|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/POP/30|
|BACKGROUND RELEASE||Release Date: 27 March 2000|
| Commission on Population and Development to Hold Thirty-third
Session at Headquarters from 27 to 31 March
NEW YORK, 24 March (UN Headquarters) -- The world has experienced remarkable demographic change during the second half of the twentieth century, but the pace of change has not been uniform across countries, nor has it been experienced uniformly by men and women, the Secretary-General states in a report to the Commission on Population and Development, due to begin its thirty-third annual session on Monday, 27 March. The session is expected to last until 31 March.
During the Commission's first session since the special session of the General Assembly last June on the implementation of the 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo), members will examine the link between population, gender and development and review proposals for key actions for further implementation of the Cairo outcome, adopted at the Assembly session. Despite some progress, the Secretary-General urges, in another report to the Commission, that action must be reinforced in a number of areas, including the elimination of existing negative traditional, religious and cultural practices that subjugate women and reinforce gender equalities.
In another of several reports before the Commission, the Secretary-General draws attention to one of the primary obstacles to the full implementation of the Action Programme -- the serious lack of financial resources. Donor funding for population activities has stagnated, and was far below expectations, he states. Further, the failure to generate domestic resources for financial crises and dislocations has impeded efforts to generate the resources required to implement national policies and programmes. International population assistance had increased negligibly, with funding levels still less than half of the $5.7 billion agreed target, and population assistance as a percentage of official development assistance (ODA) has declined.
A general debate on national experience on this year's topic, population, gender and development, will be held during the session. The Commission is also expected to convene a panel discussion led by regional representatives, in order to bring a regional perspective to the issue of gender and development. Also planned is a discussion of the interaction between population trends and globalization. Questions on ageing and the phenomenon of replacement migration as a solution to declining populations will also be addressed. Members are also expected to adopt a five-year work plan.
The Population Commission was established in 1946 by the Economic and Social Council to study and advise the Council on population changes, including migration, and their effect on economic and social conditions. Following the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, it was decided that the Commission's name would be changed to the Commission on Population and Development, which would meet annually beginning in 1996 to assess implementation of the Cairo Conference's Programme of Action at the national, regional and international levels. The Commission comprises 47 members, elected on the basis of equitable geographic distribution for a term of four years.
Reports Before Commission
The Commission had before it a report on the special session of the General Assembly for the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (document E/CN.9/2000/02). The report examines the review and appraisal process, as well as the key future actions adopted at the special session. It also presents steps to be considered for further implementation of the Action Programme.
The report recalls that, at the opening of the special session, the Secretary-General had stressed the connection between population and development, and praised the International Conference for promoting a fuller understanding of those interactions. He also underscored the link between sexual and reproductive health and human rights and urged efforts to fully implement the Programme of Action, particularly the financial resource levels agreed at Cairo in 1994. The review process had been characterized by broad United Nations system-wide participation and the involvement of a wide range of civil society organizations. In particular, there was close collaboration between the Population Division and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
According to the report, the review and appraisal process concentrated primarily on policy changes and operational experiences at the country level, in order to identify facilitating factors and obstacles encountered during the initial five-year review. Those concrete experiences provided a basis for identifying further actions needed to accelerate and fine-tune the implementation of the Programme. The round tables and technical meetings afforded the opportunity for in-depth examination of the Programme's implementation, as they considered topics related to adolescent reproductive health, reproductive rights and implementation of reproductive health programmes, women's empowerment, male involvement and human rights, and partnership with civil society. The Hague Forum drew on the outcomes of these technical meetings to formulate recommendations for the next phases of implementing the Programme.
The UNFPA conducted a global field inquiry in mid-1998 to assess progress and constraints encountered in the implementation of the Action Programme, the report states. The inquiry focused on the following key areas: policies and programmes in population and development: gender equality, equity and women's empowerment; reproductive rights and reproductive health care; and government partnerships and collaboration with civil society. It found that there had been concrete results in implementation, including the integration of population concerns into development strategies, institutional changes to accommodate institution of the Programme, and an increased involvement of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Countries had also launched initiatives to promote the participation of women at policy and decision-making levels, and progress had been made towards advancing the well being of the girl child. In addition, many governments had adopted measures to promote the involvement of civil society groups in policy formulation, implementation and monitoring.
The report finds that serious lack of financial resources remains one of the primary obstacles to the full implementation of the Programme. Donor funding for population activities has stagnated and is now far below expectations. The failure to generate domestic resources for financial crises and dislocations has impeded efforts to generate the resources required to implement national policies and programmes. Socio-cultural factors also continue to hinder the full achievement of gender equality. Women still face violence at all stages of life and the feminization of poverty had increased such forms of violence as trafficking and forced prostitution. The lack of coordinating mechanisms and funding constraints often precludes more extensive collaboration between governments and civil society groups.
Also according to the report, key actions for further implementation of the Programme of Action were adopted at the final plenary meeting of the special session. The document called attention to population and development concerns, noting the linkages among population, economic growth and environment. It also recognized the implications of the changing age structure and the ageing of the population and underscored the urgent need for policies and programmes to deal with the causes of internal and international migration, urbanization and the resultant dislocations. Also at the special session, the Assembly also called upon governments to make every effort to implement the Programme in regards to adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
It was also decided, according to the report, that governments should ensure that the human rights of women and girls are respected, particularly freedom from coercion, discrimination and violence. The Assembly also recognized that the HIV/AIDS situation was worse than had been anticipated at the time of The Hague Forum. In that context, it reiterated the four central components of sexual and reproductive health: family planning; maternal health; prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases; and prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Key future actions on the issue of abortion addressed the consequences of illegal or unsafe abortion on the health of women. It was also accepted that family planning services and contraceptive methods should be made accessible in an environment that enabled women to use them effectively.
Also, the report notes the recommendation of the special session to establish interim benchmarks, aimed at reducing vulnerability to the HIV/AIDS infection in the following ways: at least 90 per cent of young men and women between 15-24 should have access to preventive methods by 2005 and 95 per cent by 2010; the 1990 illiteracy rate by women and girls should be halved by 2005; by 2010, the net primary school enrolment ration for children of both sexes should be at least 90 per cent; and by 2005, 60 per cent of primary health-care and family-planning facilities should offer the widest achievable range of safe and effective family-planning methods. Finally, at least 40 per cent of all births presently should be assisted by skilled attendants where the maternal mortality rate was very high, and 80 per cent globally by 2005.
Overall, the report finds that the special session was widely regarded as a most successful endeavour. While the session marked the culmination of five years of progress in implementing the consensus on population as a development issue of concern to all countries and provided an encouraging basis on which to build, it also illuminated the fact that formidable challenges still remained. The need to ensure women’s reproductive rights was as pressing as ever; women died needlessly each year as a result of pregnancy and millions of women still did not have a choice of safe and effective contraceptive methods. Also, much remained to be done to provide adequate access to sexual and reproductive health information and services for adolescents.
Since the most serious constraint on the implementation of the Programme of Action is the shortfall in funding, the International Conference on Population and Development endorsed the figure of $17 billion from all sources to be reached by 2000. Some donor countries have met their share, but most have not. The UNFPA in its programming and advocacy would strive to enhance country capacity to meet the goals of the Conference. The Fund would also work with programme countries and the donor community to augment the funds available for population and mobilize support for reaching the financial targets specified in the Programme. Further steps identified towards implementation of the Programme include continued partnerships within the United Nations system and the international community, as well as placing resource mobilization for population activities high in the global development agenda.
The concise report on world population monitoring, 2000: population, gender and development (document E/CN.9/2000/3) provides a summary of selected aspects of population, gender and development, and includes a historical review of population and gender issues in the global agenda. It also provides recent information on such topics as family formation, health and mortality, including HIV/AIDS, ageing, and internal and international migration. As population and gender policies and programmes have developed, so has the realization that much more remains to be done.
The Secretary-General states that the present report is designed to contribute to better understanding of the issues, and to more effective measures for dealing with them. It contains a summary of recent information on the major components of population change and their linkages to gender. Specifically, the report covers patterns and trends in family formation, including marriage, contraception and fertility; mortality, including major causes of death, and HIV/AIDS; population ageing; and internal and international migration. The policies and activities of governments with respect to each component are also reviewed.
Following the Teheran International Conference on Human Rights in 1968, a series of three international population conferences provided the main forum for global population policy formulation, the report states. The first of three, the 1974 World Population Conference in Bucharest, adopted the World Population Plan of Action. A key point in its principles and objectives was that population trends are significant because of their relationship to socio- economic development. In 1984, the International Conference on Population, held in Mexico City, made important innovations in the area of population and gender. Its recommendations referring to the role and the status of women were separated from those dealing with reproduction and the family, and were given a prominent position in the report.
Continuing, the report notes that the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo in 1994, further broadened and deepened the discussion of the population and gender relationship. The Action Programme was built on concern for human rights and described the human rights of women and the girl child as an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights. The Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, adopted in July 1999, and the key future actions call for gender disaggregated analysis of social and demographic processes. The high-level plenary review found that there had been progress in implementing the 1994 Programme of Action, but that in some areas progress had been limited. The special session adopted a set of key actions for the further implementation of the Action Programme, including recommendations on the promotion and protection of women’s human rights, the empowerment of women, a gender perspective in programmes and policies and advocacy for gender equality and equity.
Also according to the report, the world has experienced remarkable demographic change during the second half of the twentieth century. The pace of change has not been uniform across countries, however, nor has it been experienced uniformly by men and women. Although there have been vast overall improvements in the health and well-being of both men and women, the evidence illuminates the pervasive effects of gender and the links between inequalities in different domains and across the life cycle. In response to such evidence, governments are paying increasing attention to the gender-specific implications of policies and programmes and have begun to address urgent issues, as reflected in the recommendations of the Programme of Action and the key actions for the further implementation of the Programme of Action adopted by the General Assembly.
Mortality, the report finds, has generally declined more rapidly for women than for men so that the differential in life expectancy in favour of women has increased, although in some countries girls are still disadvantaged in terms of survival in comparison with boys. While women continue to have universally higher life expectancy than men do, the increasing adoption of smoking by women has made tobacco-related mortality a threat to the female advantage. Gender relations have also been shown to play a significant part in the course taken by the AIDS epidemic. Relative to men, women are at a disadvantage with respect both to their risk of acquiring the disease and to their dealing with its consequences in families and communities. The impact of AIDS has eroded part of the female advantage in life expectancy in those countries hardest-hit by the epidemic.
Also, as a result of declines in fertility, the report states, the amount of time women devote to childbearing and child-rearing has been substantially reduced, and this has facilitated their participation in the labour force. Improvements in education, particularly of women, account for a significant proportion of observed declines in fertility and mortality. Higher education is also associated with later age at marriage and late transition to parenthood. Declining fertility is often accompanied by increased investment in children's schooling. However, in spite of unanimous international endorsement of education as a fundamental right, a catalyst of development and an important contributor to family well-being and enhanced health, access to schooling remains inadequate and gender gaps remain. Nevertheless, important progress has been made towards universal primary schooling, and sex differentials in school enrolment have narrowed.
Population ageing, the evolution to an older age structure as a result of declining fertility and mortality, has changed the balance in numbers of men and women, the report continues. At ages 60 and older, for example, there are currently 1.2 women for each man; and at ages 80 and older, there are nearly twice as many women as men. Among social scientists, demographers have traditionally analysed data separately for men and women. Gender-disaggregated data have been used to identify the relative position and role of men and women in social and demographic process across countries and over time. However, research that regards gender roles and relations as both determinants and consequences of demographic processes remains limited. The measurement of gender equality and equity also poses serious challenges for researchers. For example, measures that are universally applicable across different settings are few.
The emphasis given to gender issues at the International Conference on Population and Development has stimulated innovative research in this area. Researchers are increasingly paying attention to gender issues in the collection and analysis of demographic, social and economic data. This attention has highlighted the insights that may be gained from a gender perspective and is likely to further our understanding of the critically important relationships among population, gender and development.
The report on monitoring population programmes: population, gender and development (document E/CN.9/2000/4) is intended to give a broad overview of the range of activities that have been initiated towards implementation of the outcome of the International Conference on Population and Development in the area of gender, population and development. It presents the strategies and approaches that countries have adopted in response to the recommendations of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development concerning gender in population and development. It also provides an analysis of the challenges and constraints encountered by countries in programme implementation and matters pertaining to resource mobilization within the area of gender, population and development.
The report reviews progress with respect to population programmes and related development activities at the country level. It focuses on programme experiences and strategies in the area of gender, population and development initiated towards implementation of the outcome of the International Conference on Population and Development. It primarily addresses operational activities to promote gender equality and equity and the empowerment of women in population and development programmes.
Over the past decade, profound social, political and economic changes have taken place throughout the world, the report states. New objectives and goals on gender, population and development have been established that concern empowerment, equality and equity, human rights, male responsibility and participation, poverty, health, education, employment, violence, migration, the environment and the media. These objectives have led to changes in the strategies used to reach the goals of equality and equity. They have signalled the unfolding of a political process that encourages the involvement of a spectrum of civil society and reflects the emergence of new partnerships. Promotion of gender equality, equity and empowerment of women have increasingly become important concerns for governments, NGOs, civil society and, in many instances, the private sector.
The report finds that the focus on gender, population and development has been underscored by the realization that women and men experience all aspects of development in different ways. Taking this into account increases the effectiveness of planning, policy formulation and programme implementation at every level. A gender-integrated approach to population and development aims to ensure that both men and women benefit equally from development efforts and enjoy equal access to, and control over, opportunities and resources. This supports accountability and participation in processes that impact on people's lives.
Also according to the report, gender as a perspective in development work recognizes and responds to the different roles, interests, needs and relations of men and women, which arise from their different responsibilities in society. Such roles and interests intersect with those based on class, ethnicity or age to override assumed homogeneity, which often results from focusing on women or men as a group. The preference for focusing on gender, as opposed to women or men, is also fuelled by widespread evidence showing that development benefits have been accruing in a substantially different manner to both men and women, with women gaining a fraction of what men are gaining. This perspective, therefore, aims to redress these imbalances.
The report notes that, over the last five years, many countries have successfully implemented various elements of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development to promote the advancement of women. Important lessons have been learned and good practices have been documented. Gender equality is increasingly being used as a fundamental guiding principle in population and development programmes, notwithstanding different social, cultural, economic and political contexts. Nonetheless, there is need to reinforce action in a number of areas, as identified during the special session of the General Assembly (June-July 1999) for the overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (International Conference on Population and Development plus five).
In order to incorporate a gender perspective into policy, programmes and activities, some of the following actions should be undertaken: the rights-based approach to population and development policies and programmes needs to be further developed and strengthened and human rights education should be incorporated into both formal and informal education processes; action should be taken to eliminate existing negative traditional, religious and cultural attitudes and practices that subjugate women and reinforce gender inequalities; a gender perspective should be strengthened in policy formulation and programme implementation processes and in the delivery of services; and mitigating measures should be adopted against the gender-differentiated impact of globalization of the economy and of the privatization of social and health sectors, especially on the poor.
In addition: all data and information systems should ensure availability of sex-disaggregated data for translating policy into strategies that address gender concerns and developing relevant gender impact indicators for monitoring progress; the reproductive health needs of the aged should be addressed through the development of special programmes, services and institutional mechanisms that serve both men and women equally; the needs of other groups, such as the handicapped, immigrant communities, refugees and displaced persons, should also be addressed; and every action should be taken both by governments and by the private sector to remove all gender gaps and inequalities pertaining to women's participation in the labour market. Policies or legislation for equal pay for work of equal value must be instituted and enforced.
The report also provides a summary of recommended actions on gender, population and development of the special session of the General Assembly (International Conference on Population and Development plus five), which included: strengthening the institutional capacity and technical expertise of staff in government, and civil society, especially NGOs; the promotion of education of children in gender awareness as a crucial step in eliminating discrimination against women, with enforced enrolment in school for girls; acceleration of the participation of women at political and at all policy- and decision-making levels, including those for financial reforms and conflict prevention and resolution; and the development of strategies to promote gender equality at family level.
The Assembly session had also determined that all countries should ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as the Optional Protocol thereto, and remove reservations where they exist. Legal frameworks needed to be established to protect the human rights of women. The media, parliamentarians and other similar entities should adopt and strengthen strategies to tackle negative attitudes about women and assist in enhancing the value that society places on women, and zero-tolerance for all forms of violence against women and children, including rape, incest, sexual violence and sex trafficking, should be promoted. The girl child should be protected, particularly from harmful practices, and her access to health, education and life opportunities should be promoted, and the role of the family in safeguarding the well-being of girls should be enhanced and supported.
Also, action should be taken to promote a positive self-image and self-esteem among girls and women through information, education and communication strategies. Curricula reform should be undertaken to ensure that gender stereotypes are removed from all educational and training materials, and to promote male responsibility and partnership with women instead. Men's own needs for reproductive and sexual health should be addressed, and they should be supported in taking responsibility for their own sexual behaviour. All leaders at the highest levels of policy- and decision-making should speak out in support of gender equality, the empowerment of women and the protection of the girl child.
A report of the Secretary-General on the flow of financial resources for assisting implementation of the Action Programme (document E/CN.9/2000/5) examines the flow of funds from donor countries for population assistance in developing countries for 1997 and provisional figures for 1998. Since a lack of sufficient financial resources has been cited as one of the chief constraints on full implementation of the Programme of Action, an important part of the review process is the analysis of actual funding for population programmes as compared with resource targets.
The report finds that international population assistance increased negligibly from $1.96 billion in 1997 to $2.06 billion in 1998. Although that was basically unchanged since 1996, it had reversed the slight downward trend. However, funding levels are still only roughly 36 per cent of the $5.7 billion target agreed upon at the Cairo Conference as the international community’s share for financing the Programme of Action. Even though more countries had contributed over 4 per cent of total ODA to population activities in 1998, for donor countries as a whole, population assistance as a percentage of ODA has declined, as has assistance in relation to gross national product (GNP). Developing countries continue to commit domestic resources for population programmes. In 1998, domestic government and non-governmental expenditures were estimated at $8.6 billion, slightly higher than 1997, and domestic resource flows originated in a few large countries. Together, external assistance and domestic expenditures for population activities yielded a global estimate of $10.6 billion in 1999.
The data on donor assistance for population activities presented in the report have been gathered with the use of a detailed questionnaire mailed to some 200 donor countries, multilateral organizations and agencies, major private foundations and other NGOs. Both the donor and domestic financial resource flows analysed in the report were part of the “costed population package” specified in the Programme of Action. The “package” is based on identified financial assistance for family-planning services; basic reproductive health services; sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV/AIDS prevention activities and basic research data and population and development policy and analysis. The total cost for implementing the package in developing countries and countries in transition is estimated at $17 billion by the year 2000. Approximately two thirds of the projected cost would be met by the countries themselves, and one third would come from external assistance.
Also according to the report, international population assistance has followed an increasing trend since the immediate post-Conference period. From 1993 to 1996, population assistance increased 54 per cent. By 1997, however, funding levels began to decrease. Donor countries continued to be the largest source of primary funds and development banks provided just over 14 per cent of the total amount. Multilateral organizations and agencies and private sources, especially foundations, provided 2.5 per cent and 5.4 per cent of the total primary funds for population assistance, respectively. Preliminary assessments based on the 1998 round of questionnaires indicate a negligible increase in the level of population assistance from $1.96 billion to $2.06 billion. The final figures will be published in the Global Population Assistance Report 1998 to be issued in the latter half of 2000.
The report highlights trends in external assistance for population assistance. In donor country, or bilateral assistance, the trend shows an increase of almost 12 per cent from 1993 to 1997. Preliminary assessments based on 1998 resource flows indicate, however, that, as a whole, the contribution of donor countries remained unchanged from the 1997 level. The majority of final expenditures for population activities went to family-planning services. Respectively, HIV/AIDS activities, basic research and data, and population and development policy analysis followed in terms of final expenditures. Donor countries contributed 3.18 per cent of their total ODA to population assistance in 1997. Preliminary indications are that this percentage declined for the first time since the Conference to 2.98 per cent.
Assistance from multilateral organizations had decreased by 13 per cent in 1998, the report notes. This percentage is expected to change, however, as additional responses are received. Development banks, which provided loans to developing countries, are considered an important source of multilateral population assistance. The private sector has also become an increasingly visible player in the field of population assistance, with private foundations, NGOs and other private organizations making significant contributions to population activities.
The report notes that more funds for population assistance are currently expended in sub-Saharan Africa than in any other region. Asia and the Pacific, which was once the major recipient of population funding, now ranks second. Together, the two regions account for more than half of all assistance received in 1997. The distribution of population assistance among the other regions is as follows: Latin America and the Caribbean, 13 per cent; Western Asia and Northern Africa, 7 per cent and Europe, 1 per cent. It is clear that governments played the major role by far in financing population programmes in developing countries. Non-governmental organizations play an increasing role in the provision of services and in advocacy, but the majority of them continue to rely on external sources for their funding.
While the positive population assistance policies of a number of countries and the continued strength of domestic resource flows was encouraging, both donor and developing countries still have a long way to go towards attaining the Conference goals. Lack of funding remains one of the chief constraints on the full implementation of the Programme. The negligible increase in overall external assistance was discouraging, especially after the sense of optimism that had characterized the immediate post-Conference period. The current level of resource mobilization falls far short of the agreed targets. While there has been some progress, action is required by donors and developing countries alike to fulfil their financial commitments and mobilize the additional resources needed to fully implement the goals of the Conference.
The report notes that governments and the international community are urged to promote additional mechanisms to increase funding for population and development programmes in order to ensure their sustainability, including advocating for increased funding from international financial institutions and regional development banks. In view of the limited resources, donor countries, international agencies and recipient countries are also called upon to strengthen their efforts and enhance their collaboration to avoid duplication, identify gaps and ensure that available funds are used as effectively and efficiently as possible.
The report on programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 1999 (document E/CN.9/2000/6) reviews the progress achieved by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat in implementing its programme of work in the field of population in 1999. It covers the activities of the Division dealing with the analysis of demographic variables at the world level; world population estimates and projections; population policy and socio-economic development, monitoring, coordination and dissemination of population information; and technical cooperation in population. Other activities of the Population Division are also described.
The report states that population activities in the United Nations Secretariat are centred in the Population Division, which has, as its core functions, among the following: the provision of accurate and timely data, information and analyses of population trends and policies; identifying new and emerging issues, and initiating relevant studies; promotion of coordination among United Nations entities in the field of population; preparation of official United Nations population estimates and projections; taking the lead in the development and maintenance of population information systems and networks; and the provision of advisory services to assist governments in improving their institutional and technical capabilities for the analysis of population data and related information, the formulation of national policies, and implementation and evaluation of programmes.
The report contains an analysis of demographic variables at the world level, including fertility and family planning, mortality and international migration. It also reviews world population estimates and projections, including 2000 revisions and the 1999 revision of urban, rural and city population estimates and projections. It also reviews the report on the Eighth United Nations Inquiry among Governments on Population and Development, which had received replies from 90 countries by October 1999. As part of its ongoing work on the demographic, economic and social aspects of population ageing, the first United Nations wall chart on the subject was issued last year. Following the special session on review and appraisal of the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Division prepared a special publication to make the substantive review and resulting recommendations easily available to the international community.
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