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Declaration on behalf of the European Union on the contribution of the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals

Date of Speech : 05-04-2005

Place : New York

Speaker : Anne Elsen

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Mr. Chairman,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union, the candidate countries Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, the countries of the association and stabilization process and potential candidates Albania, Croatia*, the former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia and Serbia-and-Montenegro, as well as EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, align themselves to this statement.

At the outset, I would like to reaffirm the EU's commitment to the Cairo Program of Action and the Key Actions for the Further Implementation of the Program of Action of the ICPD. We are committed to achieve the goals agreed at ICPD and to continue to support the attainment of the ICPD goals.

Today, more than halfway through the implementation of its action program, and while taking stock of the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, it is apparent that the Cairo consensus has been a milestone in development, by placing the individual at the centre. The Cairo Program of Action recognized the right to sexual and reproductive health, and the empowerment of women and gender equality, as decisive elements in the overarching effort to foster development and reduce poverty. Countries have overwhelmingly reaffirmed their commitment to and ownership of the Cairo agenda at the various regional events that have taken place over the last year or two to mark tens years since ICPD.

In this regard, the EU would like to underline its strong support for the activities of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). We underline the importance we attach to the activities of UNFPA which are in strict conformity with the Cairo Program of Action. The fact that UNFPA in 2005 has more than 150 donors, more than any other voluntary funded UN agency, is a sign of their strength and the confidence in, and support for the organization, its mandate and its staff. UNFPA as the main implementing agency for the Cairo agenda needs additional and predictable resources and the EU encourages all member states to contribute to its core funding.

Mr Chairman,

We all committed ourselves collectively to ensure universal access to reproductive health services by the year 2015. Access to sexual and reproductive health information and services is an internationally agreed goal and an end in itself. Ensuring universal voluntary access to a full range of quality reproductive health care information and services is a central element in the ICPD Programme of Action, and essential for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. This is made very clear in the expert work of the Millennium Project and all of its Task Forces.  That work reminds us also that population and development issues are inextricably linked, and that for some countries rapid population growth is making it harder to attain the goal of poverty reduction, and hinders efforts to empower and improve the health of women, children and men. Access to reproductive health services is absolutely vital to efforts to reducing maternal and child mortality, preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, promoting health and alleviating poverty.  This is clearly recognised within the SG's report "In Larger Freedom", which, for example, identifies access to sexual and reproductive health services as a key intervention to advance gender equality.  The MDGs, and the overarching goal of poverty eradication, simply will not be achieved without achieving also the ICPD goals.

As the world is focused on the Millennium Development Goals, the EU would like to remind that population trends have a strong impact on social and economic development and it has been well documented that a rapid population increase constitutes a significant obstacle to the goal of poverty reduction hindering the empowerment of women, children and men alike. Managing population growth is a basic tool to be able to manage worldwide food supply and vital environmental resources, such as water. Access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights is the main key to managing demographics, reducing maternal and child mortality, preventing an exponential spread of HIV/AIDS, ensuring gender-specific action, promoting health and alleviating poverty, as a cause and as a consequence. It is crucial to recognize the majority of the MDGs, and the overarching goal of poverty eradication, will not be achieved without achieving the ICPD goals.

The spread of HIV/AIDS can be substantially reduced by the implementation of the ICPD. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to just over 10% of the world's population - and almost two-thirds of all HIV infected people in the world are living in this area. In 2003, of the three million AIDS deaths globally that year 75% were Africans. These figures illustrate perfectly the link between population, HIV/AIDS and poverty, as do our discussions here this week. The fact that women bear the brunt of AIDS illustrates also the fact that progress in preventing HIV is unlikely without also the reproductive rights of women being recognised and respected.  And reproductive health services of course provide a key foundation for efforts to prevent HIV.  An expanded response to HIV/AIDS also means an expanded response to sexual and reproductive health.

Reproductive health commodities are an essential tool in the fight to reduce maternal and child mortality and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Some 200 million poor women in developing countries have an unmet need for effective, accessible and affordable contraception. Meeting their needs is entirely feasible, with adequate funding and an effective partnership that includes the private sector and civil society. To alleviate the most immediate funding gap, the EU in 2004 contributed over 80 million dollars to the Reproductive Commodities Trust Fund of UNFPA.

Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are still the leading cause of death for women in the reproductive age in developing countries and mortality during childbirth has not decreased over the last decade in the poorest countries. We must recognise too that many of these deaths result from unsafe abortion. The lack of safe motherhood is still one of the world's urgent concerns, which needs to be addressed. Every minute a woman dies from complication during pregnancy or childbirth, often by causes that easily could have been prevented. Reducing maternal mortality implies saving lives, alleviating poverty and improving opportunities for the next generation. Meeting unmet demand for contraception could do much to improve maternal outcomes and women's choice. We should remember, too, the benefits to child health outcomes from ensuring women's access to family planning and effective contraception. To reduce maternal mortality, we must continue to focus on the provision of human rights-based, integrated reproductive and sexual health services through the primary health care system. The EU urges Governments to take appropriate steps to help women to avoid abortion, which should not be promoted as a method of family planning. Contraception is the major tool to prevent unwanted pregnancies but many women don't have that option and risk to lose their lives or to have severe health problems as a result of unsafe abortion. All Governments and relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations should strengthen their commitment to women's health, to deal with the health impact of unsafe abortion as a major public health concern and to reduce the recourse to abortion through expanded and improved sexual and reproductive health services.

Gender inequality is a continuing impediment to the implementation of the Cairo Program of Action and of the Millennium Development Goals. We have to invest more in women's empowerment, recognizing their rights and enabling them to make choices that will influence their health and quality of life, as well as their families’. In this context, greater attention should be given to the promotion of mutual, respectful and equitable gender relations and to meeting the educational needs of adolescents and youths to enable them to deal in a positive and responsible way with their sexuality. It is important that boys and girls are equally involved in and have access to sexuality education. We need an integrated approach which supports the empowerment of women and contributes to improving their quality of life. An integrated approach should include addressing issues such as: the promotion of human rights, the protection from abuses such as violence against women, the trafficking of women, early marriage and female genital mutilation. And of course, essential aspect of women’s human rights are their reproductive rights.  Women's empowerment must also mean the ability of women to control their own sexual and reproductive lives, free from coercion, threat and risk.  We recognised this in Cairo and we should recognise it now.

The commitments of the ICPD and the MDGs are mutually reinforcing, and should be addressed in an integrated way. The Millennium Project identifies MDG on maternal health as the goal where the world has been least successful and recognises the importance of sexual and reproductive health to AIDS prevention, to lowering maternal and child mortality and indeed to all aspects of poverty reduction and development.  The Project and its Task Force reports make recommendations concerning sexual and reproductive health which we believe would help make a real difference to efforts to make progress towards attaining the MDGs.  We agree with "Investing in Development" that access to sexual and reproductive health services is a "quick win" for development.  And this is why it is important that population and sexual and reproductive health and rights should be fully integrated into macro-economic policies, sustainable development policies, poverty-reduction strategies and sectoral plans.

As the SGs report "In Larger Freedom" emphasizes, strong health systems are required to ensure universal access to basic health services, including those to promote reproductive health as well as child and maternal  health, and to control killer diseases, such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.  Stronger health systems are essential as a foundation for better services.

Progress at country level will be achieved through the inclusion of the ICPD agenda into MDGs-friendly Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and other national planning frameworks. This progress will help to make the financial resources needed more visible in the national financial instruments such as the Medium-Term Expenditures Frameworks (MTEF).

The Cairo Program of Action continues to be under-funded and substantial increases in ODA must be secured if the goals of ICPD, ICPD+5 and MDGs are to be met. The EU is making steady progress in fulfilling its commitment on ODA announced at the International Conference on Financing for Development, namely that those member States that have not yet reached the UN goal of 0.7% ODA/GNI commit themselves to increasing their ODA volume in the next four years, within their respective budget allocation processes .

Mr. Chairman,

The EU continues to be a strong and consistent supporter of the Cairo Program of Action. We have sought to reflect this commitment in our policies and funding. We recognize the inter-relationship between the ICPD Goals and our common effort to meet the MDGs. In 2005, we will reach the first important milestone on our way to 2015. We must continue to press forward vigorously and with renewed commitment to implement the Cairo Agenda. We should, in this context, ensure that this and other ECOSOC commissions take an integrated approach and strengthen our collective efforts to follow-up the outcomes of the major UN summits and conferences in a manner that facilitates effective implementation and progress towards the MDGs.

The MDGs cannot be attained without progress in achieving the Cairo goal of universal sexual and reproductive health and rights. We should ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights issues are properly reflected within the outcome of the 2005 High Level Event, including its targets and monitoring indicators.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

* Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

This page was last modified on : 08-04-2005

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