New York

22 June 2017

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at United Nations Population Award Ceremony [as prepared for delivery]

Your Excellency, Ambassador Martha Pobee, Chairperson of the Committee for the United Nations Population Award,Dr. Natalia Kanem, Acting Executive Director of UNFPA,
Members of the Committee for the United Nations Population Award, Distinguished Laureates, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
I am delighted that I could join you at this this important event.
 
The field of population and development is about bringing together two critical sets of values.
 
First, an approach to population issues that focuses on realizing the dignity and human rights of all people.
 
Second, embedding this approach in the best possible population data to drive evidence-based decision-making and governance.
 
Dignity, human rights and evidence-based decision-making are also at the core of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
So when we present the United Nations Population Award, we are focusing on the very heart of the world’s collective effort to achieve the future we want.
 
I commend the Committee on its choice of this year’s Laureates.
 
Dr. Hans Rosling and the Association of Traditional Chiefs of Niger embody these values and, indeed, the moral and empirical core of the 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.
 
Our work on the Programme of Action remains unfinished.
 
Around the world, women and adolescent girls continue to die giving life.
 
Almost all these deaths are preventable.
 
Many women and girls still lack access to the basic services and supplies they need to realize their right to sexual and reproductive health and freely choose the number, timing and spacing of their children – in short, their right to control their bodies and determine their own trajectories.
 
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
The United Nations Population Award celebrates outstanding contributions to the awareness of population issues and their solutions.
 
Today, we are honoured to present the UN Population Award to two Laureates who have been at the forefront of driving global attention to population issues and promoting action on the ground.
 
The individual recipient is Dr. Hans Rosling.
 
Sadly Dr. Rosling passed away just a few months ago, but his wife, Ms. Agneta Rosling, and son, Mr. Ola Rosling, are with us today.
 
Most of you probably know Dr. Rosling’s work.
 
He had a profound and lifelong commitment to population data.
 
He lucidly represented the world through facts and figures, and helped to combat some of the most widely and stubbornly held myths about global population.
 
Dr. Rosling was an optimist who spoke about slowing population growth, rising life expectancy and improving health and well-being around the world.
 
But his optimism was firmly rooted in the data that he analyzed and presented in his uniquely engaging, amusing and infectious manner,
 
With Gapminder, the software he developed, he made the true, positive story of population more accessible.
 
It is a testament to his legacy that the world is finally minding the gap by focusing on inequality among and within countries, and committing to “leave no one behind” and “reach the furthest behind first”.
 
Please join me in a moment of silence to contemplate Dr. Rosling’s outstanding contributions and to remember his legacy.
 
[OBSERVE A MOMENT OF SILENCE]
 
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
I think Dr. Rosling would have been honoured to share this Award with our Laureate in the institutional category, the Association of Traditional Chiefs of Niger.
 
Niger is facing major challenges related to population and development.
 
The country has the highest population growth rate in the world at 3.9 per cent per year, which means its population could double in less than 20 years.
 
It also has the highest rates of child marriage.
 
The most recent data suggest that more than a quarter of girls are married before the age of 15.
 
The maternal mortality rate in Niger is among the highest in the world, and access to modern family planning methods is among the lowest.
 
The Association of Traditional Chiefs was established in 1975 and is regarded as the repository of social and cultural values and customs in Niger.
 
Over the past decade, the Association has been at the forefront of efforts to address population issues.
 
Through its members – all traditional chiefs – the Association has promoted improved reproductive health care for women and girls and the health of children in general.
 
It has advocated for the elimination of child, early and forced marriage and supported girls’ education to empower them to be able to decide the course of their own lives, so they can achieve their full potential and help transform the world.
 
Through its advocacy, the Association has created an enabling environment for addressing population issues and helped to break long-held taboos by publicly committing to family planning and reproductive health more generally. 
 
It provides an example for other countries to follow and is a worthy winner of this year’s United Nations Population Award.
 
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
Please join me in offering our deep gratitude and sincere recognition to Dr. Hans Rosling and the Association of Traditional Chiefs of Niger for their contribution to development.
 
Thank you.