Commission on Population and Development 46th Session - Opening Remarks Executive Director UNFPA

24 April 2013
Author: UNFPA

UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin's address  during the Opening Session of the 46th session of the Commission on Population and Development

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Commission, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to address the opening of this forty-sixth session of the Commission on Population and Development.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to begin my remarks by commending you and the Members of the Bureau on the hard work that went into preparing this session. We at UNFPA look forward to working closely with Member States on this very important issue that is before the Commission. We also look forward to continuing our fruitful collaboration with the Population Division. The normative work of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, including the Population Division -- a leader in demographic analysis -- informs the operational work of UNFPA. Indeed, we rely on these demographic statistics to analyse the situation of countries and support Governments formulate policies and programmes that take population trends into account.

Mr. Chairman, we have come a long way since the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994, when world leaders called for a comprehensive approach to address the root causes of migration, especially those related to poverty.

Migration figures prominently in UNFPA-led consultations on population dynamics in the post-2015 development agenda. The outcome document of the recent Global Leadership meeting on Population Dynamics in the Context of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Dhaka Declaration, has eight recommendations related to migration and human mobility. They deal with areas, such as safe and orderly migration; protection and assistance for migrants; integration of migration into national development policies, strategies and programmes; matching of skills and jobs and labour supply and demand; low-cost transfer of savings and investment incentives; migration as a possible adaptation strategy to address climate change; and the migrants’ human rights.

Migration also figures prominently in the ICPD Beyond 2014 operational review. The UNFPA Global Survey of progress since Cairo addresses both internal and international migration. It is gathering a wealth of information about how countries, civil society and the international community are dealing with this issue which is invariably linked to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.

For your consideration today, I would like to highlight a few key messages that are important to UNFPA’s work:
Human rights of migrants – migrants are not numbers, they are human beings endowed with inalienable human rights. Respecting and promoting their rights, including their reproductive rights, as well as their contributions to development – has to be high on the agenda of policy makers. Priority actions include: promoting the ratification and effective implementation of all core international human and labour rights instruments; calling for national action plans to promote awareness of migrant realities and to fight xenophobia and discrimination against migrants and implementing the many existing frameworks to enhance migrants’ access to social protection and services, such as their access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning services, especially for women and girls.

Mainstreaming migration into national development policies and plans and the post-2015 development agenda – The contribution of migration to the development of both sending and destination countries has to be recognized and integrated into national development plans and poverty reduction strategies. Policies that build on the positive aspects and reduce negative consequences of migration should be taken up in the post-2015 agenda. This includes analyzing and tackling the root causes of migration, facilitating the use of remittances to reduce poverty and contribute to communities’ development; and encouraging diasporas to become even bigger partners in development.

Female migration – The face of migration is changing: women now represent about half of all international migrants – and in some regions of the world, they outnumber their male counterparts. Many women migrate on their own, to secure a livelihood. Others leave their homes in search of more open societies, to get out of a bad marriage, or to escape gender discrimination and gender based violence, political conflicts, and cultural constraint. Like other migrants, women contribute to the well-being of their households, through remittances that benefit the family.

Building a life in a new country can foster greater independence and self-confidence for some women. However, breaking down established values and practices also creates tension and vulnerability. Moreover, all too often, female migration is accompanied by exploitation and abuse, and trafficking across borders, especially in unregulated and informal sectors of the economy where women predominate. These women typically have limited or no access at all to health insurance and public services, including much needed reproductive health services.

Youth migration – More than 12 per cent of international migrants are 15-24 years old. Despite their significant numbers, young migrants barely register in debates and policies on migration. Young migrants typically see leaving their homes as a chance for new opportunities, greater freedom from traditions and norms, and the possibility of affirming their own identities. However, the journey may be strewn with risks, hardships and disappointments. In an unfamiliar environment, lacking social supports, some end up dropping out of school, or indulging in risky behavior, being exposed to gender-based violence, or at times, being forced into child marriage, unwanted pregnancy and other forms of exploitation. Finding appropriate and affordable health-care services, including sexual and reproductive health services, is often a big challenge – especially for those without legal documentation.

Spatial distribution - A larger number of people move within their own countries than across borders. Almost all of this is from rural areas to cities. This is happening at an unprecedented pace, leaving cities without adequate housing or services. As a result of accelerating urbanization, a growing number of the urban poor –more than 850 million people– are living in slums, most of which lack appropriate services and sanitation. This requires forward looking policies that promote sustainable urbanization.

Mr. Chairman, demography is important for development. This is so because behind each demographic figure are real people—individual women and men, both young and old, each with their own aspirations and needs, going about their everyday lives. And it is this human element—with a focus on human rights and human dignity—that lies at the heart of the ICPD Programme of Action whose 20-year progress we will review during next year’s Commission. In this development framework, reproductive rights is key to achieving such aspirations, especially of women and young girls.

UNFPA has submitted two reports that will be introduced by my colleagues this morning. The first is a report on the monitoring of population programmes focusing on the Fund’s work on international migration, especially in the areas of global advocacy, capacity development, policy dialogue, data and research, and awareness raising. The second reports on the flow of financial resources to implement the ICPD Programme of Action. I encourage you to review the reports and take note of the many good practices you will find. These practical examples deserve replication and scaling up, particularly in terms of how to mitigate the impact of migration on the sexual and reproductive health of migrants, especially women and girls.

As the international community approaches the ICPD’s twentieth anniversary and prepares to chart a course beyond 2014, increased efforts to mobilize adequate resources by all donors and developing countries, not just the key players, are essential to fully implement the ICPD agenda. All governments, of donor and developing countries, are encouraged to recommit themselves to implementing the ICPD objectives and mobilizing the resources required to meet them.

A step in that direction was taken during a family planning summit in London in July 2012, which raised significant sums from developing countries and $2.6 billion from donors. This new funding seeks to make voluntary family planning available to an additional 120 million women and adolescent girls in developing countries by 2020. But additional resources and political commitments are necessary.

The highest unmet need for family planning is in sub-Saharan Africa. I would like to point out that these are the same countries with the highest rates of poverty and population growth, factors that often lead people to migrate. There is a connection between financial flows for population and migration flows. And the connection comes in part from the lack of choice that women face because of unmet need and inability to exercise their human rights, including the right to determine the number and spacing of their children.

Mr. Chairman, it is extremely important for adequate resources to be allocated to all areas of the ICPD costed population package because they are interlinked and mutually reinforcing. The challenge before the international community is to continue to mobilize the resources required to implement the ICPD agenda to meet current needs.

In addition to adequate resources, sound policy formulation on migration issues must be based on a solid foundation of knowledge and evidence. To effectively deal with the challenges migration poses, we need to better understand its root causes; its relationship to development; the impact of remittances; how migration effects gender equality and women’s empowerment; the implications of labour a globalized economy; the role of diasporas; and the environmental impacts of migration. Policy dialogue, development planning and programme formulation require that migration data is disaggregated by age and sex. This is an area where UNFPA can offer support and lend itself to greater collaboration with our partners.

In closing, we very much look forward to our discussions in this Commission and to the High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, in October. UNFPA is particularly pleased with the successful collaboration of 27 United Nations entities in preparing a set of recommendations and outcomes on migration for the upcoming High-Level Dialogue, which UNFPA has led with the International Organization on Migration in coordination with member agencies of the Global Migration Group and the High-Level Committee on Programmes. It is a perfect example of how much can be accomplished when agencies work together for a common goal.

UNFPA also looks forward to continued collaboration with all partners, including the IOM and fellow UN agencies in the Global Migration Group and the HLCP and beyond. We aim to move the migration agenda forward and ensure that it is adequately reflected in the post-2015 development agenda.

It is a privilege for my UNFPA colleagues and me to work closely with Member States through this Commission to ensure that, as we deliberate on policies and programmes affecting people’s lives everywhere, we never forget that behind each statistic is a human face. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that each human being is treated equally and basic human rights protected so each person can live in dignity.

Thank you.