After Days of Intense Negotiations, Population and Development Commission Adopts Text to Bolster Monitoring Efforts, Concluding Forty-ninth Session
After several days of intense negotiations, the Commission on Population and Development adopted two draft resolutions on strengthening the demographic evidence base and on the proposed theme for 2017, closing its forty-ninth session today.
By the terms of the resolution titled “strengthening the demographic evidence base for the post-2015 development agenda”, the Commission urged Governments to monitor their progress towards the implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, adopted in Cairo in 1994, and the new Sustainable Development Goals at the regional, national and local levels. It also urged Governments to strengthen systems for the universal, reliable and timely registration of birth, marriage, divorce and death.
Further by the text, the Commission urged Governments to promote the development of populations of African descent, local communities and indigenous peoples in order to guide and implement policies and programmes. In addition, it called upon international organizations to enhance their capacity and cooperation for the collection and processing of statistical data on international migration and refugee flows. The Commission also called upon all States to strengthen the collection and dissemination of data on ageing, older persons and persons living with disabilities.
“You have persevered through sometimes difficult negotiations and made space for a legitimate diversity of views,” said Lenni Montiel, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in closing remarks. Congratulating the Commission for achieving consensus, he stressed that a strong demographic evidence base would be essential for implementing many of the commitments made at the 1994 Cairo Conference and in the 2030 Agenda.
Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that two forward-looking and important resolutions were a reminder that multilateralism was alive and well in the Commission. In the methods of work decision, Member States had reaffirmed the need to fully utilize the Commission to support countries in the further implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development Beyond 2014. By adopting the resolution on the special theme, the Commission had called for strengthening capacity for population data, enabling the international community to identify shortfalls and locate inequalities.
Speaking after the adoption, several delegates expressed gratitude to the Bureau for facilitating the process. The representative of the United States noted that the text reaffirmed the relevance of the Commission, and acknowledged the Programme of Action as a road map for sustainable development. It also reinforced the global commitment to adopt open data policies and use data for development for all.
A number of delegates held different views, with the Russian Federation’s representative raising deep concerns about “very disturbing trends” within the Commission whereby some countries had forced their own agenda into the resolution and introduced terms that could be expounded to their benefit. He stressed the need to keep the decisions of the Commission neutral and universally applicable, as all decisions of the United Nations should be.
Raising other concerns, some speakers expressed reservations on terms such as “early marriage” and “sexual and reproductive rights”. While the representative of Trinidad and Tobago described such terms as vague and undefined, Qatar’s delegate underscored the need to pay attention to cultural specificities and the history of States.
In approving the draft decision titled, “special themes for the fiftieth and fifty-first sessions of the Commission in 2017 and 2018” (document E/CN.9/2016/L.4), the Commission decided that the proposed theme for 2017 would be “changing population age structures and sustainable development”.
In other business today, the Commission concluded its general discussions and took note of a report of the Secretary-General on “programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2015: Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs” (document E/CN.9/2016/7) and a note by the Secretary-General on the proposed strategic framework for the period 2018-2019: subprogramme 5, Population, of programme 7, Economic and Social Affairs (document E/CN.9/2015/CRP.1).
Also today, the Commission approved the provisional agenda for its fiftieth session (document E/CN.9/2016/L.2), as orally revised, and the procedural part of the draft report of its forty-ninth session (document E/CN.9/2016/L.3), which was introduced by Commission Rapporteur Ebrahim Alikhani (Iran).
Briefly opening its fiftieth session, the Commission elected its new Chair, Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani (Qatar), by acclamation. It elected, also by acclamation, Eleonora van Munster (Netherlands) from the Group of Western European and Other States, and deferred the election of Vice-Chairs from groups representing African States, Eastern European States and Latin American States.
Delivering statements today were the representatives of Germany, China, Japan, Nigeria, Iran, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), South Africa, Brazil, Canada, Norway, Guyana and Malaysia, as well as the Holy See. A representative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa participated in the discussion as well.
FRANCOIS PELLETIER, Chief, Population Estimates and Projections Section, introduced the report of the Secretary-General titled “world demographic trends” (document E/CN.9/2016/6), which focused on changes that had occurred in recent decades and were projected to take place in the next 15 years, offering guidance to planners and policymakers in the area of population and development. The topics included population size and growth, fertility and family planning, mortality, international migration, urbanization and changing population age structures.
The global population stood at 7.4 billion and was growing more slowly than in the recent past, he said. Regional dimensions of population growth had important implications for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Citing an example, he said given the 4.4 billion people living in Asia and 1.2 billion in Africa, projected growth would be spread unevenly across continents and regions. While between 2015 and 2030 Africa and Asia would gain about half a billion inhabitants, Europe’s population was projected to stay the same or slightly decline.
One of the objectives of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, he said, was the stabilization of world population, a phenomenon that would contribute to attain sustainable development and maintain economic growth. The increasing availability of family planning services had enabled a growing number of women and men to decide about the number and spacing of their children and, in 2015, more than 90 per cent of Governments had provided direct or indirect support for family planning. Worldwide, current contraceptive use among married or in-union women between 15 and 49 had increased to 64 per cent in 2015 from 55 per cent in 1990.
He went on to highlight other elements in the report, which had documented major progress in the reduction of mortality. Although life expectancy had risen nearly everywhere since the 1970s, progress had lagged in Africa during 1980s and 1990s and life expectancy had declined in the countries most affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, reversing some past gains. Globally, life expectancy at birth had reached 70 years in the 2010-2015 period and was projected to rise to 74 years by 2025-2030. Despite substantial progress in lowering child and maternal mortality and in combatting HIV/AIDS epidemic, efforts needed to be sustained to meet the Sustainable Development Goals targets.
Continuing, he said the world was going through a long-term transformation towards an older population age structure. In the decades after the start of a sustained fertility decline, the relative proportions of working-age adults and older persons both rose as the proportion of children declined. In all areas around the world, working age people had made up a higher proportion of the global population in 2015 than in 1970. In the coming decades, a large majority of countries in Asia, Oceania and Latin America and the Caribbean would enter stages of a demographic transition that were favourable for realizing the benefits of rising proportions in working age people. Stressing that there had been 244 million international migrants worldwide, he noted that they tended to include a larger proportion of working-age persons than the overall population. Although international migration would not halt the long-term trend towards population ageing, net positive levels of migration could slow the increase in old-age dependency ratios, he concluded.
SABINE HENNING, Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on its activities in 2015 (document E/CN.9/2016/7) and his note on the proposed strategic framework for the period 2018-2019 for the subprogramme on population (document E/CN.9/2016/CRP.1). She noted that a strong demographic evidence base was critically important to the Division’s mission. To live up to the commitment to leave no one behind, the international community needed to ensure that everyone was counted. The Division, for its part, was committed to providing the demographic evidence and to monitor and appraise the Cairo Programme of Action.
Turning to the activities undertaken, she provided an overview of published reports, including in the area of fertility and family planning, mortality and migration. Among its other work, the Division had continued to support intergovernmental processes and made regular technical contributions to the global monitoring of six Millennium Development Goals indicators.
GLENN FERRI (United States) said the Population Division continued to play an essential role as a source of policy-neutral expertise, producing analytical reports and compendia of data and policies. Such products represented definitive international references on a wide range of related topics. The United States Census Bureau was very pleased to collaborate with the Population Division in expanding the database of estimates and projections of family planning indicators to include all women, not limited by marital status. In that regard, he commended the Population Division for the wealth of data it had made available through reports issued in 2015 on world contraceptive use, model-based estimates and projections of family planning indicators, world fertility and marriage data. The Division also continued to provide the international community with data sets and analyses in the area of health and mortality and migration.
FRANK SWIACZNY (Germany), reiterating support for the full implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action, underscored that fully operationalizing the instrument depended on access to accurate, timely and comprehensive data. Data disaggregation by income, age, gender, migratory status, health status, disability, and geographic location were key to identifying those in vulnerable situations who were under the threat of being left behind. For its part, Germany had recently strengthened its demographic data use for the analysis of population dynamics in order to facilitate sound planning and decision making. He also expressed hope that the United Nations, especially the Population Division, in coordination with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), played a crucial role in steering initiatives to coordinate and support open data standards, archives and repositories and innovative collection methods.
HE ZHAOHUA (China) appreciated the Population Division’s technical guidance, output sharing and information exchanges. During the past five years, China had carried out positive and fruitful cooperation with the Commission on Population and Development on the collection, use and development of demographic data. In order to better promote the 2030 Agenda, his country suggested that the Commission provide support to developing countries in capacity-building for data collection and analysis. He also suggested that the Commission promote international exchanges of views on the monitoring and evaluation of population and development data.
REIKO HAYASHI (Japan), commending the work carried out by the Population Division, noted that the World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, was an indispensable data source for all those involved in population and development issues. Its detailed reports on methodology and data sources provided greater understanding of past and future trends. Turning to data on global migration, she emphasized that the information the Population Division had published since 2013 had presented the number of international migrants by country of origin and destination. Yet, figures sometimes were inconsistent, she said, pointing out the Government’s records of citizens living overseas differed significantly from the data of certain recipient countries. That discrepancy had shed light on differences in the definition of foreign national status and data collection, she said.
WILLIAM MUHWAVA, of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), noted that significant progress had been made on the continent in improving data systems, yet the Secretary-General’s report had highlighted areas that had needed improvement in data generation, management and analysis in the continent. One example of that had shown 71 per cent of countries in Africa had failed to report vital statistics and 9 countries had not completed a census since 2005. The Commission was committed to improving data availability, accessibility, reliability and validity through data revolution and big data strategies.
He then went on to stress that the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development in Africa beyond 2014 was an essential ECA road map, consisting of 88 commitments setting out concrete actions and priorities. In recognition of the current and future population structure for the next 50 years, the Commission was engaged with Member States on how to harness the demographic dividend. In line with the need for inclusiveness and leaving no one behind, ECA would examine the dividend in the context of inequalities and gender. ECA also aimed at developing appropriate migration policies and strategies based on evidence. In addition, it would support the creation and strengthening of knowledge frameworks to address migration issues across Africa and ensure safe migration.
The Commission took up a draft resolution titled, “strengthening the demographic evidence base for the post-2015 development agenda”.
Prior to the Commission taking action on the text, the representative of Nigeria said the language agreed on had not been accurately reflected accurately in the text.
The Commission then approved the draft, without a vote.
Following the approval, the representative of Iran said her country had joined consensus on the resolution. Iran would, however, implement the text based on its own national specificities and priorities.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation shared the root idea that quality, accessible and reliable data would be needed for the measurement of the 2030 Agenda and that measures should be taken to strengthen the demographic evidence base in developing countries. Reminding the Commission of the great responsibility before it and recalling that General Assembly resolution 65/234 had stated that there would be no renegotiations of existing agreements related to the Cairo Programme of Action, he expressed deep concern about “very disturbing trends” within the body. Some countries had forced their own agenda into the resolution and introduced terms that could be expounded to their benefit. He stressed the need to keep the decisions of the Commission neutral and universally applicable, as all decisions of the United Nation should be.
The representative of the Netherlands, delivering a statement on behalf of the European Union, noted that the current session had underlined the centrality of population in the design and implementation of development policies. By adopting the text, Member States had affirmed the need for reliable, accessible, disaggregated data to inform the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. However, a lot remained to be done to reduce inequalities and to achieve the empowerment of women and girls. Better data collection would contribute to progress for all, she stressed.
The representative of Qatar, while commending the efforts of the Commission, drew attention to the issues of early marriage and sexual and reproductive rights, and underscored the need to pay attention to cultural specificities and the history of States.
The representative of South Africa said the negotiations had been open, robust and professional. His delegation had joined the consensus without reservation. However, a number of matters needed to be clarified. His delegation interpreted references within the resolution to “non-discrimination” as referring to all people under international law. South Africa would implement the resolution in a way that was guided by the principle of the supremacy of its constitution, which prohibited discrimination of any kind. He interpreted the term “sexual and reproductive rights” in a manner that did not limit any rights for any person. In addition, he was pleased that the resolution had made reference to the right to development.
The representative of Brazil, welcoming the adoption, noted that it would not be possible without the great work done by co-facilitators and the Bureau’s guidance.
The representative of the United States was pleased to join the consensus, expressing gratitude to all for facilitating the process. The text, she noted, reaffirmed the Commission’s relevance and had acknowledged the Programme of Action as a road map for sustainable development. It also had reinforced the global commitment to adopt open data policies and use data for development for all. Overcoming data gaps was essential for the successful implementation of the sustainable Development Goals, she said.
The representative of Canada reiterated the importance of linkages between population and human rights and the empowerment of women and girls. While she would have preferred stronger language on gender-responsive data, her delegation had joined the consensus. The decision recently approved by the Commission on its working methods would make the body more impactful and better align it with the work of Economic and Social Council and its High-level Political Forum.
The representative of Norway said that, while the resolution had not satisfied everyone, it was a “good compromise”. She underscored the fruitful atmosphere and collegial working conditions that had prevailed in the negotiations, saying that that spirit “bodes well for next year”.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago, while acknowledging that the document reflected adequate balance, expressed reservation on the term “early marriage” as it was vague and undefined.
The representative of Guyana remained concerned about the formulation of operative paragraph 3, particularly the term “early marriage”, and requested that his statement was reflected in the records.
The representative of the Holy See regretted that the resolution had not focused on demographic evidence, but on a number of controversial issues and selected rights. The term “reproductive health” referred to a holistic concept of health and should be understood in the context of maturity and conjugal love. Abortion and access to abortion were not and could never be included in that term. Additionally, the concept of gender was grounded in the biological difference between males and female. He reiterated the responsibility of parents and their right to religious freedom when it came to rearing their children and underscored the centrality of the family unit.
The representative of Malaysia said it was the sovereign right of all countries to implement the resolution in line with their national priorities.
LENNI MONTIEL, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, delivered closing remarks on behalf of Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. Recalling that delegates throughout the session had drawn attention to the growing need for disaggregated data — which were crucial for ensuing that no one was left behind — he said they had also explored solutions to close existing data gaps by highlighting new technologies, new sources of information, new commitments and new partnerships as part of a “data revolution”.
A strong demographic evidence base would be essential for implementing many of the commitments made at the Cairo Conference and in the 2030 Agenda. It was critical that choices about policy interventions be informed by solid evidence, he stressed. Noting that 2016 was a crucial year, he congratulated the Commission for achieving consensus on a resolution on its methods of work and on a decision that lay out the revised provisional agenda for its next session in 2017. “You have persevered through sometimes difficult negotiations, and made space for a legitimate diversity of views,” he said.
BABATUNDE OSOTIMEHIN, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that two forward-looking and important resolutions adopted during the session were a reminder that multilateralism was alive and well in the Commission. In the methods of work decision, Member States had reaffirmed the centrality and the need to fully utilize the Commission to support countries in the further implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development Beyond 2014. They also had taken measures to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the Commission and streamline its agenda while ensuring due opportunity to share lessons and challenges, he underlined.
By adopting the resolution on the special theme, the Commission had emphasized the need for strengthening capacity for population data, enabling the international community to identify shortfalls and locate inequalities, he continued. He acknowledged that Member States were committed to ensure that every birth and death was registered and that national data systems were a cornerstone of development in each and every country. Moving forward, the cooperation of Governments, academia, civil society, private sector and development partners would be critical, he stressed.
MWABA KASESE-BOTA (Zambia), Chair of the Commission on Population and Development, said the session’s theme had been particularly relevant as it had helped Member States to define indicators for the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. She thanked the Commission as well as its Bureau members for their leadership and guidance in supporting the work of the session.