Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to join you to celebrate the outstanding contributions of this year’s United Nations Population Award laureates.
This ceremony is particularly timely as we also mark two important milestones: twenty-five years since the adoption of the landmark Cairo Programme of Action on Population and Development, and the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations Population Fund.
I thank Executive Director Natalia Kanem and all her staff for their commitment and hard work.
I also bring you best wishes from Secretary-General António Guterres, as well as the following message, which I am delighted to deliver on his behalf.
“It is my pleasure to greet the recipients of the United Nations Population Award as well as all those gathered for this year’s ceremony.
UNFPA has been a leader in advancing the landmark Cairo Programme of Action on Population and Development and in mobilizing action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Yet as we are all keenly aware, despite progress in lowering maternal mortality and unintended pregnancies, many challenges remain. Maternal conditions, for example, are still the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19. And gender-based violence, which is rooted in inequality, continues to take a horrific toll. Today we are also seeing pushback on women’s rights, including on essential health services, which are at the core of Universal Health Coverage and ensuring health for all.
This year’s United Nations Population Award winners were selected for their dedication to peace and sustainable development; for providing safe havens in the midst of conflict; and for rebuilding societies and communities.
The Honourable Dr. Mamadou Tangara, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad of The Gambia, laureate in the individual category, is no stranger to the United Nations, having served as his country’s Permanent Representative from 2013 to 2018. Amid political uncertainty, he engaged with the international community and national actors to avert what could have been a humanitarian crisis in The Gambia, and understood the importance of involving grass roots non-violent youth movement.
As Secretary-General, I have heard first-hand the horrific accounts of gender-based and sexual violence in areas torn apart by conflict. The work of the National Peace Hut Women of Liberia, this year’s winner in the institutional category, has sought to heal the physical and psychological wounds of survivors. National Peace Hut created safe-havens at a time when lasting solutions to conflict seemed unattainable. The group has also earned global praise for helping people afflicted by the Ebola virus.
These are remarkable achievements. I commend the awardees for their dedication to the well-being of the populations they serve.”
This concludes the message of the Secretary-General – and I join him in congratulating this year’s laureates.
You embody the Award’s commitment to human rights and to providing solutions to population questions. Your courage, determination and understanding of people’s needs are beacons for future United Nations Population Award Laureates.
Allow me to take this opportunity to express my condolences to the people of Antigua and Barbuda on the loss of Sir Prince Ramsey, the 2018 laureate. I had the honour to present the award to him, celebrating his life’s work on the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. I have no doubt that his legacy will endure.
I also wish to thank the members of the intergovernmental United Nations Population Award Committee, chaired this year by His Excellency Ambassador Jinga, for its work on selecting the honourees.
Today’s laureates and those awarded in the past thirty-five years are indeed champions of humanity. Let us build on their contributions.