11 November 2019

United Nations Population Fund Pivotal in Expanding Reproductive Health Access, Empowering Women, Deputy Secretary-General Says at Anniversary Event

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reception, in Nairobi today:

We are all here to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the landmark Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994.  The vision was and remains clear:  to empower women and girls to their right to claim their independence, health and well-being for the long-term benefit of their families, communities and nations.

We have made significant gains since then thanks to the commitment and sacrifice of millions of activities, women and girls.  Sadly, as we take stock, this progress is fragile, and millions are still left behind.  We urgently need to pick up the pace to implement the Programme of Action and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  This is essential as we enter the Decade of Action to deliver on the SDGs.

The world is still a difficult, and often dangerous, place for hundreds of millions of women and girls.  To make it even more complex, leaders across constituencies are reneging the promise of Cairo, the promise to secure a just future for our youth — especially our girls.

Every day represents tragedy for women who die giving life, for girls forced into child marriage, for girls whose genitals are cut and for the nearly 1 in 5 women or girls who are assaulted or lose their lives at the hands of a partner or family member each year.  It is a travesty that 5 million pregnant women displaced by conflict or disaster are in need of medical care, and that 232 million women cannot prevent pregnancy because they do not have access to the contraceptives they need and have a right to.

This summit is a unique opportunity to help lift up women and girls, their families and communities, and create a better world with rights and choices for all.

In this current age of urbanization, increased migration, population growth and an ageing population, the Programme of Action has never been more relevant.  We urgently need to mobilize political and financial momentum to advance the International Conference on Population and Development agenda, particularly around harnessing the demographic dividend, reducing preventable maternal and child mortality and the unmet need for family planning, and eliminating violence and harmful practices against women and girls.

UNFPA, through its leadership and operational work, has been instrumental in expanding access to sexual and reproductive health care; in preventing and responding to gender-based violence; in tackling female genital mutilation and early marriage; and in empowering young people.

But, we need coordinated support and action from the entire United Nations development system to deliver on the promise of the International Conference on Population and Development — to live to see the “last mile” for child marriage and female genital mutilation.  We can do it, and statistics show it.

On the ground, United Nations Resident Coordinators, with UNFPA’s support, are providing leadership to convene all stakeholders, and engage in this important process that is recognized as a key accelerator for the SDGs.  So, as we enter a Decade of Action for the delivery of the SDGs, let us seize this opportunity to build momentum and firmly integrate gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights at the heart of our efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

A sustainable future will only be possible when the promise made to millions of women and girls 25 years ago is fulfilled.  I count on each one of you — individually or collectively — to join us in this journey towards:  Keeping the promise; Protecting the future of our girls; Empowering our women.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.