Respect For Religion, Values, Will Help Cairo Programme, Says President Khatami

28 December 2001
Author: UNFPA

Respecting developing countries’ religions and cultural values will promote the successful implementation of the Programme of Action of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Iran’s President, Mohammad Khatami, has said.

UNFPA Executive Director, Ms. Obaid, and President Khatami.  Photo: Daryoush Habibkhani

The President made those remarks as he exchanged views with the Fund’s Executive Director, Thoraya Obaid, who visited Iran in late December 2001, which is the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. President Khatami, whose country chaired the “Group of 77” developing countries in 2001, was a major proponent for the inclusion of dialogue among civilizations in the United Nations agenda.

“Your wisdom, realism and the value you attach to religion and culture [as factors affecting human behaviour], I believe, will assist you in the successful implementation of your programme,” President Khatami said, emphasizing the importance of continuing to consider culture and religion in carrying out UNFPA activities. He expressed appreciation for Ms. Obaid’s leadership of the UNFPA and admiration for the Fund’s programme in Iran. The UNFPA’s work is based on the Cairo Programme of Action, adopted by 179 governments in 1994.

“Human beings change with the passage of time; one can have one’s own interpretation of religion,” President Khatami said, adding, “what is unchangeable is the relation between human beings and the Almighty. Human beings are changing continuously. For a period of time, some ideas can be imposed, but after a while, people will explode [in response to imposed ideas].”

“In the light of globalization, due attention must continue to be paid to the role of culture and religion in the implementation of population and reproductive health programmes,” said Ms. Obaid. The UNFPA, she added, would continue to advocate and promote the implementation of the recommendations of the Cairo Conference and its follow-up 1999 General Assembly special session. Both the Cairo Conference and Assembly session reaffirmed the need to respect peoples’ religious, cultural and ethical values, as well as to conform with universally recognized international human rights.

“The Cairo Programme will continue to be promoted by building on the positive cultural values found in all societies,” said Ms. Obaid. To continue refining this approach, she said, the Fund was assessing how its projects took account of sociocultural dimensions in the Cairo Programme’s implementation. Based on the findings and lessons learned, the UNFPA would further fine-tune guidelines for UNFPA staff, update its sensitization efforts and more closely integrate such concerns into its programmes all over the world.

The Executive Director informed President Khatami that the UNFPA would continue according priority to youth and adolescents programmes to raise their awareness of population issues, taking account of countries’ cultural values. Similar attention would continue to be paid to population ageing.

During the visit, Ms. Obaid also held discussions with other senior Iranian officials, such as the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Kamal Kharrazi, and of Health and Medical Education, Masoud Pezeshkian. Meetings were also held with the Minister of Education, Morteza Haji; a Vice-President and the Head of the Department of Environment, Masoumeh Ebtekar; and an Adviser to the President and Head of the Centre for Women’s Participation, Zahra Shojaie.

The Executive Director visited health posts supported by the UNFPA for Afghan refugees in Iran. Regarded as models by the Government, such posts have been replicated by the United Nations Children’s Fund to help Afghan refugees in the country. In Shiraz, Ms. Obaid visited literacy classes for female Afghan refugees run by the Literacy Movement Organization. She also inaugurated the International Graduate Programme in Population and Development, a joint project of the UNFPA and Shiraz University. It has 15 students, including three from abroad.

--Mohammed Mosleh-Uddin

Contact Information:

William A. Ryan
Tel.: +66 2 288 2446

Population : 102.3 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 82%
Girls 83%

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