Only Partnerships Will Break Poverty Cycle, UNFPA Head says to European Organizations

  • 25 October 2001

Partnerships among organizations in Europe and other parts of the world are critical to enabling the international community to effectively tackle the challenges of the twenty-first century, the UNFPA’s Executive Director, Thoraya Obaid, said recently.

The Executive Director was speaking to a meeting of European non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that seek to translate into concrete action, the commitments of the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994). The meeting was held in Paris from 24 to 28 October.

“It is only through partnership, that we can break the vicious cycle of ill health and poverty, that is we can break the vicious cycle of exclusion,” said Ms. Obaid. “It is only through partnership that we can build alliances and coalitions for our common goals—goals that the world has identified as top priorities. Goals such as reducing maternal mortality.”

“Today, a woman in Western Europe faces a 1 in 1,800 chance of dying in childbirth; for a woman in Sudan, the risk is 1 in 18,” said the Executive Director. “We simply cannot allow such disparities to continue or widen.”

One of the greatest challenges facing the world today, Ms. Obaid continued, is the prevention of HIV/AIDS. “For while we must do all we can to provide care and treatment for those who are affected and step up efforts to find a vaccine, prevention remains our first line of defence,” she said.

“The programmes we fund in communities to overcome poverty, to increase access to education and economic opportunity, to increase gender equality and services to prevent HIV infection have never been more important,” Ms. Obaid continued. “These are the day-to-day efforts that help stop the deadly virus from spreading and help strengthen families and communities.”

The Executive Director called for greater advocacy to generate more resources and political will to reduce maternal mortality and HIV infection, as well as to tackle the problem of obstetric fistulae, which affect about 2 million women, mostly in the developing-world.

“Greater advocacy for education and health care, for combating poverty and improving the status of women and girls and for the resources to accomplish these goals is critical at this time,” said Ms. Obaid. “We need more resources for all of our programmes, not just for UNFPA, but for all United Nations agencies and for your organizations. … We simply cannot allow the global economic slowdown to hit hardest on those who are the weakest. Education and health services must remain intact and must be expanded to all.”

The UNFPA’s work on reproductive health in Asia, with the European Commission; on fistula with the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics; and with the Face to Face campaign, which raises awareness and support for women’s rights, attracted the Executive Director’s attention as examples of what fruitful cooperation could achieve.

“This [Face to Face] campaign is another example of the great things that can be accomplished when we join forces,” said Ms. Obaid. “I want to thank the Face to Face spokespersons, many of whom are also UNFPA Goodwill Ambassadors, for your outspoken advocacy and hard work.”

Earlier in the week, the Executive Director addressed a seminar on population and development, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and French Centre for Population and Development. Held at the Foreign Ministry, the seminar was attended by top ministry officials, parliamentarians, researchers and academics. Ms. Obaid informed participants of developments at the UNFPA since she assumed office this year.

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