Population issues key to fighting poverty, other ills in Asia, UN-backed forum agrees

5 February 2009

Population policy, reproductive health and gender equality remain central to reducing poverty in the Asia and the Pacific region despite recent economic growth, specialists agreed at a conference convened by United Nations agencies in Bangkok this week.

In the three-day review of progress since the Fifth Asian and Pacific Population Conference (APPC) held in Bangkok in 2002, experts concluded that its plan of Action on Population and Poverty is needed more than ever in light of the global economic crisis and its likely impact on the poor.

Hundreds of millions have been left behind despite the progress made in the fight against poverty over the past few decades, with a quarter of a million women, mostly poor, dying each year in the region as a result of failing maternal health services.

Without swift action, there is little hope of attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which aim to reduce extreme poverty and other global ills by 2015, according to a press release by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

“The strategies and actions planned to achieve the population goals are crucial for the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” Director of the UN Social Development Division, Thelma Kay, told the meeting.

“The goals are too important and their implications too far-reaching for the well-being of humanity to be disputed or neglected – especially now that the global economic crisis threatens to unravel much of the progress accomplished,” Ms. Kay added.

The expert meeting, convened by the ESCAP in collaboration with UNFPA, called for the integration of population concerns and women’s empowerment in the broader development agenda.

Participants also stressed that health systems must be strengthened to ensure universal access to reproductive health services including family planning, with no discrimination against adolescents.

In addition, they called for HIV prevention efforts that reach groups most at risk of infection, more resources and better data to address gender inequality and marginalized populations, as well as viable social security systems for the elderly.

More regional reviews were proposed on the implementation of the 2002 Bangkok recommendations, which were based on the Programme of Action adopted by the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo.

“Evidence-based advocacy and partnerships are essential in this process,” said G. Giridhar, Special Adviser in the Asia-Pacific Regional Office of UNFPA.


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