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28 June 2002

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH A KEY TOOL IN WIDER BATTLE
AGAINST POVERTY, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS
IN POPULATION DAY MESSAGE

NEW YORK, 27 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan for World Population Day, 11 July:

The theme of this year’s World Population Day, "Reducing Poverty -- Improving Reproductive Health", focuses on the role of family planning, safe motherhood and the prevention of HIV/AIDS in the global fight against the squalor and despair that plague so many members of the human family.

Eight years ago, at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, the nations of the world committed themselves to the goal of providing universal access to reproductive health services by the year of 2015 as part of a larger package aimed at empowering women, promoting gender equality, slowing and eventually stabilizing population growth, and fostering sustainable development.

Since then, improved levels of schooling, higher survival rates of children, and better access to reproductive health services including voluntary family planning have helped to advance the Cairo agenda. Birth rates are dropping faster than expected in several large developing countries, and global population growth is slowing.

This virtuous circle in turn makes further progress possible. When individuals and couples are given a real choice, many decide to have smaller, healthier families and invest more in each child’s future. And because there are fewer dependents to support, the downturn in fertility translates into potential economic growth within a generation. East Asia took advantage of this demographic bonus in the 1980s. Other regions where poverty is widespread, such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, could enjoy the same benefits by putting in place economic and social policies that call for greater investments in health and education.

Even though global population growth is slowing, there will still be a billion more people in the developing world by 2015. And the most rapid growth is occurring in the world’s least developed countries, where the population is expected to triple over the next 50 years from 658 million to 1.8 billion. Already, these countries are least able to provide basic services and among the most severely challenged by hunger, HIV/AIDS, water scarcity and environmental degradation.

On this World Population Day, let us recognize reproductive health as one of the key tools in the wider battle against poverty. And let us resolve to mobilize the resources and the political will to work for reproductive health as a means to building a healthier, stronger, more prosperous human family.

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