Remarks at the 14th International Inter-Ministerial Conference on Population and Development

28 November 2017

Welcome remarks by Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director, at the 14th International Inter-Ministerial Conference on Population and Development, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.


H.E. Madam Liu Yandong, Honorable Vice-Premier of the People’s Republic of China
H.E. Ms. Puan Maharani, Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia
H.E. Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, Governor of Yogyakarta
H.E. Dr. Li Bin, Minister of National Health and Population Commission of China and Chair of PPD Board
Mr. Nofrijal, Principal Secretary of BKKBN
Dr. Joe Thomas, Executive Director, PPD
Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Selamat pagi! Good morning! I would like to begin by thanking the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and Partners in Population and Development for organizing this Inter-Ministerial Conference in collaboration with UNFPA.

It is an honor for me to address you, as the newly appointed Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund. I follow Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, a giant of Africa who tirelessly championed the rights of women and youth to have healthy sexual and reproductive health. This is the second time that I address this august conference on population and development. I was present in Wuhan in 2004, 13 years ago, when we declared the relevance of the International Conference on Population and Development, 10 years after Cairo. 

It is fitting that we meet here in Indonesia, the birthplace of South-South Cooperation. It is a noble history dating back to 1955 when the first Asian–African Conference was held in Bandung.  

The countries taking part in this conference are important actors in the realm of South-South and Triangular Cooperation. And we welcome your valuable contributions to inter-country cooperation.

I would specify the Government of Indonesia, which has been very active since the early 1980s in sharing its experiences among developing countries.  To date, I’m told around 5,500 officials from 94 countries have learned through exchanges about the country’s family planning programme, evidence of Indonesia’s commitment to facilitating global sustainable development in the era of the Sustainable Development Goals.

I understand that Indonesia stands ready to continue its front-line support of South-South and Triangular Cooperation, inter-country cooperation, to build knowledge in social and economic development and good governance.

As a middle-income country with a majority Muslim population, and given its relative successes in family planning, I hope Indonesia can also play a larger role in sharing its experiences with other members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to strengthen the role of Muslim religious leaders in family planning. 

Indonesia also has much experience to offer other countries at soon to be similar demographic stages, especially in Africa, around institutionalising the demographic dividend while laying the foundation for reaping the bonus across sectors. And I look forward to its playing a greater role in this area as well.

UNFPA acknowledges China’s and India’s leadership on South-South Cooperation. I want to emphasize the need to operationalize the Taicang commitment and the unique opportunity we have with the Beijing Call to Action. Both put the emphasis on the establishment of Centers of Excellence and cross fertilization. We are also glad to continue to work with Dr. Hu, a strong supporter of South-South Cooperation and a great friend of UNFPA in the field of family planning and population.

For us at UNFPA, South-South and triangular cooperation is an increasingly important mode of engagement, particularly among a large number of Middle Income Countries, as recognized in our new strategic plan.

Earlier this year, we launched a new corporate strategy on inter-country cooperation. It outlines the principles, opportunities and operational approaches for promoting SSTC to scale-up national capacity to achieve the ICPD Programme of Action and the Sustainable Development Goals.

We are currently training staff and positioning selected country offices as knowledge hubs to facilitate the exchange of expertise, information and resources, matchmaking countries’ needs and the best relatable, applicable experiences.

This work includes brokering dialogue between countries on strategies for harnessing the demographic dividend; on best practices for delivering sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning; and on addressing gender-based violence, child marriage and other issues at the heart of the ICPD and 2030 agendas. The UN was founded on the principle of dialogue for peace!

We at UNFPA are convinced that only by working together, innovating for scale, building on our collective achievements and experience, our strengths and our partnerships, will we be able to achieve by 2030 our three ambitious, transformative people-centred goals:

  • zero preventable maternal deaths,
  • zero unmet demand for family planning, and
  • zero violence and harmful practices against women and girls, most apt as we emphasize the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence in this period starting this weekend.

Many of the 150+ countries where we work have already made investments and developed expertise in areas critical to advancing the ICPD agenda. Even the most economically disadvantaged and smallest countries, which are often viewed primarily as recipients of South-South Cooperation, have good practices to offer others.

At UNFPA, we view our role as facilitators of that knowledge exchange.

We also recognize the important role played by Partners in Population and Development in helping advance implementation of the ICPD agenda through South-South Cooperation. 

A truly global agenda demands a truly global approach.

The 2030 Agenda and its broad, ambitious, universal goals will require resources far greater than any UN agency, government or development actor can provide on its own.

This means working closely with a wide range of partners, especially member states, but also the private sector and civil society, to share and scale up solutions.

UNFPA, with its strong country presence and partnerships and its extensive experience and expertise as a trusted knowledge broker, is uniquely placed to facilitate the spread of innovation in South-South cooperation.

We imagine a world where the power of the SDGs generation, youth, 1.8 billion strong, the largest youth generation ever, will fulfill their aspiration, good health, good education, good employment, in an atmosphere of peace and justice, where girls decide to marry and space their children according to their choice.

We remain firmly committed to continuing to support the exchange of know-how between countries in need and those with deployable expertise to realize the ICPD and 2030 agendas, achieve our transformative goals and ensure a life of dignity, health and wellbeing for all, including young people and future generations.

In the words of the founding President Soekarno of Indonesia:

Berikan aku sepuluh pemuda, maka akan kuguncangkan dunia.

“Give me ten youths, then we will shake the world!”

Terima kasih. Thank You.