Economic Growth Achieved Only Through Healthy Populations, Experts Agree At LDC Special Event

Panel members, with Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. Photo:UNFPA Türkiye/Nazih Tavlas.
  • 11 May 2011

ISTANBUL—Unmet need for family planning should be addressed as an urgent development priority to keep women healthy, as economic growth can only be achieved through a healthy population, according to Ritva Koukku-Ronden, Finland’s Under-Secretary of State for development policy and cooperation.

Ms. Koukku-Ronden was speaking at a special event on population and poverty reduction, held today at the Least Developed Countries’ Conference in Istanbul. Organized by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, the event was chaired by the Fund’s Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, who presented the new UNFPA report, Population Dynamics in the Least Developed Countries.

Ritva Koukku-Ronden, Finland's Under-Secretary of State for development policy and cooperation Photo: UNFPA Türkiye /Nezih Tavlas

“Inadequate provision of health care, including reproductive health care services, contributes to high birth rates and high mortality,” said Ms. Koukku-Ronden. “This cycle can only be broken by recognizing and pursuing gender equality at all levels—in education, employment and health care. And sexual and reproductive health and rights save lives and make a critical contribution to poverty reduction and sustainable development.

“Demographic changes and poverty dynamics go hand in hand,” added Ms. Koukku-Ronden. “Comprehensive people-centred policies are needed to achieve internationally agreed development objectives."

For Finland, said Ms. Koukku-Ronden, “sexual and reproductive health and rights are an important priority. We want to promote maternal health. Girls’ and women’s education and health and their access to sexual and reproductive health services are key. We see all these efforts in the context of promoting development that is economically, ecologically and socially sustainable.”

The UNFPA report, Population Dynamics, was then commended by Jose Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Director of the Employment Sector of the International Labour Organization.

Jose Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Director of the ILO Employment Sector Photo: UNFPA Türkiye/Nezih Tavlas

Agreeing that the neglect of population dynamics in development agendas could undermine development plans, Mr. Salazar-Xirinachs highlighted three major points. “First,” he said, “the increase in life expectancy is one of the major achievements of the last decades. Increased life expectancy, combined with fertility decline, is changing the world’s population structure. This poses important challenges, but it should be seized as an opportunity. However, adequate policy measures need to be put in place. The labour market and the social transfer systems have a key role to play.

“Second,” continued Mr. Salazar-Xirinachs, “LDCs’ populations are still young. This large share of young persons can greatly contribute to the economic and social development of these countries. However, this ‘demographic bonus’ can only be realized if sufficient opportunities of productive employment and decent work are available for this young population.

“Finally,” he concluded, “despite the young populations, the LDCs are ageing and it is important to prepare in order to adjust to the consequences. The combination of old age, poverty and exclusion is of major concern. In these countries, adequate and sustainable social security is crucial to ensure a secure and decent old age.”

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