New York

22 May 2008

Secretary-General's remarks to the United Nations Population Award [Delivered by Kiyotaka Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information]

Mr. Chairman,

Ms. Obaid,

Members of UN Population Award Committee,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to this annual UN Population Award ceremony. I hope you enjoyed the musical presentation by the New York Symphonic Ensemble.

This year marks the silver jubilee of the United Nations Population Award, which recognizes individuals and organizations contributing to population and development issues.

The Award has a long list of distinguished laureates who have advanced the cause of development. And I understand we had a very strong field of nominees this year.

I want to pay tribute to the members of the intergovernmental committee here today. They ensure that the Awards honour excellence, research and innovation. Each award spotlights individual stories of commitment to improving peoples lives.

Please join me in giving a warm round of applause to this year's Awardees: the Honourable Dame Billie Miller, former Deputy Prime Minister and Senior Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, the winner in the Individual Category; and to Family Care International of the United States, the winner in the Institutional Category.

Both laureates have made invaluable contributions to improving the lives of people and families.

Mr. Chairman,

I want to start by congratulating the Honourable Dame Billie Miller, who is no stranger to the United Nations. Last September, she came to the General Assembly and made a powerful call for gender equality. Dame Billie is always showing outstanding leadership and advocacy on population and gender issues.

She began her political career in the early 1970s and eventually broke the glass ceiling, becoming the first woman to serve as a Minister in Barbados. Beyond politics, she is active in non-governmental and parliamentary organizations. She was Chairperson of the NGO Planning Committee for the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development. You all know how important the NGOs were at that Conference. And she was President of the International Planned Parenthood Federation's Western Hemisphere Region. The IPPF honored her in 2004 –it was just one of the many times she has been recognized internationally.

Mr. Chairman,

It is also my pleasure to welcome and congratulate this year's second laureate: Family Care International. This private, non-profit organization is devoted to ensuring safe motherhood, promoting sexual and reproductive health for adolescents, and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. It was established in the mid-1980s, and now has eight field offices in Africa and Latin America, with projects in twenty-two countries.

Like Dame Billie, Family Care International also played a role at the 1994 Cairo Conference. It successfully recruited local NGOs to be part of national delegations. Thanks to this effort, these diverse organizations forged a common front on key issues and helped to build consensus.

Family Care International is all about cooperation. They have worked with more than one hundred and seventy-five partners around the world. Their outstanding educational materials have been disseminated widely. FCI's “Women Deliver” conference last year generated new global commitment to reduce maternal mortality rates. This is a key Millennium Development Goal, and I applaud their leadership.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Let us give another round of applause to our two very distinguished and deserving laureates. Both have made significant contributions to providing life-saving information and services to individuals. Thanks to their efforts, countless people have been able to plan pregnancies, avoid recourse to unsafe abortion, practice responsible sexual behaviour, and prevent the spread of HIV.

This award ceremony gives us a chance to re-commit to building a world where everyone has the chance –and the means –to better their lives. But all of us must work together to keep population and reproductive health high on the development agenda.

This year's Population Award winners are showing the way. The outstanding work of the Honourable Dame Billie Miller and Family Care International will continue contributing to the well being and progress of people around the world, now and in the future.

Thank you.