Press Release

Anti-Poverty Efforts Must Increase Respect For Human Rights, Says UNFPA Head At Meeting of the Americas

29 June 2004
Author: UNFPA

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—Urgently needed work to reduce poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean must go hand in hand with efforts to increase respect for human rights, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, said today. Widespread poverty, inequality and HIV/AIDS have inhibited progress in the region, she added. [see statement]

“This poverty and inequality are a major concern for all of us in this room,” said Ms. Obaid. “It is also a threat to democracy, which is both fragile and vulnerable, for there cannot be true democracy if there is no true equality. And if there is no true equality, there cannot be true human rights.”

Ms. Obaid was addressing about 300 ministers and senior officials from American and partner nations during the opening session of the Ad Hoc Committee on Population and Development of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The meeting is held in observance of the 10th anniversary of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development.

“This means that efforts to reduce poverty must go hand in hand with efforts to increase respect for human rights, and to engage the community of people and the socially excluded in the solution of their problems and in their search for a better life,” she continued. “It also means that we must guarantee their rights as citizens, their right to development, their right to education and health, and their reproductive rights. To do less would seriously impede economic and social development and undermine the very nature of democracy itself.”

The UNFPA Executive Director suggested a way out: “I am absolutely convinced that providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health, as well as access to education and employment, can effectively break the cycle of poverty in which millions and millions of women, men and adolescents are trapped in this region.”

“Enabling people to make their own decisions about if, and when, to have children and how often, ensuring that women enjoy the same rights as men, and ensuring that people can live their lives free of violence and sexual coercion are not only fundamental human rights, they are also critical elements in policies to reduce poverty,” Ms. Obaid emphasized.

Of the Cairo mandate, Ms. Obaid said: “the Cairo Programme of Action is the blueprint for action in just about all countries. It is their Programme of Action, and they will implement it as they think best to meet their national development goals.”

ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, Jose Luis Machinea, said that the implementation of the Programme of Action of the Cairo conference would contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. ECLAC members and associate States should continue implementing guidelines aimed at alleviating poverty, he urged, stressing that the price of inaction for people in the region would be incredibly high.

The meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Population and Development, which is taking place within the context of ECLAC’s 30th session, is scheduled to conclude tomorrow. The ECLAC session is scheduled to open officially on Thursday, 1 July, and conclude the next day after a general debate and the adoption of final resolutions.


UNFPA is the world’s largest multilateral source of population assistance. Since it became operational in 1969, it has provided help to developing countries, at their request, to meet reproductive health needs and support development efforts.

Contact Information:

Abubakar Dungus
Cell Phone: +1 (646) 226-6120

Puerto Rico
Population : 2.9 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 73%
Girls 79%

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