Sexual, Reproductive Health Rights Key to Obtaining Sustainable Development, Speakers Stress, as Population and Development Commission Continues Session
Sexual and reproductive health policies are vital to empowering women and the youth, thus constituting a cornerstone of sustainable development, speakers said today as the Commission on Population and Development continued its general debate.
Exchanging views on further actions to implement the Programme of Action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, speakers also stressed the link between the Cairo document and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by Member States in 2015.
“The 2030 Agenda can only be fulfilled with full enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health and rights,” said Sweden’s delegate, stressing that “women and girls must be an active part of development, with full autonomy over their own bodies”.
Providing adolescents with evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education is a concrete way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections and foster gender equality, she said, expressing concern that the denial of women’s rights is being used as a political weapon, citing restrictions in development funding for non-governmental organizations working in sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Australia’s delegate said her country remains strongly committed to advancing universal access to quality sexual and reproductive health and rights as a foundation for achieving sustainable and inclusive development. Investment in those rights saves lives, enables women and girls to participate equally in economic and social activity and makes it possible for families to better invest in their children, she emphasized.
Her counterpart from the Russian Federation said that his country is not bound to introduce in schools so-called comprehensive sexual education, which is the primary responsibility of parents and guardians, explaining that the concept of comprehensive sexuality education is not universally accepted.
Speakers also emphasized the need to invest in the health, education and employment for the youth to harness demographic dividends, as well as the need to keep older persons as active participants of society.
Vanuatu’s delegate said high unemployment, especially among youth, is a concern for his country and the wider Asia-Pacific region, emphasizing that its root causes must be better understood and addressed.
Iran’s delegate said the working-age population in his country has increased to 71 per cent, offering it a limited window of opportunity to harness demographic dividends.
Germany’s delegate noted that as its baby-boomer generation enters its retirement years, his Government would be happy to receive any input that will lead to a more positive attitude. Those over the age of 60 are seen as being too old and no longer productive, but their experience and wisdom is invaluable and their potential must be tapped, he said.
He stressed that remaining active in old age requires good infrastructure, but, even in a developed country like Germany, that is not always available, adding that the establishment of equivalent living conditions in rural and urban areas is a priority for the Government.
Japan’s delegate said population-related challenges must be addressed well in advance with policies backed by accurate demographic data. As the country with the world’s oldest population, Japan is willing to share its experiences, he said, noting that in 2019, Japan is also calling for the promotion of universal health coverage, including sexual and reproductive health.
Earlier in the day, the Commission held a high-level interactive panel discussion, focusing on key findings of the regional conferences to review progress on the implementation of the Programme of Action and the way forward.
Panelists addressed questions relating to the main achievements in population and development during the past five years, the major demographic trends that will impact the further implementation of the Programme of Action and the key challenges and emerging issues in population and development. They also discussed questions relating to successful collaborations and partnerships needed for the further implementation of the Programme of Action and resources required to support population and development plans.
Also speaking today were representatives of Maldives, Georgia, Uruguay, Kenya, Benin, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Cuba, Cambodia, Norway, Thailand, Canada, Qatar, Indonesia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Argentina, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Bulgaria, Belgium, Romania, Turkey, Malaysia, Cabo Verde, El Salvador, Suriname, Jordan, Syria, Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi, New Zealand, Nepal and Uzbekistan.
The Commission will reconvene on Wednesday, 3 April, at 10 a.m. to continue its general debate and hold an expert panel discussion in the afternoon.
High-level Interactive Panel
Moderated by Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Commission on Population and Development this morning held a high-level interactive panel, featuring panellists Robert Chakanda, Deputy Minister, Planning and Economic Development, Sierra Leone; Juan Antonio A. Perez III, Undersecretary for Population and Development and Executive Director, Commission on Population and Development, the Philippines; Abla Amawi, Secretary General, Higher Population Council, Jordan; Gloria Montenegro Figueroa, Minister for Women and Vulnerable Populations, Peru; and Andrei Dapkiunas, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Belarus.
Commission Chair Courtenay Rattray (Jamaica) noted that each region organized regional conferences on population and development between August and November 2018. Drawing on more than 100 national assessments, these conferences celebrated successes and identified challenges in further implementing the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, she said, introducing the panellists who represented each of the five regions.
Mr. DAPKIUNAS described how his region and the wider Europe is tackling the challenge of population aging, the low fertility rate, a high adult mortality rate and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases that are related to lifestyles. He stressed the importance of support for the families and gender-sensitive and affordable childcare support. It is also important to implement polices to create an enabling environment for young people to stay in or return to the country. Gender-sensitive support is key to empower women and girls, such as by helping them balance work and childcare. They must not be left behind. Good practices include integration of disadvantaged groups, such as persons with disability in social protection systems. It is important to address intergenerational equity to mitigate poverty. Creation of youth friendly communities is also important.
Mr. CHAKANDA said that implementing the Addis Ababa Declaration was key to achieving to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Fertility rates are declining and life expectancy is increasing in Africa. Gender parity has been achieved in primary schools in many countries. But these progresses do not tell the whole story. Progress is limited in many countries on the continent. Africa has the youngest population in the world, with nearly 60 per cent under age 25. This is both an opportunity and a challenge. They can drive future economic growth if they are empowered. But failure to include them in the areas of health, education and employment will create more challenges. Good practices include the establishment of a framework in 2014 to end child marriage in Ghana, a policy to reduce teen pregnancies in Sierra Leone and an initiative to end gender-based violence in Liberia and efforts to achieve gender parity in Algeria.
Mr. PEREZ, discussing the Asia-Pacific regional review conference, said the region still has a long way to go in terms of broadening sexual and reproductive health services. Unmet needs for family planning remain high, resulting in millions of unwanted pregnancies, he said, emphasizing also the need for more information and scaling up preventative and curative measures. Closing gaps will not be possible without focusing on inequality and reaching those furthest behind first. Going forwards, several delegations proposed rolling out better quality sexual education programmes. Describing ageing as a megatrend for the region, he said the challenge for many Asia-Pacific nations is that their populations will get old before getting rich. Many people will reach old age with no significant pensions or savings. He added that South-South migration in Asia-Pacific is the highest in the world, with remittances to countries of origin helping to reduce poverty and promote investment in health and education. Respect and fulfilment of migrants’ human rights must be insured, he said, underscoring also the need for comprehensive migration data.
Ms. MONTENEGRO spoke about the findings of the Latin American and Caribbean regional review conference, saying a key challenge is income inequality, which is one of the highest in the world. States must do more to address poverty, inequality and exclusion, particularly among the most vulnerable groups, she said, adding that gender-based approaches remain crucial. Another major challenge is the teenage fertility rate, which is coming down too slowly. While the situation of older persons in Latin America and the Caribbean is improving, national initiatives to protect them from violence and mistreatment are needed. Sexual and gender-based violence requires a great deal of attention, she said, adding that Member States recognize the importance of approaching the issue in a comprehensive manner. Eighteen countries in the region have meanwhile adopted laws or undertaken reforms to criminalize femicide with severe penalties.
Ms. AMAWI said that, during the Arab regional review conference, voluntary reports from Member States indicated, among other things, a decline in infant, child and maternal mortality rates and more gender parity in education. However, the conference also confirmed what is already known — that progress has been insufficient. In a region of 400 million people, there remain significant disparities in income levels and human development patterns, while youth unemployment remains the highest in the world. Conflict and the resultant high numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons have prompted a reversal in development gains and an inability to shift from humanitarian to development assistance. Other problems include weak urban planning and a scarcity of reliable disaggregated data. On emerging regional priorities, she said that, given the demographic window of opportunity before them, Arab countries must rethink their economic policies and focus on creating jobs for their youthful populations. Prospects for aging with dignity are meanwhile dim in the absence of relevant initiatives. Protracted conflict in many countries, and the continuing occupation of the Palestinian territories, will remain challenges unless root causes are addressed, she added.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of the Russian Federation said that two regional reviews are not agreed in the intergovernmental format, including on the concept of sexual rights and comprehensive sexuality education, and the needs for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. The outcome documents use terminologies that are not universally accepted.
Cuba’s delegate said it is useful to exchange views among different regions, stressing the need to involve regional commissions in the dialogue.
Uganda’s representative reiterated that much work remains to be done in Africa towards harnessing the demographic dividends and turning the youth into assets. He asked how UNFPA is ready to support the Governments in Africa on this path over the next 15 or so years.
Myanmar’s delegate proposed UNFPA work closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to give serious attention to age-related diseases, such as diabetes.
Canada’s representative pointed out regional assessments might risk concealing challenges at the national level, noting the inadequate access for women to sexual and reproductive health services and affordable contraceptive services.
Australia’s representative stressed the importance of comprehensive sexuality education and sexual rights to the Asia-Pacific region. Timor-Leste, for instance, has halved its maternal mortality rate.
The second part of the panel discussion focused on recommendations for the way forward. Ms. KANEM made introductory remarks addressing questions such as: What collaborations and partnerships are needed for the further implementation of the Programme of Action? How can the necessary resources be mobilized to support population and development programmes?
Myanmar’s delegate stressed the need to establish an adequate data system, involving the population. Data must be owned by people for implementation of the Programme of Action.
Mexico’s delegate highlighted the important role of the regional conferences in translating commitments into action.
Cuba’s delegate underscored the link between the Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda, and the need to integrate indicators in the Montevideo Declaration and the 2030 Agenda. It is important to learn from each other as implementation lies at the local level.
Senegal’s delegate said that his country and UNFPA are experimenting on a project to harness democratic dividends. If the countries don’t utilize their youthful population, they will face more challenges.
Germany’s delegate welcomed different regional perspectives.
Ms. KANEM said that this part of the dialogue shed light on the need for capacity-building for statistics, the greater need for coherence and the integration of data so that it is useful to local communities. The aspect of costs and financing must be reviewed on the road to the upcoming Nairobi conference.
Delivering concluding remarks, Ms. AMAWI stressed the need to integrate indicators from the Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda, and the importance of supporting countries in need of capacity-building. Addressing youth unemployment holds the key.
Ms. FIGUEROA, emphasizing that the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development is a road map for regional implementation of the Programme of Action, also stressed the importance of creating new alliances in the effective implementation of the Consensus to reach the most remote areas where implementation is most needed.
Mr. DAPKIUNAS said that today’s discussion highlights the linkages between the Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda, and the need to achieve gender parity. It is vital to minimize the wage gap and recognize the ageing population as active participants in society.
Mr. CHAKANDA said addressing inequality and disparities in access to sexual and reproductive health services is crucial. Investing in the health, education and employment for youth is of utmost importance as is accurate disaggregated data to ensure no one left behind.
Mr. PEREZ said the Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda are interlinked and complement each other. Efforts must be supported by disaggregate data. He suggested that the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and UNFPA scale up efforts in this regard. Today’s meeting was meaningful as it underlined the regions’ specific challenges. The Asia-Pacific regional conference reviewed 26 separate national reports, he said, noting that this regional format should be the ongoing part of the Commission’s work.
Ms. KANEM stressed the importance of collecting and shaping data that responds to local needs. Noting the need to provide support for people at different stages of their life cycle, she said it is a complete cycle and there is much to do.
FATHIMATH NIUMA (Maldives) said that many population- and development-related goals have been enshrined in law in her country, with health care, education, sanitation, water, housing and a safe environment mandated by the Constitution. The challenge, however, is providing those services to all, equally and equitably, when its population is spread thinly over 187 inhabited islands. She added that the international community must help to strengthen country-level population and development data systems. International support is also needed to scale up financial resources, the provision of technical capacity-developing, sharing of best practices and technology transfer.
MICHAEL FREHSE (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said that his country has long benefited from a favourable age structure and it is happy to share its demographic experience. However, as its baby-boomer generation enters its retirement years, it would be happy to receive any input that will lead to a more positive attitude. Those over the age of 60 are seen as being too old and no longer productive, but their experience and wisdom is invaluable and their potential must be tapped. Remaining active in old age requires good infrastructure, but, even in a developed country like Germany, that is not always available, he said, adding that the establishment of equivalent living conditions in rural and urban areas is a priority for the Government.
KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia), associating himself with the European Union, said his country has made significant strides since the 1994 adoption of the Programme of Action, with improvements in health outcomes for women and children at the forefront of its efforts. As it prepares to conduct a new census in 2020, it is striving to improve health, education and employment opportunities, as human capital is a cornerstone of sustainable development. He reviewed the Government’s initiatives to develop more effect policies to address gender-based violence, including accountability systems, services for survivors and promoting men’s support for gender equality. He went on to note Georgia’s election of its first female President.
PATRICIA BENÍTEZ LIMA (Uruguay), associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that for her Government, the human rights approach is crucial for implementing the 2030 Agenda. Over the last few years, Uruguay has adopted laws and policies to improve living standards throughout the population, significantly reducing poverty. Drawing attention to efforts to achieve gender equality by 2030, she said a national comprehensive care plan aims to instil the concept of shared gender responsibility. Having recognized same-sex marriage, Uruguay has adopted a law for trans persons. A regional pioneer in sexual and reproductive health and rights, it has decriminalized abortion, enabling women to seek an abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and providing them with psychological and medical support to help them make informed decisions.
Ms. KIBARU MBAE (Kenya) outlined measures undertaken by her Government, including the establishment of various legal, policy and programmatic frameworks. Among those are its 2010 Constitution, Vision 2030, Population Policy for National Development 2012, Health Act in 2017, Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health Policy 2017 and the Demographic Dividends Roadmap 2017. The total fertility rate declined from 8.1 births per woman in 1979 to 3.9 births in 2014. The infant mortality rate declined from 88 to 39 deaths per 1,000 live births over the same period. To address gender equality, the Constitution stipulates that no one gender shall hold more than two thirds of all public appointments.
JEAN-CLAUDE FÉLIX DO REGO (Benin), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the achievement of the 2030 Agenda is essential to leave no one behind, stressing the importance of fulfilling the promises made by the Programme of Action, including better health and education for women and girls. His Government has undertaken some measures, including fee waivers for girls’ education, as well as initiatives to improve maternal health and reduce child mortality. With the help of UNFPA, the Government is implementing a number of projects, including training volunteers for contraceptive services. He expressed hope that the upcoming Nairobi high-level conference will further assess the progress achieved and challenges.
FRANCISCO DUARTE LOPES (Portugal), associating himself with the European Union, said that the Programmes of Action helped lift millions of people out of poverty. Gender equality has become a fundamental prerequisite for the 2030 Agenda. However, 25 years after Cairo, many people still await implementation of the promises made there. Millions of girls are becoming victims of child marriage and female genital mutilation. The Programmes of Action serves as a comprehensive guide to addressing many issues, including the fight against gender-based violence. His Government’s 2014-2030 policy document highlights gender equality as a cross cutting issue. Portugal stands ready to strengthen partnerships with other countries and UNFPA to make the lives of millions of women healthier and safer. “Our experience shows that all actors have a role to play,” he said, citing the contribution of civil society to behavioural change.
Ms. ERASMIE (Sweden) said the 2030 Agenda can only be fulfilled with full enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Women and girls must be an active part of development, with full autonomy over their own bodies. Democracy requires the participation of women and girls, she said, adding that men and boys must be engaged to achieve that goal. Universal health coverage should include access to safe and legal abortions. She expressed deep concern that the denial of women’s rights is being used as a political weapon, citing restrictions in development funding for non-governmental organizations working in sexual and reproductive health and rights. Providing adolescents with evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education is a concrete way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections and foster gender equality. Observing that international cooperation “is undergoing a stress test”, she said Sweden will continue to call for sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex persons, within the framework of its feminist foreign policy, in hopes of fostering more constructive dialogue.
ODO TEVI (Vanuatu) said high unemployment, especially among youth, is a concern for his country and the wider Asia-Pacific region. Its root causes must be better understood and addressed. Education and sexual and reproductive health policies need to be approached in a holistic manner that empowers women and girls to curb rising teenage pregnancies. While the prevalence of communicable disease has declined in the Asia-Pacific region, non-communicable disease poses major concerns, and access to quality health services is an issue for rural dwellers. He added that vulnerable members of society, particularly women and girls in poor countries, must not be disproportionately burdened by the impacts of climate change. In urban areas, planning and provision of services must be informed by robust, reliable and innovative data, he stated.
KATE WALLACE (Australia) said her country remains strongly committed to advancing universal access to quality sexual and reproductive health and rights as a cornerstone for achieving sustainable and inclusive development. Investment in those rights save lives, enables women and girls to participate equally in economic and social activity and makes it possible for families to better invest in their children. Like other Member States, Australia is concerned by growing efforts to dilute, caveat or eliminate sexual and reproductive health and rights language in both the Commission and other forums, she said. She underscored Australia’s efforts to tackle the root causes of gender-based violence and the elimination of cervical cancer, adding that its international development programme includes a focus on eliminating unmet family planning needs in the Pacific islands by 2030.
DMITRY S. CHUMAKOV (Russian Federation) welcomed progress in implementing the Programme of Action, which he described as a people-centred document that needs no revision. However, noting positive changes in percentage terms does not reflect the absolute number of those in need as the overall population grows. Attention must focus on improving health care and education, combating non-communicable diseases and promoting healthy lifestyles, employment and opportunities for women. Lower fertility rates must be approached in ways that take national circumstances into account, and priority should go towards ensuring social well-being, not combating climate change. He added that the Russian Federation is not bound to introduce in schools so-called comprehensive sexual education, which is the primary responsibility of parents and guardians. He cautioned against viewing population and development solely through a human rights prism and expressed shock that some conclusions in the Secretary-General’s reports are based on subjective publications from non-governmental organizations, including the so-called Rule of Law Index and the Global Report on Internal Displacement.
VICTOR MORARU (Republic of Moldova), aligning himself with the European Union, said that his country has made progress over the past five years in key areas such as population dynamics and sustainable development, families, sexual and reproductive health, inequality and social inclusion. In 2018, its Parliament adopted a national development strategy, which embraces a new concept of sustainable development that places people’s well-being at the centre. His Government revised the demographic security programme through the lens of human rights and developed the concept vision on population and development which is people-centred and evidence-based. The Government also integrated the active ageing principle in relevant policy documents to address the issue of population ageing and its impact on sustainable development.
KORO BESSHO (Japan) said population-related challenges must be addressed well in advance with policies that are informed by accurate demographic data. As the country with the world’s oldest population, Japan is willing to share its experiences through various avenues. In 2019, Japan is also calling for the promotion of universal health coverage, including sexual and reproductive health, he said, reiterating also its commitment to the Programme of Action and broader population and development issues as a core driver of the Sustainable Development Goals.
ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that fulfilling the Programme of Action and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals requires developed countries to meet their official development assistance (ODA) commitments without delay. Having met all the Millennium Development Goals, Cuba is close to meeting all the Sustainable Development Goals, despite an embargo that has been in place for the past six decades. Cuba ranks high in human development indicators, she said, with universal access to mandatory quality education up to the secondary school level, women making up 53.2 per cent of parliamentarians, and 100 per cent of the population literate. A national sex education programme is in place, while abortions are available through the national health system, ensuring that women have the human right to make their own decisions about their bodies.
Mr. POCH (Cambodia) said the 25 years since the International Conference saw his country emerge from genocide and protracted conflict to become a rapidly developing nation that has undergone profound demographic changes, including a declining fertility rate. The Cairo agreement has been a guiding framework for the Government’s development policies, but despite great achievements, much remains to be done in such areas as sexual and reproductive health and rights, family planning and the management of migration, among other things. The Government advocated full application of comprehensive sex education, universal access to sexual and reproductive health and family planning, he added.
MONA JUUL (Norway) said that gender equality unlocks a country’s full potential and is integral to sustainable development. However, too many are still deprived of a life free from gender-based violence and harmful practices. Although progress has been made since 1994, too many inequalities remain. “We must act to close these gaps,” she stressed, adding that the 2030 Agenda reminds the international community of what remains to be done. Too many young people lack the knowledge, access and power they need to make informed actions about their sexual and reproductive health and too many lack access to health services, quality education and jobs. Governments have a responsibility to do what is needed to enable youth to live healthy, good lives. Norway’s policy, based on evidence and experience, ensures access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
VITAVAS SRIVIHOK (Thailand), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his delegation wished to underline one key point in the Secretary-General’s report —that is the issue of health. Half the world’s population today, many women and girls, still do not have access to the basic health services that they need. Millions get pushed into poverty due to out-of-pocket payment on medical expenses. This cannot continue, as health is a human right.
Ms. KENSEY (Canada) said her country has been and continues to be a strong and vocal advocate for the full and effective implementation of the Programme of Action and the outcomes of its review conferences. In 2018, Canada co-chaired a regional conference together with colleagues from Belarus and Bulgaria. Her delegation underscored the importance of understanding individual country and subnational experience because aggregate regional progress can conceal inequalities in access to quality sexual and reproductive health services. Stressing the importance of education, she noted the upcoming high-level political forum will review Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education, including comprehensive sexuality education.
Ms. ALIABADI (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the working-age population in his country has increased to 71 per cent, offering it a limited time “demographic window of opportunity” and positioning it to harness its first and second demographic dividend. While life expectancy at birth reached 74 years old in 2016, the share of declining birth rate causes the number and proportion of older persons to increase from 6.5 million at present to nearly 30 million in 2050. The Government explores ways to develop effective strategies to properly place these issues in national policies and plans. The unilateral and unlawful economic sanctions have negative effects on the well-being and everyday life of Iran’s people.
Mr. AL KUWARI (Qatar) said the international community must do more, and cooperate more, to reach practical and consensual solutions and to achieve progress that will benefit all peoples of the world. Underscoring the principles of Islamic law, he said population is the sustainable development and that Qatar is addressing population dynamics in a way that respects human rights. He emphasized the sovereign right of States to implement recommendations in ways that respect religious backgrounds. Qatar is trying to strike a balance between population growth and sustainable development, concentrating on programmes that target education and draw youth away from violent extremism.
S.P. NOFRIJAL (Indonesia), associating himself with the Group of 77, said international cooperation in capacity-building — particularly South-South and triangular cooperation — is essential for implementing the Programme of Action. In that regard, Indonesia has shared its experiences with family planning officers from more than 104 countries, he said, noting also the “significant progress” his nation has made in family planning and reproductive health. For his country, universal health coverage is essential for providing quality, accessible and affordable family planning and reproductive health care, he said, adding that an integrated service centre has been set up for victims of gender-based violence.
Mr. PRICA (Bosnia and Herzegovina), associating himself with the European Union, said after achieving a modest success in implementing the Millennium Development Goals, his country has embarked on a much more comprehensive path to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Working closely with the United Nations country team, his nation has made progress. His delegation will present its first voluntary review at the upcoming high-level political forum. However, his country faces negative population trends. The population has been declining at a pace of 5,000 per year, and fertility remains low. His country lacks highly skilled medical personnel, and pensions and health-care systems face challenges as the population ages. There are no adequate programmes in place to reverse these negative trends, he said, stressing the need for a regional approach.
LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador), associating himself with the Group of 77, stressed the need for the international community to include the population issues on its agenda. For the first time, according to international reports, the population above 70 years old is now greater than that of under the age of 5. Therefore, the Programme of Action remains valid. The international community must recognize this unsustainable path. He outlined measures undertaken by his Government, including programmes to meet the needs of vulnerable groups, such as indigenous people, caregivers and persons with disabilities. With urban population expected to double, the international community must understand demographic trends so that countries can adopt national policies for current and future generations.
MARKUS SCHWYN (Switzerland) said countries all over the world have identified gaps in gender equality and women’s equality. Those most likely to be left behind must have the means to achieve their own empowerment, he said, emphasizing that the world is a more diverse place than it was in 1994 and that censuses must ensure that everyone is counted. He highlighted the need for quality data and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals at the national and international levels. It is also important to monitor implementation of the Programme of Action, analyse shortcomings and make recommendations. He added that the relevance of the Programme of Action must be considered at the upcoming high-level political forum on sustainable development.
AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka) said his country’s growing population of older people, combined with a reduced fertility rate, will have a negative impact on efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. Demographic and lifestyle changes have seen an increase in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases. As Sri Lanka engages in peacebuilding and reconciliation after years of conflict, a key challenge is women-led households, he said, explaining that the Government has set up institutional mechanisms to facilitate access to sustainable livelihoods. An extensive network of health-care facilities — with a hospital accessible every 4 kilometres — has contributed to improving maternal and child health and welfare and family planning services. Sri Lanka is also strongly committed to enabling women and youth to be an integral part of economic and political decision-making.
VALERIA SILVA (Bolivia) said her country has a successful model for implementing the Programme of Action and the Montevideo Consensus. Women can expect to live to the age of 76, compared with 66 a decade ago, while the mortality rate of expectant mothers has come down significantly thanks to free vaccinations. Bolivia also has one of the region’s lowest school dropout rates. While 60 per cent of its people are under the age of 30, efforts will need to be made to care for an aging population. She attributed her country’s success to its concept of sovereignty whereby natural resources belong to the people rather than transnational corporations.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) welcomed the adoption of the political declaration at the beginning of the current session. Both the Programme of Action and the Montevideo document are interrelated to the Sustainable Development Goals. Human rights are based on the Programme of Action. His Government has established a national institution to address gender equality, and a gender parity law has been enacted. Argentina reaffirms its commitment to provide its people with greater access to sexual and reproductive health services. He expressed hope that the current session will lay the foundation to generate substantive resolutions to be adopted by consensus in 2020.
KIM SONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that during the last 70 years, his Government has made it a supreme principle of State activities to improve the health and well-being of its citizens in line with the country’s people-centred socialism. It has put forward a new strategic line of concentrating all its efforts on the construction of economy and increased its State investment in public health. Maternal, infant and child mortality rates have sharply decreased and the rate for skilled birth attendance and immunization coverage have reached almost 100 per cent. The literacy rate has reached 99.97 per cent, with every youth and child fully enjoying the benefit of access to universal 12-year free and compulsory education.
GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria) said that Eastern Europe is marked by low fertility, population ageing and complex migration movements. His country recognizes the need to invest in human capital and create an enabling environment for young people, women and children and other most marginalized groups to bring stability and prosperity. His Government has put good practices in place in the areas of youth policies, and sexual and reproductive health rights, including the right to plan one’s family, equal access of men and women to decent jobs, women’s empowerment and the right to education. It is also working closely with UNFPA on numerous projects in these areas.
MYRIAM BACQUELAINE (Belgium) expressed serious concern about human rights violations — including all forms of sexual violence against women and girls in conflict areas — which undermine efforts made so far. As a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Belgium is convinced that a holistic approach to sexual and reproductive health is crucial in areas subject to intolerably long periods of instability. Among domestic initiatives, it has set up centres in major cities to help victims of sexual violence, established sex education and gender training in schools and provides free access to contraceptives to young people under the age of 21. In terms of international relations, it has been involved in the “She Decides” initiative with political leaders championing the rights of women and girls.
ELENA DOBRE (Romania), associating herself with the European Union, said her country has adopted a wide range of policies, strategies and programmes which reflect its commitment to the Programme of Action. Those include measures to ensure access for all to decent labour market conditions, housing, education and social protection. Identifying demographic ageing as a major challenge, she said the Government has adopted a national strategy, alongside initiatives to promote gender equality, the empowerment of women and the rights of persons with disabilities.
Ms. OZTOP (Turkey) said that despite gains made since 1994, challenges persist and gaps remain among countries and regions. As the largest refugee-hosting country in the world, Turkey is using an approach centred on the principles of ensuring human rights and ending discrimination while providing assistance for 3.7 million Syrians. Because population issues are also central to sustainable development efforts, the Government will include related trends in its next voluntary national review and continue to use these dynamics to guide national development priorities and policies at a time when Turkey is undergoing demographic changes and an ageing population. In response, national programmes centre on these changing needs alongside initiatives that have already made significant progress in many areas, including sexual and reproductive health, family planning and maternal and child health, while combating communicable diseases, investing in girls’ education and ending violence against women. Given that migration is a key feature in the twenty-first century, Turkey supports the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which, if efficiently implemented, will help efforts to realize the 2030 Agenda and the Programme of Action goals. To address some of these common objectives, the Government is working with UNFPA to provide social and health services to Syrian women and girls in Turkey.
Mr. ABDULLAH (Malaysia) described the demographic trends facing his country, including an increase in population, a declining birth rate and population ageing. His country has established a youth friendly centre to give them greater access to contraceptive and reproductive health services. A national strategy has been devised to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 on health. A national policy for older persons was reviewed in 2011 so that they can live a comfortable life in dignity and actively participate in society. Gender disaggregated data is important to monitor implementation.
JOSÉ LUIS FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde) noted his country has a youthful population with a median age of 28 but some signals of ageing, requiring adequate policies and resources to ensure a sustainable demographic transition. “There is a window of opportunity for the demographic dividend that will close by 2060,” he said, pointing to achievements in areas including human capital development, education for all, and access to health including sexual and reproductive health. Challenges nonetheless remain, driven by the economic vulnerabilities of a small island developing State, as well as climate change, persistent poverty and regional inequalities. He cited the 2020 General Population and Housing census, a major Cabo Verde statistical operation providing a deeper understanding of those characteristics, and indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals.
RUBEN HASBUN (El Salvador), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the Cairo Programme of Action remains a crucial and valid strategic framework. Recalling that his country has withdrawn its reservations vis-à-vis the Programme of Action, he expressed concern about current rhetoric dealing with commitments which have already been adopted. Backtracking is not possible if Member States want to address the diverse issues on the population agenda. He voiced concern at high rates of sexual violence and femicide against women, adding that El Salvador will continue to promote the drafting of a multilateral legal instrument to protect the rights and dignity of older persons.
NICOLE SATCHA HEW-A-KEE (Suriname), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said that her country’s newly launched National Strategic Plan for Health and Welfare 2019-2028 requires the Government to work closely with non-governmental organizations to develop the health-care system in the country. To address territorial inequality, efforts are under way to give indigenous and tribal peoples in remote areas greater access to the basic services. Gender perspectives in policymaking and implementation are being mainstreamed under the Gender Vision 2021-2035 towards achieving gender parity.
ALBA AMAWI (Jordan) reaffirmed her Government’s commitment to implementing the Programme of Action adopted in Cairo 25 years ago. Jordan has adopted the Roadmap 2020-2025, including the objectives in national budgets and statistical programmes. A number of measures have been taken to provide education for all, eliminate poverty and empower women and the youth. However, many challenges lie ahead. The conflict in Syria has negatively impacted her country, with 3 million refugees living in Jordan, including 2 million Syrians. This caused the population to grow and the budget deficit to increase, and has hindered economic development. Jordan has incorporated sexual and reproductive health policy within its human rights framework.
ROUA SHURBAJI (Syria), aligning with the Group of 77, said that the Programme of Action remains relevant and must guide efforts to implement development goals. However, the conflict in her country has made it difficult to tackle the population and development challenges. She pointed out that the political declaration stressed the need to mobilize resources to implement the Programme of Action. But unilateral economic measures imposed on the Syrian people hinder implementation of population and development programmes. The Syrian Government spares no effort to support displaced population, she said, criticizing those Governments imposing sanction measures for ignoring the root causes that created the refugee crisis.
JOSEPH N’GROUMA TANO (Côte d’Ivoire), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said national development plans have enabled his country to, among other things, significantly reduce poverty while redistributing the dividends of economic growth. Legislation has been adopted to protect women and promote their participation in decision-making, school attendance is mandatory for children between the ages of 6 and 16 and tax incentives encourage businesses to hire young people. Campaigns aim to change the behaviour of young people in terms of sexual health, alcohol and drug abuse, cybercrime and clandestine immigration. He urged the United Nations system, international and regional organizations and international financial institutions to step up their support for the collection, analysis and distribution of national data.
DEO RUBERINTWARI (Burundi), associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, announced that his Government has just launched a national development plan for the period 2018-2027. Among other measures, it aims to promote access to quality education while ensuring gender parity at the primary school level. A national gender policy has been introduced as well as legislation to prevent gender-based violence. Health care is free for children under the age of 5, pregnant women and women in labour, he said, adding that 85 per cent of expectant Burundian women now deliver in health centres. He appealed to Burundi’s partners to implement national development plans and ensure universal and fair access to quality health care.
JACQUELINE EDMOND (New Zealand) said universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Such access saves lives, she emphasized. New Zealand is committed to providing information and access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, she said, adding that it is proud that sexuality education is part of the national school curriculum. She went on to note its commitment to helping women lead independent lives, including deciding when to have children.
AMRIT BAHADUR RAI (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77, said progress on the Programme of Action has remained uneven both within and among countries. He pointed to national improvements in rates of mortality and fertility, with life expectancy up from 66 years in 2011 to 70 years in 2016. In 2014, Nepali women gave birth to an average of 2.3 children as compared with 6 in 1974. His Government is committed to reaping the demographic dividend through building the human capital of young people through quality education, health care, and decent work. He stressed that Nepal’s Constitution recognizes people as the centre for sustainable development, and protects sexual and reproductive health, motherhood, gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.
DILBAR ALIMJANOVA (Uzbekistan) said her country was one of the first in Central Asia to address the Programme of Action. With a young population, with 64 per cent under 30 years, the country is poised to benefit from demographic dividend. Her Government has set up a research centre named Family, focusing on research in reproductive health and offering practical assistance to families, helping create new jobs and promote health lifestyles and higher education. She pointed to a 55 per cent decrease in maternal mortality since 1990, 1,001 “units” across the country dealing with teenage pregnancies and women’s issues, and the adoption of a presidential decree to support women and the family. Measures are being taken to prevent violence against women, and the country has set up 160 social assistance centres nationwide.