Advancing the Agenda of the International Conference on Population and Development

22 February 2010
Author: UNFPA

Good morning. It is great to see all of you here. Thank you for coming.

This year, 2010, marks the beginning of a new decade and it also marks the concluding year of my ten-year tenure as Executive Director of UNFPA. We are putting in place a succession plan for the consideration of the Secretary-General and our Executive Board.

And I have one key message for you:

We need to work together to register stronger achievements in implementing and thus advancing the agenda of the International Conference on Population and Development.

During my last year, I do not plan on winding down. I plan to gear up with my colleagues in UNFPA, together with the NGO community and other partners, to galvanize greater progress for women and young people. As I see it, our challenge is to continue tackle inequity, scale up programmes, reach more people with information and services, and report to the world on our collective support to the achievements of the people themselves.

2009 set the stage to move forward

We’ve just come through a busy and dynamic year commemorating the ICPD 15th anniversary. And what we have learned is this: the vision of Cairo remains more relevant than ever, governments have reaffirmed their commitment and NGOs are mobilized to move forward and we have to build on all that we have learned and all that has been promised.

From the commemorative event in the UN General Assembly to the country, regional and national reviews of implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action, from the NGO Forum in Berlin to the Partners in Population and Development meeting in Kampala,  from the  5th Asia and Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health in Beijing to the high-level meeting on maternal health and MDG5 in Addis Ababa, from the global parliamentary conference also in Addis Ababa to the most recent commemoration in the U.S. State Department, commitment to ICPD goals and principles is now stronger than it’s been for a while. 

There is greater awareness and determination to achieve universal access to education, especially for girls, and reproductive health for all, including family planning; and to reduce high rates of maternal mortality and HIV infection and to end violence against girls and women. And there is growing awareness that addressing population, reproductive health and women's rights is fundamental to tackling inequity and poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

I am so pleased that we are meeting now because we need to join forces in a very concrete and strategic way to move the outcomes of ICPD at 15 forward.

This year as we prepare for the many events that lie ahead we have an opportunity to advance the implementation of the visionary and holistic ICPD agenda.

2010 as the year for moving forward

We are looking forward to:

the March Commission on the Status of Women and the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action; the Commission on Population and Development that will focus on fertility and mortality; the June Women Deliver II conference and the July African Union Summit on Maternal Health and the G8 and G20 meetings leading up to the MDG Summit in September.

It is our intention at UNFPA to take full advantage of every opportunity in 2010 to champion the health and rights of women and young people, especially the right to sexual and reproductive health, and to advance the ICPD Programme of Action.

Many of you participated in the NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development, which gathered close to 400 participants. Now we have to join forces in calling on governments, policy-makers and other leaders to ensure concrete follow-up to the Berlin Call to Action.

Doing more together

We need to do more :

To guarantee that the right to sexual and reproductive health is fully recognized and fulfilled.

To prioritize sexual and reproductive health in health system strengthening and global health financing.

To support countries to scale up and deliver a package of sexual and reproductive health services and supplies through the primary health care system that is available and accessible, to vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations.

To ensure the right to sexual and reproductive health for the world's largest generation of adolescents and young people.

To direct our attention also on the growing number of the ageing population, larger proportion of them are women since their needs are being recognized though the systems, the resources and the knowledge might not always be present.

To ensure meaningful civil society participation in programs, policy and budget decisions, monitoring and evaluation, and

To ensure that national governments and donors allocate sufficient resources and budgets that meet the needs of all people’s sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.

And most importantly to ensure that communities and people in the countries are empowered to develop and implement their programmes and to lead us, external supporters, strategically towards ownership.

Ensure follow-up

In addition to the Berlin Call to Action, we need to ensure follow-up to:

The Addis Call for Urgent Action to improve maternal health, the regional reviews that took place for ICPD at 15, and the Commitment from more than 300 parliamentarians at the ICPD international parliamentary conference.

 Most importantly, we have to ensure progress at the country level, in communities where unmet need is high and where life and death is a daily concern.

We have also learned a lot from the technical consultations that UNFPA led last year on Population dynamics and climate change, and on reducing inequities: ensuring universal access to family planning is not a stand alone programme that functions in silo but that it is part of comprehensive approach to sexual and reproductive health.

Momentum also increased at the ICPD at 15 Family Planning meeting held last November in Kampala. International family planning is being re-energized. Now our challenge is to make sure that these efforts are grounded in a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health approach with a focus on human rights and health system strengthening with community engagement.

I am pleased to know you will be discussing the results of the ICPD at 15, and how to move forward together. And the Director of UNFPA Technical Division, Werner Haug, will provide a regional and substantive summary of what we’ve learned from ICPD @15 to help guide the way forward.

ICPD and the empowerment of women and the new UN Gender Entity

Now I would like to say a few words about ICPD and the empowerment of women and the proposed UN Gender Entity because I know this is on everyone’s mind.

The good news is that today there is rising awareness that progress for women is progress for all.

Today, 15 years after Cairo and Beijing, there is greater determination to advance women’s empowerment, to end violence against women and girls, and to join with men and boys in the struggle for gender equality.

With the commitment of UN Member States and the Secretary-General to achieve gender equality and empower women, the United Nations is getting ready to create a new gender entity.

UNFPA supports the efforts of Member States and the Secretary-General to establish a gender entity. As I told the UNFPA Executive Board in January, the gender entity does not absolve any part of the UN system from their responsibilities on gender but should provide stronger coordination to achieve stronger results for women.

In moving forward, we have a continued obligation to champion gender equality and women’s empowerment as we carry forward the ICPD Programme of Action.  The right to sexual and reproductive health is absolutely fundamental to women’s empowerment and gender equality and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Need for increased finances

And I believe we are near a tipping point. Now we need to be strategic to tip the scales to a point at which action will rapidly accelerate.

At this point, we need to garner more finances for sexual and reproductive health and the ICPD and Beijing agendas, because they are inter-related and their recommendations and proposed actions reinforce each other in many areas of empowerment.

I say this because during the past decade funding for global health has soared while funding for reproductive health has remained stagnant and funding for family planning took a downward curve. And this has stalled progress in achieving MDG 5 to improve maternal health and achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015.  We need to use the new funding estimates for ICPD that were agreed at last year’s Commission on Population and Development.

To meet our goals, we need to call for the doubling of resources for reproductive health, in line with the findings of the Adding it Up report that UNFPA launched with the Guttmacher Institute in December.

The report finds that maternal deaths in developing countries could be slashed by 70 per cent and newborn deaths cut nearly in half if the world doubled investment in programmes that address at the same time family planning and pregnancy-related care.

The doubling of resources for reproductive health is an important message to carry forward this year. I will do so when I meet with partners in April at a retreat hosted by the Secretary-General to fast track progress on maternal, newborn and child health.

The effort features the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the Partnership for Maternal, Child and Newborn Health; the H8 heads—heads of 8 global health organizations including UNFPA;  and the Governments of Norway, Tanzania, United Kingdom, and the United States. The idea is to provide organization and accountability for delivery at the highest level, building on significant progress made, and binding in additional influential partners, leading up to the MDG Summit in September. 

For too many years, we have been saying that one woman dies needlessly every minute from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. We know that MDG 5 to improve maternal health is the goal lagging the furthest behind.

We know the reality right now, for instance, of our sisters in Haiti.

We know that some 63,000 women are pregnant, with 7,000 due to deliver this month.

And we know that even before the devastating earthquake, Haiti had the highest rate of maternal mortality in the Western hemisphere.

Now, after the earthquake, the women there are suffering more than ever….giving birth in the streets, having no place to call home to bring the new baby, laying in tents with other displaced people, afraid of going to sleep for fear of rape and sexual violence.

This is the reality. And UNFPA and organizations like yours are there in Haiti and in countries around the world delivering life-saving services, coordinating with partners to ensure protection against gender-based violence, working to enact and enforce equitable laws, working with young people to advance life-skills and sexual education, to advance relationships based on shared responsibilities, and mutual trust and respect.

We are standing up for human rights and human dignity, for social justice and equity and social protection.

And even though our work saves lives, we continue to face constant challenges and outright opposition.

To add to this, we are working in a new environment, with shifting politics, competing attention for scarce resources—which has increased with global financial crisis, and rising demands from donors and partners to prove that we are spending our money wisely, and that our work is producing results. As we ask for more money, we are being asked to prove that we are using what we get wisely and with clear results.

Given the situation, we have to stay strong, focused and united. And we have to be strategic as we respond to the challenges that confront us.

We have to recognize and support each other’s comparative advantages, knowing what each of us can do within its own mandate and how together we complete the picture. We know that there is a difference between an NGO and an intergovernmental organization like UNFPA and we must work together to strategize with a clear division of labour between us, so that together we make a whole.

I am so happy that one of our campaigns has moved from The Stories of Mothers Lost to The Stories of Mothers Saved. This is the direction in which we need to be moving. Together we need to do better in monitoring and reporting on results. This is our challenge and we must rise together to meet it.

We need to report our successes. And all countries and communities have successes to share.

In all regions, contraceptive use and access to skilled attendance at birth are rising.

The prevalence of female genital mutilation and cutting and also HIV is declining.

Yes we need to highlight the gaps. There are many and this is important.

But it is equally important to tell partners and the world how we are supporting national and community efforts to fill these gaps and the progress that is being achieved. This is what moves people to action.

Success spurs success.

Monitoring and Reporting on Results and Integration

I am so pleased that monitoring and reporting on results is a priority in the Strategic Options for NGOs that you have prepared. Monitoring and reporting results is also a priority for UNFPA.

We are focusing on two concrete exercises—the 2010 round of censuses to collect and analyse data, including data disaggregated by sex, and the household surveys that are underway to monitor the achievement of MDG5 and target 5b on universal access to reproductive health by 2015.

As I said at the beginning, we’re here to exchange views and strategies on how NGOs and UNFPA can move the outcomes of the ICPD at 15 forward. We will do this taking into account the linkages between ICPD, Beijing and the Millennium Development Goals.

I have already spoken about the importance of supporting countries to scale up programmes, and now I would like to stress the importance of integration for a very simple reason— the needs of each woman do not exist in silos; her body is not made up of separate compartments but an integrated system that requires an integrated response. It is a comprehensive package that needs to be achieved in an integrated way. It is also most cost effective and it facilitates access to the required services in a coherent way.

Increasingly HIV and other components of sexual and reproductive health are being integrated – both in terms of policies and in services—and this is good news.  Together we need to accelerate these efforts.

This year I will chair the Committee of Co-sponsoring Organizations of UNAIDS and together with Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS, I will push even harder for integration of the right to sexual and reproductive health and HIV interventions, and these should also be integrated with efforts for malaria and tuberculosis.

Together we need to make reproductive health a priority in health system strengthening and global health financing and partnerships. A health system that can deliver to women is a health system that can deliver to all.

Providing integrated services can save lives, increase the impact of investments and provide the full continuum of care needed to achieve the health-related MDGs.   We need to make progress at the primary health care level.

Collaboration and NGO Advisory Panel

As we move forward, we have a wealth of experience and insight on which to build. Together we work on a broad range of issues that reflect the richness and inter-connectedness of the ICPD agenda. 

From sexual and reproductive health to HIV, to youth and sexuality education to climate change and ageing, this year provides a good opportunity to highlight how the ICPD agenda contributes to the broad development agenda, including the reduction of extreme poverty and hunger, and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

As NGOs, you have been there since before Cairo and throughout, and together we are a great movement for change, we complement each other.

As I announced at the NGO Forum in Berlin, UNFPA remains committed to the formation of an NGO Advisory Panel. The purpose is to strengthen partnership between UNFPA and NGOs to advance global goals. The Advisory Panel will provide its views on UNFPA's advocacy strategies, on the approach to specific initiatives that relate to the ICPD agenda, on new development trends, on opportunities and challenges in the external environment and recommend possible areas for action. At this point, we are thinking that it will be composed of approximately 10 NGOs on a rotational basis, with balanced geographic coverage, that work on the broad ICPD agenda at the global and/or country levels. We appreciate your views and if you have suggestions on the NGO Advisory Panel, please forward them to Noemi Espinoza so that we can take them into consideration as we plan the way ahead. Certainly we are hoping to have the Panel convened by midyear or thereabouts in preparation for the MGD at 10 Summit.

As we meet during these next few days, it is my hope that we can find strategic ways to rally more attention and resources for women and sexual and reproductive health. It is very important, as you have put forward in your Strategic Options for NGOs, to monitor progress and hold governments and all partners accountable, to influence policies outcomes to ensure sexual and reproductive health for all, AND also to strengthen partnerships, coalition building and harmonization of actions and strategies.

Harmonization of Actions

Harmonization is extremely important because there are so many new initiatives and we have to make sure the results we achieve outweigh the time spent on coordination and processes.

We also need to develop evidence-based advocacy messages and strengthen communications strategies to promote sexual and reproductive health and we will have a chance to do so at this meeting. We really have to convince leaders and finance ministers that investing in population, women and reproductive health brings progress in reducing poverty, protecting the environment and fostering peace and security.

Population, development and the environment

I would also like to stress that population issues remain important and we have to work together to frame this debate so that others do not do it for us. We have to keep making the case that we stand for individual/personal control of one’s fertility and not population control. The best way to address the challenging demographic trends is to promote greater respect for human rights.  Whether we are talking about migration, ageing, urbanization, or the world's largest youth generation, respect for human rights must be at the center of responsive and effective policies and programmes.

And yes we do have to talk about demographic trends because they affect development and vice versa. Next year, the global population will reach 7 billion and by mid-century is projected to rise to more than 9 billion people on Earth. Almost all growth during the next four decades will take place in urban areas in developing countries, especially Africa and Asia, and the number of urban dwellers will nearly double.

At the same time, some countries are dealing with population decline and rapidly ageing populations, while others are bracing for changing patterns of migration. All of these trends present opportunities and challenges to development and demand a coherent policy response and coordinated support. And women and their empowerment are central to dealing with the various trends.

This picture is further compounded by the unprecedented challenge of our changing climate. I believe there is growing understanding of the connections between population, development, and the environment and the role of women. This was highlighted in our 2009 State of World Population Report, Facing a changing world: women, population and climate that was launched on the eve of the Copenhagen Conference.

Conclusion: unity and focus

In conclusion, I would like call for unity and focus. Yes, we need passion and compassion. But we also need to be strategic with a focus on results. We need to be clear on baselines and where we want to go, and who is to do what by when and with what resources.

We must be able to monitor and evaluate and report lessons and best practice and not so best practices. We must do this so that we can demonstrate results, make sure we are using everyones’ resources wisely and build the confidence of going to scale with national programmes. We must do this so that we can learn from each other and support each other and so that we can facilitate the transfer of knowledge and experience from South to South and in a triangular way, south-north-south.

We know and have heard the message - accountability for results and for using resources is the hallmark of the day.

The time of small projects and disparate efforts is over. Our contribution must support the implementation of national plans so that communities can benefit. We must commit ourselves to have the national counterparts firmly in charge and empower them and support them to lead.

And given the global financial situation, and reductions in donor assistance, we are being called to do more with less.  So we need to demonstrate efficiency gains and with technologies, such as IT for example and webinars and videoconferencing as appropriate, we should be able to find more efficient ways of going about our business, which is for sure not business as usual.

More than ever before, this calls for us all working together, pulling our strengths together to complement each other with full respect for the space that each occupies by the simple nature of our organizations.

We all believe that no woman should die giving life, that every woman and couple should be able to decide if and when to have children, that everyone should have the knowledge and means to protect their health, that girls and women should enjoy equal opportunities and rights, that they have the right to make decisions about their lives, that every person should receive an education and be able to reach their full potential.

We believe in the dream that emerged 15 years ago in Cairo at the International Conference on Population and Development. And that is the dream that we will carry forward together, to make it a reality for all, as soon as possible. Time is running out.

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