Access to Health Education, Services Vital Tools towards Empowering Youth, Speaker Says, as Population and Development Commission Concludes Debate

POP/1083
4 April 2019
Fifty-second Session, 8th Meeting (AM)

Access to Health Education, Services Vital Tools towards Empowering Youth, Speaker Says, as Population and Development Commission Concludes Debate

Representatives from civil society today advocated for a rights-based approach to demographic issues, urging Governments to scale up their support for education and health, as the Commission on Population and Development concluded its general debate.

More than a dozen non-governmental organizations took the floor, with the representative of the International Presentation Association stressing education and health are among the most important tools to empower youth, who are the driver of development.

A lack of access to sexual and reproductive health exposes youth to HIV, teenage pregnancies and other risks, she said, asking Member States to involve them in the planning and assessing of programmes.

Echoing that view, the representative of SWASTI, a global public health organization in India, said that the Asia-Pacific region is home to 60 per cent of the world’s youth, emphasizing the need for a youth-centred approach to population-related planning, policymaking and decision-making.

The representative of Advocates for Youth highlighted the importance of comprehensive sexuality education, as women and girls must be able to exercise their reproductive rights, including safe abortion and autonomy over their bodies.  In this regard, she urged Governments to support efforts to end harmful practices, such as child marriage.  Without gender equality, the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved, she added.

The representative of the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women called on Member States to uphold commitments to the principles of the Programme of Action, adopted in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, and other relevant instruments to realize sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The representative of the Campaign Life Coalition said that, given the divisive nature of the abortion issue, maintaining State sovereignty is crucial.  She called on Member States to uphold their legal responsibility to defend the right of each nation to restrict abortion according to their cultural and traditional values.

The representative of the World Youth Alliance said that abortion violates the dignity of mother and child, stressing that family planning efforts should not focus on contraceptives alone.  Modern family planning methods include knowledge-based approaches, such as fertility awareness, which is based on modern science and have been proven effective.  “Many women prefer to use other methods due to health, ethical or cultural reasons and they deserve family planning assistance that respects their values and priorities,” she said.

Referring to the political declaration adopted by the Commission at the beginning of the current session, the representative of Global Helping to Advance Women and Children expressed concern about the inclusion of a reference to “outcome documents of the review conferences” without specifying each document by name and their reference number.  Some outcome documents of regional reviews promote highly controversial sexual rights that many Member States would not agree to in a negotiated document, she pointed out.

In other business, the Commission examined the work of the Population Division in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the activities of the Division in 2018 (document E/CN.9/2019/5), a population affairs officer said that the objective of the programme of work is to strengthen the international community’s capacity to effectively address current and emerging population issues and to integrate the population dimension into the international development agenda.

The Division is charged to effectively facilitate reviews by Member States and other stakeholders of progress made in the further implementation of the Programme of Action and relevant instruments of the United Nations development agenda, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she said.

Germany’s delegate stressed the importance of access to accurate, timely and comprehensive data for monitoring trends and developments related to fertility, mortality and migration.  Disaggregated data is also needed for subnational geographic locations, broken down into such characteristics as age, gender, migratory status and disability, she added.

While many delegations expressed appreciation for the work of the Division, some made requests.

The Russian Federation’s representative encouraged the Division to take both agreed terminology and the primacy of national data into account, underscoring the need to strengthen cooperation between the Population Division and the Statistical Commission.

Indonesia’s delegate highlighted the need to develop a central theme concerning South-South and triangular cooperation for the Commission’s 2020 session, which also considers the role and re-positioning of North-South cooperation.

Jamaica’s delegate proposed that the Secretariat consider the need for exploratory in-depth analysis and study of the interrelationship between population and the three dimensions of sustainable development.

Also speaking today were representatives of the Netherlands, Norway, Cuba, United States, Mexico, Japan and Fiji (for Pacific small island developing States).  An official from the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific also spoke.

The other non-governmental organizations delivering oral statements were International Catholic Committee of Nurses & Medico-Social Workers; Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights; ACT Alliance — Action by Churches Together; International Planned Parenthood Federation; Asociación Pro-Bienestar de la Familia Colombiana “Profamilia”; and the International Federation for Family Development.

The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m., Friday, 5 April, to conclude its session.

Programme Implementation and Future Work Programme of Secretariat

CHERYL SAWYER, Senior Population Affairs Officer, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the activities of the Population Division in 2018 (document E/CN.9/2019/5), said that the objective of the programme of work in the field of population is to strengthen the international community’s capacity to effectively address current and emerging population issues and to integrate the population dimension into the international development agenda.   The Division is charged to effectively facilitate reviews by Member States and other stakeholders of progress made in the further implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and of relevant instruments of the United Nations development agenda, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The report describes the work of the Division in the areas it covers, including fertility, mortality, migration, urbanization and population ageing; preparation of global population estimates and projections; the monitoring of population policies; the analysis of interrelations between population and sustainable development; the dissemination of population data and information; technical cooperation with and capacity development provided to Member States; and the support given to intergovernmental processes through the preparation of reports of the Secretary-General and other parliamentary documents, the organization of expert group meetings and the monitoring of internationally agreed development goals.  The Division is custodian or co-custodian for the three Sustainable Development Goal indicators, and a partner agency for several others.  The Division remains committed to assisting the work of the Commission.

EVI VAN DEN DUNGEN (Netherlands) said more data must be collected on young people’s access to information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, including their access to contraceptives, whether they are married or in a union or not.  Her country, which has one of the world’s lowest teenage pregnancy rates, collects such data in a comprehensive way, enabling it to know its successes and where improvements need to be made.

Ms. NIKITINA (Russian Federation) said the work of the Population Division must take both agreed terminology and the primacy of national data into account.  She also underscored the need to strengthen cooperation between the Population Division and the Statistical Commission.

PETRA ZERBST (Germany) said she could not stress enough the importance of access to accurate, timely and comprehensive data for monitoring trends and developments related to fertility, mortality and migration.  Disaggregated data is also needed for subnational geographic locations, broken down into such characteristics as age, gender, migratory status and disability.

ASTRI SYSE (Norway) stressed the importance of disaggregated data at the local level and applauded the Population Division’s efforts to expand data on universal access to sexual and reproductive health to include all women.  She also looked forward to its review of new measures on population ageing.

JUAN CARLOS ALFONSO FRAGA (Cuba) stressed the importance of statistics, explaining that assessment of progress on the population and development agenda nationally and subnationally depends on national data.  In this regard, Cuba acknowledges the work of the Statistical Commission.

SIGIT PRIYOHUTOMO (Indonesia) highlighted the need to develop a central theme concerning South-South and triangular cooperation for the Commission’s 2020 session, which also considers the role and re-positioning of North-South cooperation.

SUSAN OLSON (United States) expressed her delegation’s appreciation for the work of the Division, which provides policy-neutral guidance, in particular its strong leadership in innovation and technical capacity-building, including the development of new monitoring tools.

CARLOS JAVIER ECHARRI CÁNOVAS (Mexico) said the future work of the Division must focus on reviewing concrete progress made on the Programme of Action and other instruments.  His Government closely worked with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to look at national achievements and identify challenges.  The upcoming Nairobi Summit to Advance the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action will make an important contribution to the future work of the Commission and the Division.

REIKO HAYASHI (Japan), noting that internationally there are two definitions of older persons, thanked the Population Division for providing data with several definitions.  She added that, also due to differing definitions, migration-related data may vary, and that in the long run, such differences should be reduced.

Ms. WILLIAMS (Jamaica) proposed that the Secretariat consider the need for exploratory in-depth analysis and study of the interrelationship between population and the three dimensions of sustainable development.

The representative of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), underscoring the value of the Population Division’s work, emphasized the importance of United Nations entities coming together to support implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

General Debate

SAI JYOTHIRMAI RACHERLA, Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, noting her organization advocates for gender equality and the rights of women and young people, called on Member States to uphold commitments to the principles of the Programme of Action and other relevant instruments to realize sexual and reproductive health and rights.

ANNIE FRANKLIN, Global Helping to Advance Women and Children, said that the family has the potential to contribute to national development and to the achievement of major objectives of every society.  She expressed concern about the inclusion in the political declaration of a reference to “outcome documents of the review conferences” without specifying each document by name and their reference number.  Some outcome documents of regional reviews promote highly controversial sexual rights that many Member States would not agree to in a negotiated document.

PATRICIA SAYERS, International Catholic Committee of Nurses & Medico-Social Workers, stressed the importance of human rights, including health.  Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world, she said, noting the importance of women’s education.  Education is also important for older persons.  Understanding the body is paramount.

EMILY PRICE, Campaign Life Coalition, a non-profit organization that advocates for legal and cultural change in Canada with respect to protecting human life at every stage of development, said that, given the divisive nature of the abortion issues, maintaining State sovereignty is crucial.  She called on Member States to uphold their legal responsibility to defend the right of each nation to restrict abortion according to their cultural and traditional values.

SHAMA KARKAL, SWASTI, a global public health organization in India, noting that the Asia-Pacific region is home to 60 per cent of the world’s youth, emphasized the need for a youth-centred approach to population-related planning, policymaking and decision-making.

RYAN FAJAR FEBRIANTO HARYONO, Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, said many countries are failing to tackle issues related to adolescent and youth sexuality.  Governments must, among other things, address barriers to sexual and reproductive health services, uphold commitments to ensure comprehensive sexuality education and ensure the right to abortion services for all adolescents and youth.  He also called for gender-sensitive services to respond to gender-based violence, especially in humanitarian settings.

LYDIA MWANIKI, ACT Alliance — Action by Churches Together, said her organization comprises more than 100 faith-based groups, recommending Member States to recognize human dignity and human rights as shared values, improve access to sexual and reproductive health, and stand up for the integrity of the United Nations and move away from polarization.

MARIA INSUASTI, International Presentation Association, said inequality strikes young people at an early age.  Education and health are among the most important tools to empower youth.  A lack of access to sexual and reproductive health exposes youth to HIV, teenage pregnancies and other risks, she said, asking Member States to involve them in the planning and assessing of programmes.

ESTELLE WAGNER, International Planned Parenthood Federation, pointed out that millions of women lacking access to reproductive health and safe abortion die giving births.  Regardless of identity, all should be able to fully exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.  Political will to make it happen is falling short.

NATALIA ACEVEDO GUERRERO, Asociación Pro-Bienestar de la Familia Colombiana “Profamilia”, a sexual and reproductive health provider in Colombia, acknowledged the contribution of advocates and human rights defenders in making the world a better place for girls.  Her organization will continue to work to guarantee the sexual and reproductive health of every person, especially those from historically segregated groups.

DARDECS VILLANUEVA, World Youth Alliance, affirming that abortion violates the dignity of mother and child, said family planning efforts should not focus on contraceptives alone.  Modern family planning methods include knowledge-based approaches, such as fertility awareness, which is based on modern science and have been proven effective.  “Many women prefer to use other methods due to health, ethical or cultural reasons and they deserve family planning assistance that respects their values and priorities,” she said.

ALEX VÁZQUEZ, International Federation for Family Development, drew attention to research into how experts and parents hold different opinions on policy approaches to economic, psychological and social vulnerabilities that impact on families.  Among other things, parents gave top priority to raising awareness among employers of the value of work-life balance, he said.

ANGELA MASKE, Advocates for Youth highlighted the importance of gender equality in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Comprehensive sexuality education is vital as women must be able to exercise their reproductive rights and autonomy over their bodies.  She urged Governments to support efforts to end harmful practices, such as child marriage.  Without gender equality, sustainable development cannot be achieved.

GENE WAQANIVALU BAI (Fiji), speaking on behalf of Pacific small island developing States and aligning himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, welcomed the political declaration adopted by the Commission.  Pacific island States have made progress on the implementation of the Programme of Action and other relevant instruments through formulation of national policy and other frameworks, including the Samoa Pathway, and the development of quality data.  He asked the Commission to consider the unique vulnerability of Pacific small island developing States, which are exposed to the impacts of climate change and natural hazards, including food insecurity and scarcity of water.  The population of these nations is young, he noted, stressing the importance of empowering the youth for the prosperity of their States.

For information media. Not an official record.