KAMPALA – Parliamentarians have a crucial role to play in ensuring meaningful, people-centred development, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin made clear in his address to the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly here on Monday.
“As members of Parliament, you are in a key position in ensuring adequate budget lines for health, holding governments accountable for their commitments, building partnerships and tearing down legal and economic barriers to put women and men, and boys and girls, on an equal footing in the spheres of life,” said Dr. Osotimehin in his address to the plenary. His speech followed and built on points made by UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake who spoke about ‘stunting’ due to inadequate nutrition as a silent health emergency.
Dr. Osotimehin underscored the critical link between children's nutrition and maternal health, alluding to the UN Secretary-General’s Every Mother, Every Child initiative. He said that women and children’s health and education are not only important ends in their own right; they are also essential interventions for addressing population dynamics and paving the way to sustainable development.
There is a particular need to focus attention on adolescent girls and address factors that lead to early pregnancy, discrimination, violence and dropping out of school. ‘’No girls should be left behind,” he said, because maternal mortality will not go down if they are.
Describing maternal mortality as the world’s largest health inequity, Dr. Osotimehin urged parliamentarians to focus on impacts to the lowest quintile of their societies, especially women and children, as they pass laws and budgets and advocate for investments. He also noted that the principle of equity must remain central to the development agenda, which parliamentarians will be critical in redefining after 2015, when the Millennium Development Goals will be revisited.
People are demanding change and young people are demanding transformation of society, he added, noting that of the 7 billion people in the world today,1.8 billion are young people, and 9 out 10 of these are in the developing world. “Their generation holds the greatest potential to accelerate social and economic progress,” he said.
Dr. Osotimehin said that with the right investments in people—particularly adolescents and youth—we can have thriving cities, productive labour forces that fuel economic growth, and communities where people are healthy, economically secure and enjoying dignified lives. “And as UNFPA, we are committed to focus our efforts to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.”