Population growth is slowing but development challenges remain, says Fréchette

14 October 2004
Louise Fréchette

Rapid population growth is starting to come to an end around much of the world, but many regions are still struggling against the problems of poverty and pollution, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette told a General Assembly meeting held today to mark the 10th anniversary of the landmark population and development conference in Cairo.

Ms. Fréchette said many countries were still being bedevilled by the development problems that follow sudden urbanization and population growth, as well as by the human and financial tolls left by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

"We can and must go further" in the decade ahead, she said, if the world is to meet the goals and targets established at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), when 179 States agreed to a 20-year programme to try to improve reproductive health, alleviate poverty, secure gender equality and promote human rights.

Ms. Fréchette said the pace of population growth had begun to slow in some countries, driven by falling fertility rates in almost every region of the world. Life expectancy has also risen around the world since Cairo, except for Eastern Europe, East Africa and southern Africa.

General Assembly President Jean Ping of Gabon said it was clear that the programme of action drawn up in Cairo had stood the test of time as it was being used by countless nations to frame their policies to reduce poverty and boost development.

But, he added, the developing world still faced particularly daunting challenges, from the problems caused by HIV/AIDS to the millions of mothers who die each year from complications during childbirth.

Describing Cairo as a turning point, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said it had allowed people to speak publicly about issues that were once taboo, such as violence against women and the use of sexual violence as a weapon in conflicts.

She urged governments to invest more to "break the cycle" of poverty in which millions of people in poor countries are trapped - whether by increasing access to education, lifting health care standards or aiming to eliminate gender inequality and discrimination.


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