Experts Warn of ‘Perfect Storm’, amid Debt, Food, Energy Crises, as Commission on Population and Development Opens Fifty-Fifth Session
Against the backdrop of shifting population demographics, conflicts, post-pandemic economic shocks and climate change, the developing world is on the brink of a “perfect storm” of debt, food and energy crises, experts warned today, as the Commission on Population and Development opened its fifty-fifth session.
Senior officials from across the United Nations system delivered opening remarks focused on the session’s special theme — “Population and sustainable development, in particular sustained and inclusive economic growth” — while also sounding the alarm over the unequal recovery from COVID-19 and the notable reductions in public spending to support youth, older people and other highly vulnerable population groups.
Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), warned of a systemic debt crisis unfolding for billions in the developing world, with inflation at a multi-decade high and civil unrest brewing in all corners of the world. She drew attention to the world’s large population of young people and empowered women, expressing hope that their ideas and examples will break the long-standing correlation between population and pollution. “To talk about population is to talk about the great sweeping tides of history,” she said, adding that global policies require sympathy on a global level.
Enrique A. Manalo (Philippines), Chair of the Commission’s fifty-fifth session, said efforts to slow population growth, reduce poverty, realize economic progress, protect the environment and reduce unsustainable consumption and production are all mutually reinforcing. Those insights — outlined in the Programme of Action agreed at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt — are as relevant today as ever, he emphasized, pointing out that poverty and inequality are gaining renewed attention amid the pandemic. He said that whereas population growth is not the cause of the world’s challenges, it nevertheless compounds and makes them more difficult to tackle. He went on to welcome the Commission’s agreement on a special theme after years of gridlock.
Amina Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, agreed that the pandemic lent a fresh urgency to the challenges under discussion by the Commission. COVID-19 kept boys and girls out of school, increased the burden of care work — especially for women — and exacerbated gender-based violence, she said. Meanwhile, the world remains far off track on the goal of eliminating hunger and malnutrition by 2030, and the numbers of people affected by hunger are projected to increase by tens of millions as the war in Ukraine causes food and energy prices to skyrocket. “In the face of this gathering storm of adversity, we must come together as an international community,” she said, adding: “We urgently need to renew the social contract to rebuild trust and social cohesion.”
Meanwhile, Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), underscored the “decidedly female face” that every major crisis bears — including the coronavirus pandemic. It is the face of a woman haunted by gender-based violence, she said, of a girl excluded from school, or pregnant before her body is ready as barriers are thrown up against sexual and reproductive health services. She went on to emphasize that COVID-19 made painfully clear the need for massive investments in national health systems that are universal, resilient, data-driven and adequately staffed, and in family planning services. “Lack of bodily autonomy and reproductive choices continue to block women’s path to equality and full participation in economic life,” she said, expressing concern over declining funding for population-related matters — especially sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights — as countries shift their priorities amid the pandemic.
Delivering a keynote address was Jayati Ghosh, Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who emphasized that the “perfect storm” of challenges described by Ms. Grynspan cannot be tackled without inclusion. That means reducing inequalities, which will always engender backlash and pushback, she cautioned. Noting that the multiple world crises are not, in fact, the result of “too many people” — but instead of humanity’s unequal socioeconomic arrangements — she cited the imbalance characterizing responsibility for climate change as one example. She went on to express concern over continuing disinvestment in care work, a burden that will only increase amid future demographic challenges and impacts of climate change, warning: “If we do not empower women … we will be unable to deal with the major challenges facing society.”
Gabriela Rodríguez Ramírez, Secretary-General of Mexico’s Consejo Nacional de Población, said on behalf of a group of States that sustained and inclusive economic growth can only be realized when societies protect and respect women’s rights — including their sexual and reproductive health and rights. All women and girls must have the ability to make their own choices about their own bodies and futures, free of discrimination and violence, to marry or not, to have children or not, she said, stressing that comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services must be “front and centre”. She joined other speakers in pointing out that COVID-19 compounded the “shadow pandemic” of sexual and gender-based violence, while also interrupting sexual health services and threatening hard-won development gains.
Abimbola Salu-Hundeyin, Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Population Commission, expressed concern that Africa — where two thirds of the world’s projected population growth will occur — suffered disproportionately from COVID-related economic shocks and from severely limited resources more broadly. Reiterating calls for vaccine equity, she also emphasized the need for greater international support to enhance the continent’s productive capacities and for an open and fair international trading system. The global community must also implement instruments that prevent illicit financial flows and devote itself to innovative financing, digital connectivity, food security and job creation, she stressed.
Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, Norway’s Minister for International Development, said major challenges continued to face the implementation of the Programme of Action, including discriminatory laws that remain in place in many countries. Too many young people lack the knowledge they need to make responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, leaving them vulnerable to coercion, child marriage, and unintended pregnancy, she warned. Citing UNFPA data, she said half of all pregnancies are unintended, 60 per cent of those end in abortion and unsafe abortion causes 800 maternal deaths each day. “We cannot turn a blind eye to this situation,” she stressed, calling for strengthening access to sexual and reproductive health and rights — including the right to safe and legal abortion.
Also delivering opening remarks was Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
The Commission also held a panel discussion and began its general discussion, which will continue throughout the week-long session.
In other business, the Commission elected the following by acclamation: Antonin Bieke (Côte d’Ivoire), Mayra Lisseth Sorto (El Salvador) and Sara Offermans (Netherlands) as Vice-Chairs, and Andrei Nicolenco (Republic of Moldova) to serve as Rapporteur.
Members also approved the provisional agenda (document E/CN.9/2022/1) and provisional organization of work for the session (document E/CN.9/2022/L.1/Rev.1), on the understanding that further adjustments may be made to the latter as warranted during the course of the session. It also approved an oral decision permitting the submission of pre-recorded videos to be played during the session’s general discussion.
Also speaking during the general discussion were high-level Government officials and representatives of Denmark (for Nordic countries), Philippines, Honduras, India, Guyana, Egypt, Mongolia, Peru, Dominican Republic, Malawi, China, Indonesia, Maldives, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, Netherlands, Zambia, South Africa, Kenya, Sweden, United Kingdom, Côte d’Ivoire, Turkey, Cuba, Uganda, Luxembourg, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Colombia, Belarus, Nepal, Senegal and Malaysia.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of India and Pakistan.
The Commission on Population and Development will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 26 April, to continue its work.
ENRIQUE A. MANALO (Philippines), Chair of the fifty-fifth session of the Commission on Population and Development, said the session’s focus on sustained and inclusive economic growth is closely related to Chapter III of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development. That chapter emphasizes the need to integrate population considerations into development strategies, while highlighting the connections between population, sustained economic growth and poverty on one hand, and between population and the environment on the other, he noted. It emphasizes that efforts to slow population growth, reduce poverty, realize economic progress, improve environmental protection and reduce unsustainable consumption and production patterns are mutually reinforcing.
Those insights remain as relevant today as they were 28 years ago, when the Programme of Action was developed, he said, adding that poverty and inequality are now receiving renewed attention due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, other parts of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development focus on unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, including their impacts on environmental degradation and climate change, he noted, emphasizing that whereas those problems are not driven primarily by human population increase, they are all compounded, and made more difficult to address, by continuing population growth. It is therefore encouraging that global population growth is continuing to slow thanks to reductions in fertility, he said. Higher standards of living also bring increased risks of environmental degradation, with continued dependence on fossil fuels, the emissions from which are the main drivers of climate change.
He went on to recall that in 2021, after several years of stalemate, the Commission was able to reach consensus around a resolution on the special theme of the session, thereby demonstrating the Commission’s continued relevance and providing an important contribution to the Economic and Social Council’s High-level Political Forum on sustainable development. Pledging to build on the success of the last session, he pointed out: “Soon, our planet will welcome its eight billionth inhabitant. Let us demonstrate the continued relevance of this Commission, [and] let us focus on what we have in common rather than what divides us.”
AMINA MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the issues on the Commission’s agenda have become even more urgent since the onset of COVID-19. The virus has caused more than 6 million deaths worldwide, and excess mortality figures suggest that millions more have died from the disease or indirectly from its impacts, she noted. The pandemic has kept boys and girls out of school, increased the burden of care work, especially for women, and exacerbated gender-based violence. Meanwhile, the world remains far off track on the goal of eliminating hunger and malnutrition by 2030, she said. Indeed, the numbers of people affected by hunger are projected to increase by tens of millions, as the war in Ukraine causes food and energy prices to skyrocket.
In response to the triple emergency facing food, energy and finance ‑ felt acutely by many developing countries ‑ the Secretary-General created a Global Crisis Response Group to propose innovative solutions, she continued. The Group released its first brief a week ago, and preliminary analysis indicates that at least 107 developing economies — home to 1.7 billion people — are severely exposed to at least one of the three crises, while 69 countries are severely exposed to all three. Meanwhile, recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that the world is on a fast track to climate disaster, with Governments and corporations failing to deliver on their climate promises, she pointed out.
“In the face of this gathering storm of adversity, we must come together as an international community,” she emphasized. During the current session, members will need to renew their commitment to ensuring that population and macroeconomic policies support sustained and inclusive economic growth and provide people with opportunities to fulfil their potential, she added. “We urgently need to renew the social contract to rebuild trust and social cohesion.” It should enable young people to live in dignity, ensure women have the same prospects and opportunities as men, and protect the sick, the vulnerable and minorities of all kinds, she stressed.
Pointing out that most countries are experiencing progressive population ageing and facing corresponding fiscal pressures, she said Governments must respond by prioritizing investments in the care economy, lifelong learning a well as decent work and healthy lifestyles for all ages. At the same time, she pointed out, the world is faced with a unique opportunity — the largest youth population in human history. “It is paramount that we make use of the population dividend, and that we invest in young people to unlock their full potential,” she said. The Secretary-General will therefore convene a Transforming Education Summit in September to mobilize action, ambition, solidarity and solutions to that end, she noted. She went on to underline that the world has no choice but to address the climate crisis, rebuild economies ravaged by COVID-19 and armed conflict, achieve gender equality, and provide universal access to reproductive health services, including family planning.
NATALIA KANEM, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing conflicts and other recent developments show, once again, that “every crisis has a decidedly female face”. It is the face of a woman haunted by gender-based violence, of a girl married or mutilated against her will, or pregnant before her body is ready, as barriers are thrown up against protective sexual and reproductive health services, she added, emphasizing that it is the face of a girl excluded from school due to pandemic disruptions, and further excluded from learning by poverty and the digital divide.
She recalled that, during the 2019 Nairobi Summit marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, participants reiterated the importance of rights and choices for all as critical to realizing sustainable development and inclusive economic growth. Yet, the recent report of the High-Level Commission on the Nairobi Summit follow-up, titled “No Exceptions, No Exclusions: Realizing sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice for all” notes distressing setbacks around the world, she noted. The report calls for ambitious, deliberate, comprehensive action to achieve sexual and reproductive justice for all, she added, stressing: “We cannot afford further reversals — the stakes for women, girls and young people, and for their societies, are far too high.”
Meanwhile, COVID-19 made painfully clear the need for massive investments in national health systems that are universal, resilient, data-driven and adequately staffed, she said. Citing many unique benefits of investing in comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, she said family planning improves health outcomes and enables women and girls to remain in school and acquire skills that will raise their lifetime earnings. It is estimated that every dollar invested in ending preventable maternal deaths and unmet need for family planning will bring nearly $9 in economic benefits by 2050, she noted.
Against that backdrop, UNFPA’s 2022 State of World Population Report, titled “Seeing the Unseen: The case for action in the neglected crisis of unintended pregnancy”, reveals that nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended she said. “Lack of bodily autonomy and reproductive choices continue to block women’s path to equality and full participation in economic life,” she added, calling for targeted action to eliminate the structural barriers, discriminatory laws and social norms that impede women’s economic opportunities and lead to gender inequalities in pay, access to capital, pensions and other forms of social protection. She called upon all Governments to collect and use timely, high-quality, disaggregated data, underlining that “you can’t change what you can’t see”, while expressing concern over declining funding for population-related matters — especially sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.
LIU ZHENMIN, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the theme of the current session, “Population and sustainable development, in particular sustained and inclusive economic growth”, provides an opportunity to explore key linkages between population trends and sustainable development. The rise of income inequality in countries around the world has highlighted the need for inclusive economic growth that supports shared prosperity across populations, he added. Noting that aggregate economic growth has been neither sustained over time nor inclusive across or within countries, regions or the global population, he said that lack of inclusivity has been well documented, including in the World Social Reports of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). From 1990 through the late 2000s, the growth of global economic output was positive but quite variable, he noted, recalling that it dipped into negative territory during the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Per capita income rose quickly over the following decade but then fell sharply again in 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
The global economy started to recover in 2021 but is now being hit hard by the disruptions and instability caused by the armed conflict in Ukraine, he continued. That crisis is contributing to increased food insecurity not only in Eastern Europe and neighbouring regions, but also in Africa and in developing countries throughout the world, he said, adding that the Secretary-General has established a Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance to coordinate a global response to the conflict’s worldwide impacts. In its first brief, released on 13 April, the Group highlighted the need for collective action, he noted. Its recommendations emphasized the need to help the most vulnerable populations around the world, including by ensuring sufficient supplies of nutritious food for all people and access to humanitarian food assistance, he said. Further proposals include making strategic petroleum reserves available in the short term while doubling down on the transition to renewable energy in the medium term. He went on to emphasize the need for shifts across existing international financing mechanisms to provide developing countries with much-needed debt relief and emergency financing to ensure they can meet the needs of their populations.
REBECA GRYNSPAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), warned that the developing world is on the brink of a “perfect storm” of a food and energy crisis, emphasizing that global exposure to the crisis can be counted in the billions of people in more than 100 countries. A systemic debt crisis is unfolding, with inflation at a multi-decade high and instances of civil unrest brewing in all corners of the world, she said.
Against that backdrop, progress towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals has been severely hampered in the last few years and inequalities are rising, she continued. Population growth is a good predictor of rising energy use and per capita income an even better predictor, she said, pointing out that the countries contributing most to unsustainable patterns of consumption are those in which income per capita is high and population growth slow. Population growth itself is history’s greatest agent of change, she noted.
Today, the world has the greatest number of empowered women in all of history, as well as the most diverse and informed youth, she said, while pointing out that they are also the ones suffering most from the crisis. It may well be that women and coming generations, with their ideas and examples, will break the correlation between population and pollution, she said, stressing that women and young people must be empowered and the world must listen to them. Population planning has implications for sustainable development, she said, cautioning that how that is dealt with depends on the capacity to sympathize with the reality of the individuals involved. “To talk about population is to talk about the great sweeping tides of history,” she said, adding that global policies require global sympathies.
JAYATI GHOSH, Professor in the Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, delivered the keynote address, declaring: “Inclusion is absolutely essential if we are to meet the global challenges of today.” Emphasizing that the “perfect storm” of challenges described by Ms. Grynspan cannot be dealt with unless approached with inclusion, she said that in effect means reducing inequalities, which will always engender backlash and pushback where there are people who stand to lose. She went on to stress that the world’s multiple crises are not, in fact, the result of “too many people” or population growth, but, instead, of humanity’s current socioeconomic arrangements and how they have created and intensified inequality.
Noting that spatial inequalities remain massive, she said the world’s rich countries — now accounting for less than 15 per cent of the world’s population — are responsible for 85 per cent of historical carbon emissions, and even with their current commitments, will account for 60 per cent of emissions until 2050. “That means even the ways we have promised to deal with the problem will continue to perpetuate extreme inequality,” she said, drawing attention to inequalities within countries themselves. Currently, the richest 10 per cent of people in the world account for nearly half of all carbon emissions, emitting more than 100 times per person than the poorest half of the world’s population, she added, pointing out that half of those emissions are from citizens of North America and the European Union, and around a fifth from citizens of China and India.
“In fact, the bottom half of the world’s income distribution has reduced its carbon emissions in the last decade,” she continued. Yet, carbon emission-control policies are often centred on such ideas as carbon taxes, which disproportionately hit the poor and do not confront the excess consumption of the rich. Also spotlighting the serious and continuing disinvestment in care work, she said that work is delivered largely by unpaid workers — mainly women — who remain unrecognized, unrewarded, overworked and underrepresented. “We have to change that,” she said, emphasizing that care demands will only increase amid future demographic changes and the new impacts of climate change-associated disasters and shifts.
“If we do not empower women … we will be unable to deal with the major challenges facing society,” she warned. Calling for specific, immediate and doable policies that will enable countries to more effectively pursue sustainable development, she said economies must be rearranged with a focus on a “multicoloured New Deal”. That new system must be green to take account of nature and the climate; blue to recognize growing concerns about water; purple to recognize, value and invest in the care economy; and red to bring down obscene inequalities. Such an economy must also be led by public spending, regulated for the public good and focused on redistribution, she added.
FLEMMING MØLLER MORTENSEN, Minister for Development Cooperation and Minister for Nordic Cooperation of Denmark, spoke on behalf of the Nordic countries. Condemning the war of aggression against Ukraine, he expressed deep concern over reports of sexual violence in areas controlled by the Russian military. Sexual and reproductive health and rights save lives and are a precondition for sustainable development and sustained economic growth, he emphasized. When individuals are allowed to make informed choices about their sexuality and reproductive health, they are able to make a greater contribution to economic markets, he added. Pointing out that half of all pregnancies are unplanned, he underscored the essential need for access to comprehensive sex education, contraception and safe abortion in order to enable economic empowerment, reduction of poverty and sustainable development.
Describing the current global youth population as the largest ever, he stressed that strengthening education — including sex education — is key to reaping the dividends of a younger population. Education systems should not promote harmful gender norms, he said, calling for the inclusion of men and boys in that effort. He went on to point out that women and girls are more likely to work in the informal sector and to carry the burden of unpaid care work, stressing the need to ensure their access to decent jobs and equal pay for work of equal value. Women and girls are the hardest hit by climate change and any adaptation strategy must recognize the important of strengthening women, girls and societies, he said.
GABRIELA RODRÍGUEZ RAMÍREZ, Secretary-General of the Consejo Nacional de Población of Mexico, spoke on behalf of a group of countries, emphasizing that sustained and inclusive economic growth can only be realized when societies protect and respect women’s rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights. All women and girls must have the ability to make their own choices about their own bodies and futures, free of discrimination and violence, to marry or not, to have children or not, she said, stressing. that comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services must be “front and centre”.
Noting that the pandemic has interrupted sexual health services and threatens hard-won gains, she said it has also accelerated the feminization of poverty, with women more likely than men to leave the labour market, and girls less likely than boys to return to learning when schools reopen. COVID-19 also compounded the “shadow pandemic” of sexual and gender-based violence, she noted. Stressing that adolescents and other young people must have access to quality education in order to break the cycle of poverty, she said they must be empowered through comprehensive sexuality education and access to sexual and reproductive health services in order to make informed decisions about their health and their lives.
KARL KENDRICK CHUA, Secretary for Socioeconomic Planning of the Philippines, said his country had made significant progress in its pursuit of the goals of the Programme of Action before the outbreak of COVID-19 by enacting various policies. Whereas its Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, which increased the use of modern contraception among married women, Enhanced Basic Education Act and Universal Health Care Act lifted millions of Filipinos out of poverty, the pandemic reversed some of those gains, leading to job losses and lockdowns, he said. However, the Philippines continued to push forward with many important social and economic reforms, including its plan to reach all Filipinos with State identification that will improve access to social services, he noted. After contracting in 2020, the economy took a positive turn in 2021, rising by 5 per cent, thanks largely to high vaccination rates, he said, adding that, going forward, the Government plans to put poor and vulnerable people at the centre of its policies, focus on building smart infrastructure, and reinvigorate its climate change mitigation and adaptation plans, among other changes.
JOSÉ CARLOS CARDONA ERAZO, Minister for Social Development of Honduras, outlined some of his country’s population statistics, saying it hopes to take advantage of its large youth population in the coming decades. However, Honduras also has one of the highest unemployment and extreme poverty rates in Latin America and the Caribbean, he pointed out. The Government seeks to reduce poverty through policies that target the most vulnerable, while also improving gender equality and working to reach all people with access to sexual and reproductive health services, he said. Pledging his country’s commitment to the Cairo Programme of Action, the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development and the Sustainable Development Goals, he said those broader plans form the basis for much of Honduras’ own planning and results-based frameworks, as well as its plans to realize sustainable growth.
MANSUKH MANDAVIYA, Minister for Health and Family Welfare of India, noted that half of his country’s population is under the age of 25, which provides an opportunity to reap economic dividends and invest in education, employment and social protections. Gender equality is a central goal of his country, he said. Noting that India’s economic growth in 2021-2022 increased by 9.2 per cent, he added that its expenditure on health as a proportion of GDP has risen by 2 per cent. Economic growth is increasingly driven by green energy initiatives and environmental considerations, he affirmed. Emphasizing that the Government’s priority was to provide a safety net to all, especially vulnerable members of society, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, he said its vaccine was free of cost for all eligible citizens. India also provided vaccines to more than 100 countries, reducing vaccine inequality. He went on to note that India’s population growth is stabilizing and family planning services have improved, while maternal health services are improving.
ANNE BEATHE TVINNEREIM, Minister for International Development of Norway, said major challenges to implementation of the Programme of Action persist, noting: “We continue to have to spend time and resources to protect what we agreed on in Cairo 28 years ago from well-organized attack, instead of using these resources to make further advances.” Emphasizing that gender equality is necessary to ensure sustainable and inclusive growth, she pointed out that, in many countries, discriminatory laws and practices remain in place. “Too many women and girls are living lives in which sexual and reproductive health and rights are still only a distant dream,” she said, noting that the majority of young people lack the knowledge they need to make responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, which leaves them vulnerable to coercion, child marriage, infection and unintended pregnancy. Citing UNFPA figures, she said half of all pregnancies are unintended, 60 per cent end in abortion, and unsafe abortion causes 800 maternal deaths each day. “We cannot turn a blind eye to this situation,” she stressed, calling for the strengthening of access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including the right to safe and legal abortion.
HUGH HILTON TODD, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Guyana, emphasized that people must be at the centre of all strategies for sustainable development and economic growth. Affirming his country’s support for the 1994 Programme of Action, he said financing remains critical and called for greater efforts to strengthen national, regional and international capacity. Guyana prioritizes inclusive economic growth focused on adequate employment, significant entrepreneurial activities and a sustainable and diverse economy underpinned by sustainable production and consumption patterns, he said. It also prioritizes universal access to high quality social services, strong institutions conducive to inclusive governance, climate mitigation and sufficient protection for the most vulnerable. Guyana is pursuing ambitious plans to reduce food insecurity and working to improve food production across the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region, he said. In addition, the Government provides tangible support for education, including by providing 20,000 online scholarships, and is mainstreaming gender across all its plans and policies.
KHALED ABDEL GHAFAR, Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research, and Acting Minister for Health and Population of Egypt, noted that his country has taken several steps in implementing the objectives and recommendations of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Sustainable Development Goals, including policies and programmes targeting the economic empowerment of women. Egypt continues to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and was ranked fourth in the Middle East and North Africa in the Global Report on the Gender Gap for 2021, he noted, adding that it overcame the gender gap in school enrolment between 2010 and 2020. Egypt is capable of reducing the poverty rate by 5 per cent and has adopted programmes to improve the education and health levels of targeted families. He went on to say that her country also launched a national project for the development of rural areas, as well as a national housing strategy to cover all cities with basic services. Pointing out that 34.2 per cent of Egypt’s population is under the age of 15 and 61 per cent under the age of 30, he stressed that investing in young people is of great importance for the future, and the Government has been committed to enhancing the provision of basic services to youth, particularly in education and training.
ARIUNZAYA AYUSH (Mongolia) said her country’s long-term development plan, “Vision 2050”, aims to ensure sustainable socioeconomic development in order to improve the quality of life for citizens. Noting that the Government took the necessary measures in response to COVID-19, she said the resulting economic crisis has become a major national challenge for Mongolia, whose economy had been growing from 2017 to 2019 but then declined towards the end of 2020. She noted that inflation reached 11.2 per cent in 2021, an increase of 8.9 percentage points from 2020, and emphasized that private-public partnerships will be the key to improving productivity, boosting the economy and building up infrastructure.
DIANA MILOSLAVICH (Peru), recalling that her country presided over the Board of Directors of the Third Meeting of the Regional Conference on Population and Development in 2018, said the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development remains a strategic roadmap for the Latin America and Caribbean region to safeguard the well-being of its entire population. Its focus is on girls, boys, adolescents, older adults, women, migrants, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, the LGBTI population and persons with disabilities, she noted. COVID-19 now threatens to reverse years of achievements in education, she said, adding that women’s employment suffered heavily, falling by 8 per cent in 2020. The pandemic further revealed and exacerbated the challenge of gender-based violence. Outlining some Government responses, she said all services for preventing and responding to violence were declared essential and bonds were paid out to the most vulnerable. Peru is also working to enact a National Care System, designed in consultation with citizens, she added.
Mr. ISA CONTRERAS (Dominican Republic) said that, like many others, his country expects that the boost to economic growth offered by its “demographic bonus” will begin to show signs of exhaustion within the current decade. Outlining the likely implications of that shift, he said demand for health and social security services will grow significantly as the population grows older, and fiscal stress is likely to increase. While slower growth in the labour force could be partly offset by immigration, the lower qualifications and wages usually associated with immigrant workers could create unacceptable working conditions and exacerbate inequality, he warned. In addition, demographic changes will probably increase the demand for care services, which is underrecognized work carried out almost exclusively by women. Against that backdrop, he called for a productive transformation that accelerates economic growth, counteracts the adverse effects of demographic change and creates higher-quality jobs that are less precarious, more stable, better paid and more protected. Education, training and job skills development are needed, as are an expanded tax base and strengthening of health care, social protection and labour policies.
ENOCK PHALE, Deputy Minister for Health of Malawi, said his country’s national policies and development goals are closely aligned with global priorities, including the Sustainable Development Goals. Noting that the fertility rate is 4.2 and the population is forecast to reach 45.1 million by 2060, he said that reflects an increase of 35 per cent over the last decade. A total of 42 per cent of the population is under 15 years old. He went on to say the “Malawi 2063” strategy targets education, health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, fertility and widening economic opportunities for all. The goal is to create a modern economy and achieve middle-income status, he said, emphasizing that human capital is central to those aims. However, Malawi’s large rural population — coupled with the impacts of climate change — leaves its natural environment under enormous stress, he noted. Meanwhile, rapid population growth has translated into low per capita expenditure and made it difficult to eradicate hunger while providing adequate education and health care, he added.
YU XUEJUN, Vice Minister, National Health Commission of China, noted that his country, the world’s most populous, has always attached great importance to population issues, adhering to the vision of inclusive economic growth. He noted that China's per capita life expectancy further increased from 76.3 years in 2015 to 77.93 years in 2020, and exceeded 78 years in 2021. In 2020, China eradicated absolute poverty for the first time, meeting the Sustainable Development Goal of poverty reduction 10 years ahead of schedule, he stated. Pointing to the people’s changing views of marriage and childbirth, he highlighted policies and measures taken by the Government to actively respond to the ageing of the population. Underlining the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on population, he said China adheres to a strategy of preventing the virus from entering its territory and causing the COVID-19 resurgence domestically, as well as a policy of “dynamic Zero-COVID”. China also works to improve its COVID protocols and continuously follows through on vaccination, he added.
MUHAMMAD RIZAL MARTUA DAMANIK, Deputy Minister for Training, Research and Development, National Board for Population and Family Planning of Indonesia, said consideration of population and sustainable development are essential in the advancement of Indonesia’s development vision. The Government has integrated population into its economic and development strategies, accelerating the pace of sustainable development, he noted. It has also launched a set of legal frameworks related to population, reproductive health, family planning and sustainable and inclusive economic growth. He went on to say that the Government is making good progress in its recovery from the pandemic, noting that it has allocated funding for health services, including family planning, reproductive health and social protections. In 2022, Indonesia reached 75 per cent of its second COVID-19 vaccine national plan, covering all women, children and the elderly, he reported.
FATHIMATH NIUMA, Deputy Minister for National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure of the Maldives, noted that her country’s GDP declined by 34 per cent as a result of the pandemic, but due to the early implementation of recovery policies and the return of tourism, it has rebounded. The Government is working to realize universal education and health coverage while addressing the needs of the general population and advancing gender equality, she said, adding that COVID has reinforced the importance of sustained economic growth in overcoming global challenges. Highlighting her country’s policy to vaccinate all residents — irrespective of nationality or residency status — she said that pragmatic approach has provided an effective response.
GABRIELA RODRÍGUEZ RAMÍREZ, Secretary-General of the Consejo Nacional de Población of Mexico, said her country has seen growth among its older population, which calls for better access to social services. Noting that much unpaid care work is done by women, she said the Government is laying the groundwork for a National Care System and has developed plans for a non-contributory pension system for everyone over the age of 65 as a constitutional right. She went on to spotlight plans to move from a linear development model to a circular one, emphasizing the need to respond to the local context and invest in sustainable infrastructure projects as a driver of economic growth. Other post-pandemic initiatives include projects to get children back in school, focusing on youth mental health, and providing comprehensive, secular and science-based sexuality education to young people, she said, recalling that Mexico recently found the right to abortion to be constitutional.
ABIMBOLA SALU-HUNDEYIN, Federal Commissioner of the National Population Commission of Nigeria, associated herself with the African Group, saying COVID-19 exacerbated pre-existing challenges in developing countries, particularly in Africa. Emphasizing the need to leave no one behind in the global recovery effort, she noted with concern that Africa — where two thirds of the world’s projected population growth will occur — still suffers from severely limited resources. The dysfunctional effects of that imbalance include complex conflicts, terrorism, insecurity and violent extremism — which continue to drive displacement and humanitarian emergencies on the continent — and the relatively low share of COVID-19 vaccines disbursed there.
Ms. AL‑ABBADI (Jordan) said her country has a young population, half of whom are under 22 years old and one third of whom are children. That generates an impetus for continued economic growth and puts pressure on the country’s limited resources, she said, outlining the Government’s new National Population Strategy (2021-2030) and several critical challenges, including waves of forced asylum-seekers. Pointing out that 30 per cent of his country’s population are non-Jordanians, he said the Government faces a major deficit in financing national response plans, due in part to the international community’s own weak support. Against that backdrop, she spotlighted national initiatives to reform education, provide entrepreneurship training, strengthen social protections, reduce poverty and improve the provision of basic services. She went on to state that scarce water resources and lack of access to energy, the pandemic’s economic impacts and other challenges impeded Jordan’s efforts in pursuit of sustainable economic growth, which did not exceed an average of 2.6 per cent in the last decade, she said.
CLAUDINE AOUN, President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women of Lebanon, said over the last few years, her country’s focus has been on women’s empowerment because women are disproportionately impacted by factors that hinder growth, such as climate change. Noting that Parliament has criminalized sexual harassment and introduced measures to prevent sexual violence, she said a set of measures were introduced to protect women from human trafficking and cyberbullying. Further, the Government will enact a law to set the minimum age for marriage at 18 years. Pointing out that women leave the job market primarily to care for families and children, she said the Government is trying to provide kindergarten services in order to enable women to work. Some 44 per cent of the Lebanese people are under the age of 24, she said, explaining why the Government attaches great importance to education and distance learning requirements. Despite the economic crisis confronting Lebanon, it still provides basic needs for Syrian displaced persons and refugees, she said.
SAMAR ALSIBAI, Chairperson, Syrian Commission for Family Affairs and Population of Syria, said the terrorist war imposed on her country over the past years and the hostile policies of some Governments have generated a set of challenges. The crimes of terrorist organizations and their sponsors have inflicted serious damage, while the unilateral coercive measures imposed by some countries have had a serious impact on the lives of Syrians, leading to major losses of jobs and incomes, she said, adding that those measures have forced many young people to seek asylum. Among the consequent challenges is the loss of the ability to harness that demographic, she noted.
WISAL OSMAN, Secretary General of the National Population Council of Sudan, said her country has made efforts to integrate the Cairo Programme of Action across all its sectors. However, those plans have been constrained by complex external and internal factors, including challenges following the youth-led December 2018 political revolution. While that transition remains the country’s greatest source of hope — having made progress towards lifting sanctions and opening Sudan up for new investment opportunities — those strides have been weakened by political unrest and the onset of COVID-19, she said. Noting that consumer prices and rising inflation have increased the suffering of the most vulnerable people and food insecurity is rising, she said the Government is nevertheless pressing forward with critical reforms and thinking pragmatically about how best to harness its scarce resources during the present critical time. In that regard, she called upon stakeholders and partners to improve their support through such innovative strategies as resource pooling and budget reallocation.
The Commission then convened the first of several expert panel discussions to be held throughout the week-long session. It focused on the contents of three reports of the Secretary-General before the Commission: “Population and sustainable development, in particular sustained and inclusive economic growth” (document E/CN.9/2022/2); “Programmes and interventions for the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development in the context of population and sustainable development, in particular sustained and inclusive economic growth” (document E/CN.9/2022/3); and “The flow of financial resources for assisting in the further implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (document E/CN.9/2022/4).
Moderated by Commission Vice-Chair Antonin Bieke (Côte d’Ivoire), it featured presentations by the following panellists: Jorge Bravo, Chief, Population Policies and Development Branch, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Rachel Snow, Chief, Population and Development Branch, Technical Division, UNFPA; Moritz Meier-Ewert, Economic Affairs Officer at UNCTAD’s New York Office; and Jemimah Njuki, Chief, Economic Empowerment, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).
Mr. BRAVO, asked about the links between population trends and sustained, inclusive economic growth in different parts of the world, said the decline in population growth rates and the increasing share of working-age populations — especially in countries with previously high to intermediate levels of fertility in Africa, Asia and parts of Latin America — has favoured increased per capita economic growth, sometimes called the “first demographic dividend”. Countries with lower fertility and more advanced population ageing can also reap a second demographic dividend by increasing savings in anticipation of longer life expectancy, he noted. Governments that have implemented policies to increase access to education, health services and employment opportunities for women have further boosted those dividends, he said, adding that they have broadly helped to reduce sociodemographic inequalities. However, COVID-19 exacerbated some pre-existing inequalities and progress towards achieving some of the Sustainable Development Goals remains off-track.
Ms. SNOW, asked what barriers to sustained and inclusive economic growth the Cairo Programme of Action and related parts of the 2030 Agenda addresses, and how current development aid allocations help address those challenges, replied that inequality is the “number one barrier” to inclusive economic growth. Creating decent jobs has become even more challenging during the pandemic, which has caused job losses and relegated more people to fragile employment, she said. Women represent a larger share of the world’s poor, with lower earnings at all ages, less access to cash income and diminished inheritance rights, she added. In his report on “Programmes and interventions”, the Secretary-General calls upon Member States to regularize benefits, protections and wages for care work, she noted, emphasizing that inequality should be addressed in all areas of life — including school and the workplace. She went on to note that the Secretary-General’s report on “Resource flows” shows that development aid for areas that matter for more sustained and inclusive economic growth remains inadequate, with very little spent on developing human capital or extending social protection.
Mr. MEIER-EWERT, asked how trade and other policies can best be leveraged to eradicate poverty and spur sustained economic growth in developing countries, said COVID-19 reversed recent poverty-reduction gains. The number of people in extreme poverty increased by an estimated 77 million people in recent years. He went on to emphasize that whereas trade can be important in supporting poverty eradication efforts, the link between trade and poverty reduction is nevertheless not automatic. Exports are often concentrated in one sector or region of the economy, such as the extractive industries, but least developed countries are unable to take advantage of market access opportunities, he explained. Against that backdrop, trade opportunities should be created in sectors where most of the poor work in order to expand employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. He went on to recommend that trade policy design take into account the impact of trade on vulnerable populations; assess the impact of trade on women; and seek complementary measures to help the poor take advantage of opportunities.
Ms. NJUKI, asked what long-term trends have been improving women’s economic empowerment, and what key areas have lagged, responded by echoing other speakers in citing COVID’s serious impact on women’s empowerment. While most affected countries have seen some recent improvements, global recovery has remained slow, as have employment generation and wage growth, she said. With shrinking opportunities for young people entering the labour market for the first time, informal employment has become pervasive and transitions to decent work are slow and difficult, she noted. The crisis has also had a disproportionate impact on youth, profoundly disrupting education, training and employment. Women have also been hard hit due to their overrepresentation in the worst-affected sectors and the care economies, while also doing most of the world’s unpaid work, she stated, calling for greater investments in care services and in social service expansion, each of which has the potential to create many decent jobs.
Asked which approaches are needed to maximize women’s empowerment while contributing to the pandemic recovery, she said more concerted action is needed by Governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations and the international community to prevent the further reversal of gains made. Drawing attention again to the pandemic’s impact on youth, she called for efforts to build dynamic, sustainable, and people-centred economies promoting not only youth employment, but also women’s economic empowerment and decent work for all — especially in developing countries.
Mr. MEIER-EWERT, asked what additional policies are needed to accelerate action towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals related to population and sustained and inclusive economic growth by 2030, replied that, as speakers mentioned this morning, developing countries are currently facing a “perfect storm” of overlapping crises leading to a sharp contraction in growth, larger debt burdens, the consequences of climate change, and rising food and fuel crises. Fearing rising inflation, central banks are raising interest rates, which is likely to lead to higher debt-servicing costs for heavily indebted countries. He said the key actions needed include extension of the debt service suspension initiative, and debt relief for countries at risk of debt distress; actions to prevent export bans and food hoarding; and domestic measures to cushion the impact of rising food and fuel prices, among others.
Ms. SNOW, asked what key programmes and interventions will have the greatest benefits for sustained and inclusive economic growth, outlined some of the economic benefits of sexual and reproductive health and rights as well as strong health systems. Family planning not only leads to improved health outcomes, but is also a catalyst for poverty eradication, enabling women and girls to remain in school and acquire skills that raise their lifetime earnings, she noted. COVID-19 dramatically worsened the burdens on health systems and exposed the human cost of health systems that are not universal, not resilient, not data-driven, and that lack an adequate health workforce, she stressed.
Mr. BRAVO, asked to address the impact of key climate and environmental actions through a population lens, said much of the world’s future population growth is projected to take place in lower- and middle-income countries that will be likely to bear the brunt of climate change. Since developing countries need to keep growing their economies so as to continue their pursuit of poverty eradication, expanding investments in human capital, achieving full and productive employment as well as other Sustainable Development Goals, he emphasized. The world as a whole needs to implement measures to decouple economic activities from carbon emissions through improved energy efficiency and by switching from fossil fuels to low- or zero-carbon energy sources.
In the ensuing dialogue, representatives of Governments and civil society groups made comments and asked questions.
The representative of Cuba, emphasizing that only eight years remain until the 2030 Agenda’s target deadline, asked what can be done to tackle the inertia that took root during the pandemic and press forward with sustainable development.
The representative of Malawi, noting that low-income countries are struggling to pay back their debts, with a negative impact on their ability to realize the Sustainable Development Goals, asked what can be done to reverse that trend.
A representative of ACT Alliance, describing her organization as a coalition of churches working in developing countries, warned that the Commission’s discussions should not focus on traditional economic growth and gross domestic product (GDP) measurements, which continued to marginalize women and girls while disregarding the importance of unpaid care work.
A representative of the International Federation of Medical Students said misinformation is one of the main barriers to sexual and reproductive health and rights. She added that she would welcome a greater emphasis on access to such critical services and information in future reports of the Secretary-General. She asked how such issues could be better addressed in the future.
Ms. SNOW agreed that abundant misinformation exists on sexual and reproductive health and rights, saying she would welcome adding another Sustainable Development Goal indicator on literacy in that critical area. In response to Cuba’s representative, she agreed that the pandemic posed challenges to the achievement of 2030 Agenda targets, adding that considering an extension is an idea that has some value. However, she pointed out that there is more reporting today on Sustainable Development Goal indicators, which is a form of progress in and of itself.
Mr. BRAVO cited Brazil as an example of a country that has experimented with different policy measures in its efforts to realize the Sustainable Development Goals and was ultimately able to cut poverty in half. Those efforts have continued in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while Brazil may not totally eliminate extreme poverty by 2030, it is an example of lessons that can be learned from countries — particularly developing countries — as they seek to achieve the 2030 targets. He went on to spotlight the need for greater social spending on the part of Governments, and to take into account unpaid care work and the time women take off from the formal labour sector to have children.
Ms. NJUKI echoed some of those points, calling for universal and gender-responsive social support systems and noting that expanding care work also broadens a country’s tax base and yields economic benefits.
Mr. MEIER-EWERT agreed there is need to move beyond GDP as an economic measurement unit, noting that a movement to that effect is currently under way. Responding to Malawi’s representative, he said the United Nations has repeatedly called for greater support to countries struggling to pay their debts, noting that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has put forth several programmes with that aim.
LAURA BAS, Youth Ambassador for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Gender Equality and Bodily Autonomy of the Netherlands, associated herself with the statement delivered by Mexico. Noting that more than half the world’s population is younger than 30, she declared: “We are the largest generation in history.” She pointed out that they also make up the biggest group of future voters, consumers, workers and activists. This week, she said, the Commission will discuss inclusive and sustained economic growth, which depends on valuing women’s unpaid care and work, ensuring their economic empowerment and ending gender stereotypes. Young people around the world are also stressing that ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights is a precondition for sustainable economic development. “Research shows that [access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights education] contributes to fewer adolescent and unintended pregnancies, fewer unsafe abortions and less sexual and gender-based violence,” she said, calling for the inclusion of young people in decision-making on that front.
Mr. BANDA (Zambia) said his country has seen a marginal decline in its average fertility rate, from 5.3 children per woman in 2014 to 4.7 in 2018, with childhood mortality declining as well. The population is very young, with the proportion of children under 15 years at 45.2 per cent, he noted. To ensure continued protection for the poor and vulnerable, Zambia is scaling up social protection measures by increasing the number of beneficiaries, he said, adding that it is also strengthening its climate-change mitigation efforts.
LINTON MCHUNU (South Africa) said that sustained and inclusive growth can only be achieved if populations are educated, healthy, adequately skilled, gainfully employed and provided the space to be innovative. For those reasons, he added, South Africa has adopted a number of pro-poor policies and made crucial investments in youth, gender equality, human rights and the fundamental freedoms of all women and girls — including in their sexual and reproductive health and rights. South Africa, like all countries, continues to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, while emphasizing: “However, we have learned lessons from the experience of the pandemic and are now on a path of building back better and ensuring that we are ready for such shocks in the future.” The country is also working to mitigate the impacts of climate change, which have contributed to the devastating recent floods in South Africa’s eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, he noted.
Mr. TOROME (Kenya), associating himself with the African Group, said his country’s fertility rate has declined and is projected to decline further. Nonetheless, Kenya’s rapid population has led to increased demand on resources, which in turn has impacted issues such as climate change. The allocation of centralized funds in the national budget takes into account population size, he said, affirming that in order to ensure inclusive economic growth, the Government has put various policies in place with a view to empowering women, young people and persons with disabilities to overcome poverty. It has also revised its national population dividend roadmap to focus on rights and youth empowerment, among other areas, he noted.
Ms. ERNKRANS (Sweden), endorsing the statements delivered on behalf of the Nordic countries, the European Union as well as Mexico, emphasized the need to eliminate discriminatory legislation in order to achieve inclusive and sustained economic growth and development. If women and girls were able to enjoy their rights to decide freely if and when to have children, they would have better access to education and labour markets, she said. Calling for access to safe abortion care and services to prevent maternal mortality and morbidity, she also highlighted the need for women and men to share responsibility for unpaid domestic and care work, so that women can more easily participate in formal labour and have a better chance to find decent and well-paid jobs. Citing her own country’s efforts, she stressed the value of access to comprehensive sexuality education, modern methods of contraception and safe and legal abortion care and services.
Mr. CARTER (United Kingdom), associating himself with Mexico, said inclusive growth can only be achieved when all women and girls have their rights fulfilled, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. “We must do more to ensure that these rights are protected, particularly in humanitarian contexts,” he emphasized. Member States should act now to ensure that women, adolescents and girls around the world can access quality sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion, he said, urging them to prioritize the strengthening of health systems and explore innovative methods like telemedicine for the full realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The representative of Côte d’Ivoire, noting that the session comes at a time when the world is impacted by the pandemic’s aftermath, said the path back to travel is still far from ensuring economic development for everyone. Noting that his country wants to move from the category of medium-developed country based on its 2030 vision, he said the latter which aims to ensure sustained and inclusive economic growth by 2030. A number of difficulties must be overcome to put the population on the path to sustainable development and economic growth, he cautioned, while emphasizing that the Government has prioritized progress on education and social development, as well as reducing poverty.
Mr. URALDI (Turkey), noting that the principle of “leaving no one behind” means that social development has to encompass everyone, said the 2030 Agenda calls for a focus on vulnerable groups such as women and children, as well as the elderly and people with disabilities. The family is a bridge between the individual and society for raising children, he said, underscoring that when families become stronger, society also becomes stronger and more peaceful. Against that backdrop, strengthening the family is essential for social development, and policies aimed at strengthening the family are important in reducing social risks. Turkey’s social-support programme conducts visits to families in their homes and identifies their needs, he said, adding that it also carries out counselling services throughout the country to improve the problem-solving capacities of families. The Government also takes a family-oriented approach to people with disabilities, he added.
Mr. ALFONSO FRAGA (Cuba) emphasized that the 1994 Cairo Programme of Action remains fully valid today, and said developed countries should abide by their official development assistance (ODA) commitments, noting that such agreements are being openly questioned today. While Cuba continues to struggle against the backdrop of COVID-19 and the long-standing economic embargo imposed by the United States, the Government continues to extend strong benefits and services to its people, he affirmed. Cuba has updated its National Social and Economic Development Programme, linking most of its targets to the 2030 Agenda, and bases all its policies on just, equitable and sustainable approaches, he said. Cuba also ranks high on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index, and is starting to show signs of recovery from the pandemic’s negative impacts, he added.
JOTHAM MUSINGUZI (Uganda) said his country has a young population with more than 78 per cent aged 30 and below. The Government implements targeted interventions aimed at harnessing the demographic dividend and realizing its Vision 2040, with the goals of improving household incomes, enhancing productivity, increasing social well-being and boosting the quality of life for Ugandans, he added. Outlining some contents of the new National Population Policy, adopted in 2020, he stressed that the Government is prioritizing concrete actions to address poverty, speed up rural economic development and respond to climate change. He went on to recall that in 2021, the economy grew at a rate of 4.7 per cent; literacy rates increased from 54 per cent in 1990 to 72 per cent in 2016; fertility rates declined from 6.7 children per woman in 2006 to 5.4 children per woman in 2016; and life expectancy rose from 43 years in 1990 to 63 years in 2016.
OLIVIER MAES (Luxembourg), associating himself with the statement delivered by Mexico, noted that the fragile pandemic recovery, the impact of climate change and the spike in global food prices occasioned by the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine threaten progress — particularly in developing countries. “As we prepare for the fifth Conference on the Least Developed Countries, we must scale up dedicated support and redouble efforts to achieve the [Sustainable Development Goals]”, he added, welcoming the recent adoption of the Doha Programme of Action, which includes new commitments for the least developed countries during the period 2022-2031. At the same time, States that are most vulnerable to climate change and emerging challenges must not be left behind, he emphasized, stating in that regard that Luxembourg will continue to dedicate 1 per cent of its gross national income to ODA, with a focus on most vulnerable countries and populations. It will also continue to support the Funding Compact and to make flexible and predictable contributions to United Nations agencies, he said.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said that understanding population dynamics is essential as societies around the world strive to achieve the 2030 Agenda. For developing countries, a first priority is reducing poverty, especially in crisis and conflict situations, he added, emphasizing that people living under foreign occupation deserve generous political and economic support. Emergency humanitarian and economic support is essential in situations such as those in Afghanistan, occupied Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir, he stressed, adding that Pakistan endorses the Secretary-General’s call for larger concessional assistance, debt relief and mobilization of the promised $100 billion a year in climate finance to help developing countries recover and revive their economies. He went on to state that, besides such emergency measures, for developing countries to realize the demographic dividend and the Sustainable Development Goals requires comprehensive national and international policy actions, including a priority focus on human development, with adequate spending on quality education and health, and especially the empowerment of women and youth in development.
RABAB FATIMA (Bangladesh) noted that the Secretary-General’s report places the spotlight on demographic patterns and different forms of inequalities, and emphasized the need for action to address those challenges. Noting the rising poverty and extreme hunger, she said a new paradigm is needed to address them in a holistic manner. She went on to emphasize that while it is essential to harness the demographic dividend for economic growth, many countries are unable to capture it. It is essential to invest in education and to eliminate gender gaps to enable young people to adapt to the global job market, she said.
Ms. GARCIA (Colombia) underscored the importance of timely, disaggregated and reliable data on population. Noting that the integration of population and mobility dynamics is critical in all development planning, she said Colombia relied on concrete data in its COVID-19 response, and outlined some of the tools and dashboards used in that regard. She added that ensuring gender equality, realizing the rights of young people and addressing challenges arising from emerging demographic trends are all critical to achieving the targets enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals.
PAVEL EVSEENKO (Belarus) said his country’s development policies focus on people, their interests and their needs. The Government guarantees technical education for all and ensures that men and women enjoy equal educational and employment opportunities, while also providing universal access to health care and making major strides in reducing maternal and infant mortality in recent years. Noting that national demographic trends are characterized by long-term, gradual population ageing, he outlined Government support to help older people live safe, supported and dignified lives. He also pointed to efforts to transform and make the food system more sustainable, noting that Belarus is nevertheless suffering the severe impacts of unilateral coercive economic sanctions that target its food supply and represent the “height of hypocrisy”.
AMRIT BAHADUR RAI (Nepal) said this year’s theme is timely and pertinent, keeping in view the pandemic’s impact on the Sustainable Development Goals. It has reversed decades of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals relation to eradicating poverty, leading to the first rise in extreme poverty in a generation, he noted, cautioning that economic growth may take many years to return to pre-pandemic levels in many countries, particularly developing ones. He went on to state that the Constitution of Nepal sets the objective of achieving economic development in an environmentally sustainable manner. It also guarantees every woman’s right to safe motherhood, he added, stressing that Nepal is determined to increase investment in its population to reap the demographic dividend.
AMINATA LY DIOP (Senegal) said weak economies are unable to withstand rising food and energy prices as well as tightening financial conditions. If Senegal is to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, more must be done to ensure that no segment of its population is left behind, she emphasized. Describing the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo as a turning point with regard to the repositioning of population questions at the centre of national sustainable development programmes, she said that in 2016, her country adopted a national reference document to recognize the demographic dividend. Senegal is aware of demographic dynamics that can be coupled with economic performance, which is why it has established projects such as the programme to modernize cities, she affirmed, adding that such initiatives are intended to improve living conditions and combat social inequalities.
SYED MOHAMAD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia) said his country’s population has been growing at an average annual rate of 1.7 per cent from 2010 to 2020. Driven by declining fertility rate accompanied by a sustained rise in life expectancy, Malaysia will become an ageing nation by 2030, he said, highlighting such new initiatives as the National Policy for Older Persons and the National Health Policy for Older Persons. He went on to note that during the pandemic, the Government deployed several economic stimulus and assistance packages to help households and businesses, amounting to $125 billion, or 36 per cent of GDP. It also expanded social protection programmes targeting vulnerable groups, he added. The percentage of Malaysia’s working-age population increased to almost 70 per cent in 2020, he noted, adding that it was marked by greater female participation in the labour force, he noted, thereby catalysing the country’s quest for high-income nation status within the next decade.
Right of Reply
The representative of India, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said it is important to set the record straight. The entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir is — and will always be — an integral part of India, he emphasized.
The representative of Pakistan, also speaking in exercise of the right of reply in response, stressed that Jammu and Kashmir is not part of India. The United Nations defines it as “disputed territory”, he pointed out, underlining that its final disposition is to be decided by the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
* The 1st Meeting was covered in Press Release POP/1099 of 23 April 2021.