its agenda and programme of work without negatively impacting technical quality with a view to effectively perform its mandate, increase complementarity and avoid duplication.  By the text, titled, “future organization and methods of work of the Commission on Population and Development”, the Commission decided that it would continue the current practice of selecting one special theme for each annual session based on progress, gaps, recurrent challenges and evolving issues relevant to population and development.  Also by the terms of the text, the Commission requested that the Secretariat, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other relevant stakeholders, convene expert meetings and informal technical briefings.

“We all care passionately about the work of this Commission,” said Bela Hovy, Chief, migration specialist at the Population Division of Department of Economic and Social Affairs, presenting a note before the adoption.  With that in mind, he said, the current challenges required that the body be “fit for purpose”.

With regard to choosing the Commission’s annual theme in years to come, he acknowledged that the body had confirmed the continued centrality of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development that was adopted in Cairo in 1994.  That landmark instrument had agreed to a possible reconsideration of a separate agenda item on the contribution of population and development issues and had affirmed the critical role and contribution of civil society actors in the Commission’s work.

As the general debate continued, speakers suggested aligning the themes of the Commission’s annual meetings, the Economic and Social Council and its High-Level Political Forum.  The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, described the Secretariat’s proposal to introduce a four-year theme planning cycle as worthy of consideration.

Echoing that sentiment, China’s delegate commended the Commission’s fruitful work in assisting the Economic and Social Council on population issues.  Sharing national experiences, he said that China’s implementation of a universal two-child policy would contribute to the continued implementation of the Programme of Action and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Also speaking today were representatives of Peru, Indonesia, Maldives, Cuba and Argentina.  Representatives of the International Organization for Migration, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean also participated in the debate.  The representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also spoke:  the Asia-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women; International Federation for Family Development; Inter-European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development; Right Here, Right Now; Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Global Outreach; Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute; Global Helping to Advance Women and Children; Poverty Elimination and Community Education Foundation; World YWCA; International Planned Parenthood Federation; Franciscans International; Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights; World Youth Alliance; FEMM Foundation; Global Foundation for Democracy and Development; and International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations.

The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 15 April, to conclude its general debate and consider the session’s outcome.

General Debate

The Commission first took up its agenda item on the contribution of population and development issues to the Economic and Social Council theme in 2016, on “implementing the post-2015 development agenda: moving from commitments to results”.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said the Commission on Population and Development played a key role in providing policy guidance with respect to the implementation and review of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, adopted in Cairo in 1994.  It was quite fitting that the Commission’s current session was focusing on strengthening the demographic evidence base.  As reliable, timely and disaggregated demographic data was needed for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, strengthening the demographic evidence base would be a critical element for “moving from commitments to results”, he stressed. 

Commending the Commission’s progress during the current session in reviewing its methods of work, he said the process aimed at further enhancing the impact of the work of the Commission and its contribution to the Economic and Social Council.  Furthermore, in September 2015, in resolution 70/1, the General Assembly had decided that the progress review of the Sustainable Development Goals would be supported by reviews taking place in the functional commissions.  Thus, it was more important than ever before for the Commission to contribute its expertise and provide policy guidance in the substantive areas within its mandate.

In adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he went on to say, Member States had made commitments to reduce inequality and leave no one behind.  The reduction of inequality had been incorporated into the 2030 Agenda both as a specific goal and a cross-cutting aspiration, he stressed.  The Council had held a meeting two weeks ago to discuss how to address inequality in a systematic fashion across the 2030 Agenda.  “Where the appropriate data are available, demographic evidence can make a crucial contribution to planning programmes and reviewing progress towards the reduction of inequalities,” he concluded.

BELA HOVY, Chief, migration specialist at the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the agenda item on the review of the Commission’s working methods, presenting a related note (document E/CN.9/2016/8).  The Commission had already extensively considered in informal consultations a related draft resolution and had learned a lot during its review process.  “We all care passionately about the work of this Commission,” he said, noting that the challenges required that the body be “fit for purpose”.

In choosing the Commission’s annual theme in years to come, he said, the body had confirmed the continued centrality of the Cairo Programme of Action.  It had agreed to a possible reconsideration of a separate agenda item on the contribution of population and development issues to the Council’s annual theme and had affirmed the critical role and contribution of civil society actors in the Commission’s work.  The body had also agreed on the possible need to revisit the issue of working methods because of related ongoing discussions in the General Assembly on the work of the Council and the High-Level Political Forum in the context of the 2030 Agenda.

FERNANDO BOLAÑOS, Vice Minister for Vulnerable Populations of Peru, reaffirmed his Government’s strong commitment to the Cairo Programme of Action and underscored the importance of the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development, adopted at the Regional Conference on Population and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2013.  Sharing national experiences, he said Peru had made significant progress since 1994, with plans and policies fostering economic growth and social inclusion, resulting in a decrease in the poverty level and maternal mortality rate.  To address society’s needs, the Government had increased public spending in the health and education sectors.  With regards to women’s empowerment, cases of violence against women had dropped while their participation in decision-making processes had risen.  Peru was the first country in the region to develop a gender and climate change action plan, he concluded, stressing that without equality there was no sustainable future.

SURYA CHANDRA SURAPATY (Indonesia) said moving from commitments to results on the 2030 Agenda required a change of mindsets, approaches and monitoring.  Encouraging each country to establish a national system of Government and civil society partners to guide that progress, he said a sense of ownership from the grass-roots level was critical.  Indeed, partnerships with all stakeholders were critical and the Government must play a central role in facilitating, coordinating and empowering local authorities to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.  He encouraged States to use a demographic evidence base for planning and monitoring the 2030 Agenda and to strengthen national institutions to collect data towards those ends.  The goals, targets and indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals had to be clear, measurable and achievable while acknowledging that every country had its own specificities, he said.

AHMED SAREER (Maldives) said it was crucial to bolster initiatives to compile, harmonize, consolidate, disseminate and analyse data with a view to achieving the desired 2030 Agenda goals.  “Without knowing where you are as a country, you wouldn’t know where to start,” he said.  The 2014 national census had focused on five key areas:  population and households, migration, education, employment, nuptiality and fertility.  While Maldives had formulated statistics-based policies, it lacked adequate resources to conduct and use household surveys and health and demographic surveillance.  New technology and innovative approaches were needed, he said, noting that due to its small size, Maldives was often excluded from global data.  Small island developing States were inadequately represented on a global scale when it came to reporting, he added, noting that their information was not necessarily used or even relevant.

HE ZHAOHUA (China) said key national themes and priorities included eradicating poverty and hunger, promoting economic growth and social progress, safeguarding fairness and justice and enhancing ecological conservation.  China had conscientiously integrated the Sustainable Development Goals into its own development strategy.  To promote balanced population growth, China had implemented a policy enabling couples to have two children and had taken steps to counter challenges of an ageing population.  Committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda, he said, China stood ready to share its development experience with all countries of the world.

JUAN CARLOS ALFONSO FRAGA (Cuba) stressed that despite the achievements made since the Cairo Programme of Action was adopted in 1994, much remained to be done.  If the international community wanted to achieve a transformative, equitable and inclusive 2030 Agenda, it was necessary to address persisting inequalities.  Without necessary means, he underlined, it was impossible for developing countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  “Population dynamics” was an international responsibility, he said, noting that the concept extended beyond national borders.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said that following active participation in negotiations for the 2030 Agenda, his Government had incorporated the globally agreed goals into national policies.  Particular attention must be paid to the most vulnerable people in order to ensure that no one was left behind.  The Commission’s current theme had been a contribution to efforts in “moving from commitments to results”.  Regardless of the outcome of negotiations, the international community must focus on strengthening the demographic base to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, adding that it was essential to have reliable and accurate data for better policy creation and implementation.

ASHRAF ELNOUR MUSTAFA MOHAMED NOUR, Permanent Observer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), outlined contributions made to the follow-up and review process of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, adopted at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in 2015.  Among IOM efforts were providing technical inputs to the discussion and a recently published report as a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development.  Noting that no single country could effectively address the migration challenges alone, he pointed out three key recommendations: data collection on mobile populations should be carefully collected and serve as the basis for the protection of their human rights and to facilitate their access to basic services; the Commission must give more balanced consideration to the issues of the Cairo Programme of Action — migration and urbanization in particular; and all stakeholders must be given the opportunity to help translate the commitments on the 2030 Agenda into tangible results.

NEIL MCFARLANE, Chief, New York Liaison Office, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), said disasters had claimed 1.4 million lives between 1994 and 2013.  The poor and women had been disproportionately affected, he said, adding that disasters both undermined progress towards inclusive development and negatively affected efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda.  Describing current challenges of uncontrolled urban development and the degradation of environmental systems, he said development choices played an instrumental role in shaping disaster risks.  The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2013, agreed to in 2015, provided guidance to meet those challenges, he said.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union, underscored the need to align the themes of the Commission’s annual meetings, the Economic and Social Council and its High-Level Political Forum.  Worthy of consideration was the Secretariat’s proposal to introduce a four-year theme planning cycle.  Annual themes of the Commission should be based on the Cairo Programme of Action, key actions for its further implementation and the outcomes of reviews on 2030 Agenda progress.  Cautioning against the proliferation of reports and calling instead for their consolidation, he expressed a preference for continuing annual negotiations on an outcome document on the special theme.  He also emphasized the safe and effective participation of civil society, in particular youth and women’s organizations, in the Commission’s work.

Mr. HE (China) said principles and goals set out in the Cairo Programme of Action had seen significant improvements made in people’s health conditions and living standards.  The Commission had done fruitful work in assisting the Economic and Social Council on population issues, he said, adding that China would keep working with the Commission in reviewing and evaluating the implementation of the Programme of Action.  China’s implementation of a universal two-child policy would contribute to implementation of the Programme of Action post-2014 and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Noting how multipolarization and cultural diversification had resulted in unprecedented development opportunities, he pointed out the pragmatic measures China was taking to promote South-South cooperation in the areas of poverty reduction, agriculture, trade, health care, education and the environment.

Mr. SAAD, of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), took note of the Montevideo Consensus, which had recognized the characteristics of the region.  That instrument had also helped in monitoring regional and national actions and considered the needs to operationalize the agreement to advance common objectives.  The operational guide had already provided a road map for countries in the region to implement agreed goals and put words into action.  The guide had also created synergies between the Sustainable Development Goals and the Montevideo Consensus.

A representative of the Asia-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women said overall fertility in the region stood at 2.1 births per woman and that many were having more children than they wanted.  Meanwhile, violations of the right to universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights continued, exacerbated by poverty, food and nutrition insecurity, conflict, disasters, climate change and religious extremism.  The Cairo Programme for Action was the only document that took a holistic approach to population and development issues and sustainable development.  Among other things, she called on States to uphold their political and financial commitments to the full implementation of the Programme of Action and to integrate human rights obligations into its implementation.

A representative of the International Federation for Family Development said the implementation of the 2030 Agenda could remove barriers to health, education and other essential human rights.  Policies and programmes should aim at supporting families.  They should also encourage and reinforce marital and family commitment, especially when children were involved, and must recognize and strengthen and importance of family ties.  Families came in diverse forms, he said, stressing the particular need for support for vulnerable families.

CLÀUDIA MASSÓ I FONTÀS, of the Inter-European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, noted that she had participated in various international conferences and events and had conducted field visits to further knowledge on a range of issues.  The Forum was composed of members from different political parties that were focused on sexual and reproductive health and rights, among other things.  She stressed that women must have access to health services, including contraception, to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

A representative of Right Here, Right Now said the Programme of Action highlighted the importance of youth involvement and the need to inform and educate young people on their sexuality.  The instrument could not be fully implemented if the needs and rights of youth and adolescents remained invisible.  Despite being such a large and diverse group, it was unfortunate that there was hardly any data on their situations.  In that regard, she urged the international community to collect and meaningfully include data in the Commission’s working methods and other processes.

A representative of the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Global Outreach said maternal health depended on the quality of medical care, not on the legality or availability of abortion.  Some regions of the world had utilized abortion as a means of population control.  Member States should pursue development goals without encouraging or legalizing abortion, and they should not respond to economic and demographic changes by legalizing or promoting euthanasia or assisted suicide.

A representative of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute said it was vital that 2030 Agenda indicators were free of conceptual errors and political biases that could divert resources away from much-needed interventions.  One critical aspect was national surveys and data on reproductive health, she said, adding that the wording and interpretation must be faithful to participants’ intentions and not manipulated to benefit certain interests.  Noting that 225 million women had an “unmet need” for contraceptives, she said that “flawed” concept had misused and diverted resources from interventions aimed at saving women and children’s lives.

A representative of the Global Helping to Advance Women and Children said the family played an essential role in eradicating poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.  Too often, United Nations policies and programmes had targeted individuals rather than families, despite evidence that a family-centred approach could yield better results.  Calling upon Member States to take action, she said they should place the family at the centre of the United Nations post-2015 development agenda, mainstream a family perspective in the Sustainable Development Goals and develop mechanisms to analyse the impact of all laws, policies and programmes on family stability and autonomy.

A representative of the Poverty Elimination and Community Education Foundation noted that the Commission’s annual session provided a good opportunity for stakeholders to exchange information.  Governments should create partnerships with civil society organizations for the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Calling upon the international community to create a global imitative in the area of migration, she recommended intensifying attention on the migration aspect of population and development.  Successful outcomes, she said, required the participation of all relevant stakeholders.

A representative of the World YWCA emphasized the need for youth-specific data that reflected the diversity of young people.  Young female researchers, statisticians and epidemiologists should be put in positions to provide leadership and technical guidance.  She called for a strong focus on a human rights-based approach to gathering gender-sensitive data about adolescents, especially girls ages 10 and 14.  Civil society organizations, Governments, the private sector and others must work together to ensure the regular and timely collection and dissemination of quality data that told the real story of young women and girls and reflected their voices.

A representative of the International Planned Parenthood Federation said that, for each proposed indicator in the 2030 Agenda on “met need for family planning”, there was a woman who, for the first time, was able to plan her future without the fear of having an unplanned pregnancy.  The data that would be gathered through the indicator framework for the 2030 Agenda would not be just numbers on a graph.  They were the stories of women and girls, boys and men, whose lives were changing with each data point.  Governments would never know if girls and boys had the same opportunities in schools or whether indigenous women experienced worse treatment in hospitals unless collected data was disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, marital status, employment status and other factors.  Detailed data would reveal the detailed stories of individual’s lives.

A representative of Franciscans International said increased universal birth registration was critical to achieving the 2030 Agenda goals.  Given that, in 2012, 4 out of 10 babies delivered were not registered, he said Sustainable Development Goal target 16.9 stated that birth registration was critical and a necessary precondition for human rights and inclusive and just societies.  Existing gaps had serious repercussions for development processes.  Describing some of her organization’s relevant work, she called on Member States to create national action plans to increase the birth registration rates and called on United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to promote registration among all children, in particular the poorest and most marginalized.

A representative of the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights noted that the Commission’s current session was timely with a view to bolstering the demographic evidence base and ensuring that no one was left behind.  The General Assembly’s periodic High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development also played a key role in strengthening the evaluation of population and development policies and enhancing coordination among all stakeholders.

A representative of the World Youth Alliance said that as the world was moving forward with the 2030 Agenda, a person-centred approach was key for successful results.  Development was possible only with the comprehension of human dignity, he stressed.  While acknowledging the significance of data collection, analysis and dissemination, he stressed that the Commission must strive for meeting the needs and welfare of each person.

A representative of the FEMM Foundation urged the Commission to recognize that women and girls must understand their own bodies to make their own reproductive health decisions.  Her organization worked to educate doctors to provide care that treated the root causes of women and girls’ symptoms.  Noting that informed decisions led to healthier choices, she said good data was a key to identifying needs and effective interventions.  She urged the Commission and Member States to strengthen the evidence base to cover women of all reproductive ages around the world.

A representative of the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development stressed the need to implement policies that assured long-term gender quality and women’s empowerment through enhanced access to education, sexual and reproductive health and family planning and quality health services.  Despite a recent reduction in maternal mortality, the occurrence of maternal deaths continued to be significant around the world.  Progress in reducing maternal mortality ratios in the Dominican Republic had been slow and irregular, she said, noting that the country’s 2013-2016 public sector plan had succeeded in increasing resource flows targeting the poorest groups of the population, resulting in, among other things, broader access to health-care services.

A representative of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations said the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health contributed to unintended pregnancies, maternal mortality and unsafe abortions.  As a future medical professional, she acknowledged that such access and right was an essential component of well-being.  To ensure that young people’s needs were met, Governments must put youth at the centre of their policies, she stressed.

For information media. Not an official record.