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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Activities by Key Global and Regional Parliamentary Groups in the First Half of 2003
ISSUE 8 - 23 September 2003
Parliamentarians are a critical component in promoting the International Conference on Population and Development’s (ICPD) Programme of Action around the world. Regional and global parliamentary groups on population and development allow parliamentarians to meet and discuss the challenges and goals of creating an enabling environment and mobilizing resources for ICPD implementation.
This issue of UNFPA’s Global Population Policy Update highlights the activities of two regional parliamentary groups and the European Parliament Working Group in the first half of 2003. The next issue, to follow shortly, will highlight the activities of other key regional and global parliamentary groups.
1) Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population Development (AFPPD)
On 7th and 8th of February 2003, AFPPD organized its first Standing Committee Meeting on Food Security, Water and Globalization in Bangkok, Thailand. Thirty-five participants attended the meeting, including twenty-four parliamentarians from Bangladesh, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. Agricultural development was discussed, as were the need for population stabilization, water conservation, conservation of natural resources and the importance of ensuring effective food distribution networks. The meeting ended with the adoption of a statement of commitment by all participants, in which they called upon national governments and international trade organizations to take action on the issues of food security and water security. The statement calls for national governments to:
- Maintain self-sufficiency through sustainable food production;
- Draw up country plans, incorporating development strategies with a funding arrangement and a time frame to accomplish these strategies, to provide a framework of mutual cooperation among members of the international community through the establishment of an Asian Monetary Fund (AMF);
- Promote autonomy of the poor, undertaking a review and reorganization of land and monetary systems to help the poor have access to land, water and genetic resources; and
- Enable people to manage their country’s resources and national assets.
The statement calls for international trade organizations to:
- Recognize that access to safe and nutritious food is a basic human right;
- Recognize the need for countries to maintain their right to self-sufficiency regarding domestic staple food production;
- Pay serious attention to threats to food security, such as a significant increase in world population, a decline in agricultural productivity, depletion and contamination of fresh water resources, soil erosion and environmental degradation;
- Recognize that, under the current situation and present estimations, the world’s carrying capacity has already exceeded its sustainable limits; and
- Ensure appropriate storage and fair and equitable distribution systems for food.
On 18th and 19th of March 2003, AFPPD hosted the Regional Workshop on Parliamentary Advocacy for the Prevention of Violence Against Women. The workshop was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and co-organized with the Parliament of Bangladesh, UNFPA Bangladesh and UNFPA’s Country Support Team in Nepal. It was attended by nearly fifty parliamentarians from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The workshop’s attendees discussed their experiences advocating for changes in legislation and compared existing laws intended to combat violence against women (VAW). An important issue examined was the gap between legislation enacted for women’s empowerment and for safeguarding the rights of women and children and the implementation of these laws. Other matters discussed related to the importance of support services, such as health, for victims of violence, ways of mobilizing communities to address VAW and the effect that the media can have in alleviating this problem in South Asia. Workshop attendees adopted a declaration calling for enactment of legislation and reviews of existing laws. Attendees committed themselves to:
- Raising public awareness on women's human rights and VAW;
- Striving to promote the creation of a non-violent culture;
- Encouraging school programmes aimed at enhancing awareness on gender-based violence and developing means to counteract attitudes and behaviour that can lead to VAW;
- Supporting programmes that integrate health services with investigation procedures, to encourage victims to report VAW to the authorities and women's organizations so that the appropriate institutions can take legal action;
- Ensuring that resources are allocated and separately identified for law enforcement;
- Supporting the formation of parliamentary committees, which would identify the gaps in relevant laws, support law reforms and monitor the enforcement of laws on VAW;
- Supporting resource allocation and funding for independent services for the survivors of violence, including one-stop safe havens and shelters, and gender sensitization training of law enforcement agencies and health personnel;
- Actively encouraging the collection of VAW statistics;
- Promoting, nationally and regionally, the sharing of research results, statistics, best practices and innovative measures taken with regard to VAW;
- Working to combat trafficking of girls and women in South Asia, and setting up programmes and introducing specific measures to support victims of sexual exploitation;
- Ensuring that special attention is paid to migrant and HIV-positive women who are victims of gender-based violence; and
- Developing a monitoring process in their countries to meet their constitutional commitments and responsibilities as state parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC).
2) Forum of African and Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAAPPD)
On 31 January 2003, the Network of Rwandan Parliamentarians on Population and Development held a ceremony announcing its inception. The ceremony included remarks from Al-haji Abdullah Salifu, MP, President of the FAAPPD; Dirk Jena, UNFPA Representative in Rwanda; and Higiro Prosper, Vice President of the National Assembly of Rwanda and Coordinator of the newly established Parliamentary Network on Population and Development. At the meeting, a constitution for the network was approved and a plan of action was set for the next three years. The network’s first concern is to inform citizens of Rwanda about its activities, programs and overriding mission.
From 2nd to 6th of June 2003, FAAPPD organized a workshop in Conakry, Guinea, on the Promotion of Family Planning in West Africa through Advocacy and Legislative Reforms. Twenty parliamentarians from Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali and Senegal attended the workshop, along with fifteen representatives from NGOs and the public sector. The workshop was held to provide delegates with information, methodologies and the tools to systematically bring national laws and policies into harmony with international conventions and commitments. It allowed participants to forge new partnerships and analyse reproductive health laws recently enacted in Benin, Chad, Guinea and Mali. Workshop participants concluded that the passing of these laws was important because it put legal authority behind the language of the ICPD Programme of Action.
From 10th to 12th of June 2003, the FAAPPD Sub-regional Office in Amman, Jordan, held an Arab Parliamentary Meeting on Population and Development. The meeting, which took place in Cairo, Egypt, was a sensitization workshop for parliamentarians. NGO and civil society representatives attended the workshop, which focused on Arab youth, population, women and legislation.
3) European Parliament Working Group on Population, Sustainable Development and Reproductive Health (EPWG)
On 30 April 2003, the EPWG held a meeting on the Global State of Play of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). The meeting focused on the opposition to reproductive health programmes and ways of countering these attacks. The meeting also examined steps the European Commission – more specifically, the European Parliament – could take to reaffirm its commitment to ICPD. Speakers included Neil Datta, Secretary to the Inter-European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (IEPFPD), who spoke on barriers to the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action in Central and Eastern Europe. For the occasion, Marie Stopes International (MSI) produced a fact-sheet on the opposition in the U.S.A. and Europe, which calls for a European Commission declaration on reproductive health and European reaffirmation of the Cairo Programme of Action. The fact-sheet has also been shared with European NGOs and posted on the MSI website (http://www.mariestopes.org.uk).
On 20 May 2003, the EPWG helped organize a meeting entitled Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS, which was attended by thirty-five European reproductive health NGOs, HIV/AIDS NGOs and faith-based organizations, as well as Nafis Sadik, Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the U.N. for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific and former Executive Director of UNFPA. Guest speakers were Gideon Byamugisha, the first African member of the clergy to openly acknowledge that he is HIV positive, and Charity Ngil, Kenyan Minister for Health. Tommy Thompson, U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services and Chairman of the Board of the Global Fund on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, also attended the meeting. A set of recommendations which had been endorsed by the NGOs and faith-based organizations was presented to attendees. The recommendations called for a European Parliament declaration that would reduce the vulnerability of women and girls to contracting HIV/AIDS. These recommendations were subsequently adopted by the European Commission’s Council of Ministers.
On 17 June 2003, the European Commission’s Council of Ministers adopted regulation on Aid for Policies and Actions on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights in Developing Countries. This regulation resulted from an EPWG report of the same title, which was adopted by the European Parliament in February 2003. While the previous regulation, which expired at the end of 2002, governed the European Community’s activities in the areas of population, family planning, HIV/AIDS and gender and development, it did not cover sexual or reproductive health. The new regulation highlights the ICPD language and the need to improve access to quality reproductive health services for vulnerable, under-served groups.
See http://www.wgpop.org (site under construction)
This newsletter is issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its capacity as secretariat for the International Parliamentarians' Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (November 2002, Ottawa, Canada). These dispatches are intended to highlight important developments taking place around the world so that parliamentarians can be kept informed of and learn from the successes, setbacks and challenges encountered by their fellow parliamentarians in other countries and regions in their efforts to promote the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (September 1994, Cairo, Egypt). It should be noted that UNFPA does not necessarily endorse all of the policies described in this newsletter.
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