Functional bodies have important input for annual ministerial review, President of Economic and Social Council tells commission on population and development

Report
from UN Economic and Social Council
Published on 02 Apr 2009 View Original
POP/974

Commission on Population and Development
Forty-second Session
7th Meeting (AM)

The Commission on Population and Development and other functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council were important sources of input for the Annual Ministerial Review, which would focus on global public health, Council President Sylvie Lucas ( Luxembourg) said as the Commission's forty-second session continued today.

She said the Commission could provide intergovernmental leadership in areas such as sexual and reproductive health, prevention of child mortality, improvement of maternal health, and the interrelations of population dynamics, including population ageing and public health, at the upcoming Annual Ministerial Review, to be held during the Council's high-level segment.

Established during the 2005 World Summit, the Annual Ministerial Review had enjoyed a successful launch in 2007, focusing on the eradication of poverty and hunger, she said, adding that it had considered sustainable development in 2008. Preparations for the 2009 Review were already under way and had generated strong engagement by Member States, the United Nations system, other international stakeholders and civil society, including the private sector.

Other speakers stressed the importance of the Commission's current discussions for the topic to be considered during the Review, noting, among other things, the existence of 106 million married women in the world with an unmet need for family planning, due largely to a lack of access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of contraception. The representative of the United States remarked in that regard that, in sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 22 women died in childbirth compared to 1 in 7,300 women in developed countries.

Belgium's representative proposed that the results of the Commission's current session be presented during the Review instead of being considered towards the end of the Economic and Social Council's substantive session in Geneva or during the technical segments.

Also this morning, the Chief of the Population and Development Section at the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) highlighted some of the activities undertaken with respect to subjects addressed by the Commission.

The Commission also heard from the Minister for the National Institute of Women of Honduras.

Other speakers were the representatives of Spain, Zambia and Israel.

The Commission will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, 3 April, to conclude its session.

Background

The Commission on Population and Development met this morning to consider the contribution of population and development issues to the theme of the 2009 Annual Ministerial Review: "Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to global public health".

Address by Economic and Social Council President

SYLVIE LUCAS ( Luxembourg), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the 2009 Annual Ministerial Review was scheduled to take place from 6-9 July in Geneva, during the High-Level Segment of the Council's substantive session.

She described the Council's functional commissions as important sources of input to assess progress, identify obstacles to the attainment of health goals and devise effective strategies to achieve those goals. The Commission on Population and Development, in particular, could provide intergovernmental leadership in areas within its competence, including sexual and reproductive health, prevention of child mortality, improvement of maternal health and the interrelations of population dynamics, including population ageing and public health.

Launched successfully in 2007, the Review had focused on the eradication of poverty and hunger and considered sustainable development in 2008, she said. Preparations for the 2009 Review were already under way and had generated strong engagement by Member States, the United Nations system, other international stakeholders and civil society, including the private sector.

Among preparatory activities had been a global preparatory meeting at Headquarters which had considered the effects of the crisis on achievement of the health goals, she said. A regional meeting in Sri Lanka had focused on "Financing Strategies for Health Care", and an upcoming one in Beijing would address "Promoting Health Literacy". A proposed regional meeting in Doha, Qatar, was expected to take up "Preventing and Controlling Non-Communicable Diseases" and two others, in Jamaica and Ghana, would discuss issues relating to HIV/AIDS and e-health, respectively.

Other meetings and events were being organized or had been held, including one on "Philanthropy and the Global Health Agenda" and an Economic and Social Council panel discussion on traditional medicine, she said. An Internet forum on "Global Public Health", held between 26 and 29 February, had been successful in generating a number of actionable recommendations.

She said the Annual Ministerial Review centred around a series of national voluntary presentations -- this year expected to be delivered by Bolivia, China, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Japan, Mali, Sri Lanka and the Sudan -- and aimed to provide examples of best practices and lessons learned so that other Member States might base their initiatives on what worked. At the request of the developing countries making presentations, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs had helped organize national workshops to strengthen capacity to assess implementation of national development strategies.

General Discussion

ROMAN OYARZUN ( Spain) said it was important for the Economic and Social Council to recall the outcome of the Commission's 2007 session, particularly concerning changes in the global population's ageing structure, and address that topic urgently. In Europe and some countries of Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, population growth rate had fallen to historically low levels, in some cases below replacement levels. In 2050, 93 countries would have an average age above 40, and only eight countries would have an average age below 25. Chronic disease was a major cause of death in developing countries and was also claiming many lives in developed countries due largely to poor living standards. The number of elderly people in the world had grown and stepping up assistance to them should be a public health priority.

JOE KAPEMBWA, Director, Finance and Economic Section, Division of Gender in Development, Cabinet Office of Zambia, said there were 106 million married women in the world with an unmet need for family planning, due largely to a lack of access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of contraception. Others had limited information about the methods available. That must change. Maternal mortality could be reduced by expanding family planning services. An estimated 13 per cent of all maternal deaths worldwide resulted from abortions, and the prevention of unwanted pregnancies through contraception could result in marked declines in the number of abortions. Better family planning would substantially reduce infant and child mortality.

He said family planning could greatly improve public health, but effective implementation of such policies required adequate funding and per capita funding for family planning had declined in many countries over the past decade. Substantial domestic and external resources were needed to ensure universal access to reproductive health by 2015. Emergency obstetric and neonatal care must be strengthened in order to make meaningful gains in reducing maternal mortality. Infrastructure for ensuring safe delivery was also necessary. Governments in developing countries had been encouraging families to ensure that deliveries occurred in health facilities, but inadequate space, equipment, supplies and communications facilities had made it difficult for them to do so.

GLENN GRIFFIN ( United States) expressed his country's renewed commitment to the Cairo Programme of Action, underlining the importance of access to sexual and reproductive health and recognizing the need to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women. Although the Commission's discussions had revealed several demographic trends in relation to health, it was striking that complications during pregnancy and childbirth remained a leading cause of death for women of child-bearing age in developing countries and little progress had been made in that regard. In sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 22 women died in childbirth compared to 1 in 7,300 women in developed countries. The United States was committed to ensuring access to safe and affordable family planning services during pregnancy and diagnosis of sexual transmitted diseases, among other things. Reproductive health and family planning programmes were essential for maternal and child health and, therefore, of vital importance to the Annual Ministerial Review.

DORIS GARCIA PAREDES, Minister, National Institute of Women of Honduras, said her country had made progress in implementing much of the Cairo Programme of Action, but much more remained to be done. The Government had approved a document comprising 16 strategies for speeding up the reduction of maternal and infant mortality. Honduras had also incorporated reproductive health into its human rights policies and strategies.

The Government had adopted a special law on HIV/AIDS, in addition to the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and the Law to Combat Domestic Violence, among others, she said. It had also developed three strategic plans to control HIV/AIDS during the period 2008-2015. It had initiated several programmes to provide maternal health, post-partum care, family planning, cancer screening and prevention, domestic violence prevention, infertility, menopause treatment, and sexual and reproductive health. Honduras had a network of maternity and infant care clinics in rural areas and those with large indigenous populations.

She said the Government had stepped up efforts to stop HIV/AIDS, which had a prevalence rate of 0.6 per cent. A programme to prevent mother-to-child transmission had been successful and, according to the National Programme for HIV/AIDS Prevention, the HIV prevalence rate in pregnant women was 0.5 per cent to 0.6 per cent. The 2005-2006 Demographic and Health Survey illustrated the progress made in the area of reproductive health. Still, there were cases that showed a gap between Honduras and other Latin American countries, which demonstrated the need to better attend to the needs of youth. The Government had launched a poverty-reduction strategy and was working to achieve the Cairo goals. It had also adopted the National Women's Policy and the Second Plan for Gender Equality, 2008-2015.

ILAN FLUSS ( Israel) said the Commission's discussions on population, sexual and reproductive health, family planning and ageing should contribute to the 2009 Annual Ministerial Review as they were very relevant to public health. Israel hoped those discussions would be reflected in the Review, which should include topics such as public health services and products and focus on the poor, women, youth and children.

OLIVIER BELLE (Belgium), noting that the Economic and Social Council's subsidiary bodies submitted technical reports, which were taken up towards the end of the session, proposed that the Council consider a formula by which technical bodies like the Commission on Population and Development would be more visible. Belgium suggested that the results of the Commission's current session be presented during the upcoming Annual Ministerial Review.

BATOOL SHAKOORI, Chief, Population and Development Section, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said the Section's mission was to strengthen national capacities to integrate population issues into development strategies. As such, it was working with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the League of Arab States and the Permanent Population Committee of Qatar to organize a conference from 18-20 May in Doha, on population and development in the Arab region. During 2008-2009, the Section had focused on four priority themes, the first of which was youth, monitoring implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth. Its other youth-centred activities included a regional inquiry and workshop on country responses to the Programme of Action.

Turning to the second priority theme of ageing, she said the Section had recently assessed implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing at the regional level, and requested countries to prepare national official follow-up reports. It had also published The Demographic Profile of Arab Countries -- Ageing of Rural Populations, which concluded that the two most important determinants of ageing among rural populations in developing countries were the rural-to-urban migration of working-age people seeking employment, and the urban-to-rural migration of those 65 years and older after retirement. Work on the third priority theme focused on meeting challenges associated with international migration. ESCWA and other regional commissions would soon launch a two-year project to strengthen national capacities to incorporate migration issues into development strategies. Under the fourth theme -- demography of Arab countries -- the Section's work recognized that the process of fertility decline, along with the slow growth of elderly populations, offered Arab countries a window of opportunity to increase savings.

Ms. LUCAS (Luxembourg), Economic and Social Council President, said, in closing remarks, that the Council was well aware of the Commission's current and previous work on ageing and reproductive health, and of the links between public health and other issues. The Presidency was trying to ensure that upcoming events and meetings would address those links.

She said the Council was working to scale up implementation of the public health-related Millennium Development Goals. The Secretary-General's report was now under preparation and its recommendations would be considered during the Geneva session. The upcoming Annual Ministerial Review would be based on the mandate that the Council had received and the functional commissions would provide important input in that regard.

For information media - not an official record