Press Release

Europeans Debate Their Future, Affirm Commitment to Cairo Agenda

14 January 2004
Author: UNFPA

UNITED NATIONS, Geneva—Population and reproductive health experts meeting in Geneva have affirmed Europe’s strong commitment to the 20-year action plan adopted in Cairo a decade ago.

The three-day European Population Forum 2004 examined the impact of changing demographic trends in the region, and assessed global efforts to implement the Programme of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). Speakers from a wide range of fields emphasized the Cairo Programme’s importance to improving people’s lives throughout the region.

More than 350 people took part in the Forum, which was hosted by the Swiss Government and co-organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. The event was part of a series of regional meetings marking the tenth anniversary of ICPD.

Issues discussed by the Forum reflected the diversity of the region. They included persistent low fertility, ageing populations and declining workforces, migration and high mortality and morbidity. Special attention was given to the social, economic and health challenges facing countries in transition in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

At the close, Werner Haug, Deputy Director of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, summarized the Forum’s main conclusions.

Empowering young people to fully enjoy healthy sexual and reproductive lives was identified as a key priority in a region with rising rates of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Participants also emphasized the need to integrate HIV prevention and treatment fully within reproductive health programmes.

Other regional concerns identified included widespread human trafficking and gender-based violence.

Priority concerns in transition countries include weakened health care infrastructures and restricted access to quality health care, in particular to reproductive health information and services. Efforts to improve health care are hampered by a lack of reliable data systems. Some countries face high rates of maternal mortality and unsafe abortion.

Low fertility was identified as a major policy concern in a growing number of countries. The Forum stressed the importance of gender equality and heard examples from the region of national policies promoting more male responsibility for parenting and greater participation of older persons.

The impact of low fertility on the labour force is a concern in much of Europe. Some European countries will suffer from a dramatic decrease in working-age populations in the next 50 years, with an increase in the number of retirees depending on benefits and pensions.

Some participants noted that admitting more migrant workers to the region could help address the shrinking workforce problem, but could only be part of the solution. Stressing that international migration is an increasingly important resource in a globalized world, a number called for immigration and social integration policies that are more transparent and better coordinated at local, national and regional levels.

The lack of adequate resources for population and reproductive health programmes was identified as the primary obstacle to achieving the Cairo objectives, including gender equality and universal access to reproductive health care by 2015. Participants emphasized the importance of Europe keeping its promises to mobilize resources for population and reproductive health as a key contribution to international development. Annual global assistance for these sectors, they noted, is nearly $3 billion short of the requirements agreed to in Cairo.

The Forum identified implementation of the Cairo agenda as indispensable to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, including halving world poverty by 2015 and slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS. More funds for sexual and reproductive health are especially needed in transition countries that are currently undergoing health and social reforms.

“Our primary objective must be to protect and save lives and contribute to the conditions under which all people—men, women and children—thrive and lead secure and healthy lives,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director, at the Forum’s closing. “Stronger political commitment, backed by effective policies grounded in human rights and above all by adequate resources, is the key to realizing our common hopes for humanity.”


More information about the Forum, including the agenda and background papers, is available at

Further information about population issues, reproductive health and the ICPD can be found at

Contact Information:

William A. Ryan
Cell Phone: +66 89 897 6984

Miroslav Macura
Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 27 64

Population : 8.7 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 87%
Girls 84%

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