The world had witnessed nothing short of a demographic revolution since 1947, bringing with it both challenges and opportunities for sustainable development, speakers said today, as the Commission on Population and Development opened its fiftieth session.
Over the past seven decades, the global population had substantially increased due to a remarkable rise in life expectancy and a drop in the birth rate, said Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, at the start of the week-long session on the theme “changing population age structures and sustainable development.” Today, as population growth had slowed or even come to a halt in many countries, the debate over population issues was shifting once again, he underscored.
Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani (Qatar), Commission Chair, said that continued rapid rises in population, particularly of young people, in some parts of the world presented a very different situation compared to slow or declining population growth, combined with rising proportions of older persons, elsewhere. Furthermore, Government policy responses varied substantially across countries and regions. Such changes must be taken into account when pursuing implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she stressed.
Eliya Zulu, Director of the African Institute for Development Policy in Nairobi, explained that falling birth rates and a large proportion of working-age people, coupled with effective human capital investment, could lead to accelerated economic growth — a phenomenon referred to as demographic dividend. Yet there was a limited period to take advantage of a youth bulge before it turned into an older population bulge, he warned. In countries with high birth rates, it was important to create family planning programmes and to address all barriers of access to and use of contraception in order to eliminate unplanned pregnancies and reduce fertility. Education systems must prioritize transferable skills, innovation, science and technology and entrepreneurship.
Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet, spoke on behalf of the Secretary-General, saying that investing in people would help alleviate the financial strain associated with an ageing population by providing opportunities for healthy aging and ensuring that older persons could participate fully in society, including in the workforce. Parents should be supported, particularly mothers, so they could better manage the responsibility of working and raising children at the same time. “Sustained global commitment is necessary to ensure that the fragile gains of the past are not squandered,” she stressed.
Sustainable development could not be advanced without guaranteeing the rights of all people, including women, urged Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). “We don’t look after women and we don’t make any effort to ensure that in their old age they are taken care of,” he stressed. Older people had a right to live in dignity, he said, adding that “We need a new social structure that looks after the ageing population.”
Also speaking today were State Ministers and other senior officials of Ecuador (on behalf of the Group of 77 Developing Countries and China), Malta (on behalf of the European Union), El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Qatar (on behalf of the Arab Group), Niger, Nicaragua, China, Belarus, France, Chile, Bangladesh, Mexico, Philippines, Mongolia, Argentina, Guatemala, Peru, India, Madagascar, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Israel, Afghanistan, Paraguay, Jamaica, South Africa, Finland, Japan, Pakistan, and Sierra Leone, as well as a youth representative of the Netherlands.
In other business, the Commission elected Lewis G. Brown (Liberia), Cristina Maria Alina Popescu (Romania) and Nicola Rosemarie Gaby Barker-Murphy (Jamaica) as Vice-Chairs for the session, as well as Ms. Popescu as Rapporteur.
The Commission also adopted the provisional agenda for its current session (document E/CN.9/2017/1), and approved its organization of work (document (E/CN.9/2017/L.1).
Jorge Bravo, Chief of the Demographic Analysis Branch of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on changing population age structures and sustainable development. Benoit Kalasa, Director of the Technical Division of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), presented the Secretary-General’s report on the changing population age structures and sustainable development. Rachel Snow, Chief of UNFPA’s Population and Development Branch introduced a third report on the flow of financial resources for the further implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action.
The Commission will reconvene on Tuesday, 4 April, at 10 a.m. to continue its general debate.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar), Chair of the fiftieth session of the Commission on Population and Development, noted that this year’s Commission theme was “Changing population age structures and sustainable development”. The session would provide an excellent opportunity for Member States and stakeholders to exchange views and reach agreement on population issues central to defining and implementing a post-2017 vision for sustainable development. It would be critical to understand and account for demographic changes in the coming years when designing and implementing the new development agenda.
Changes in the age structure of human populations were taking place across the globe, with major implications for sustainable development, she said. Such changes presented both challenges and opportunities for Governments and the international community. There were daily reminders of the links between population trends and sustainable development. In that context, the Commission’s current focus on changing population age structures was very timely. Continued rapid population increases combined with large and growing numbers of young people in some parts of the world presented a very different situation compared to slow growth or population decline combined with rising proportions of older persons in other parts of the world. Furthermore, policy responses adopted by Governments differed substantially across countries and regions.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI, Chef de Cabinet, speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General, said the world’s population had changed immensely since the adoption of the Cairo Programme of Action, as people were living longer and healthier lives than ever before. Mankind was also more urban than ever. Understanding population dynamics was critical for the pursuit of sustainable development. The Cairo Programme of Action stressed the importance of investment in women and girls, the need to respect reproductive rights and the role of international migration as an engine for sustainable development, as well as the need to uphold the human rights of all migrants.
The decline in birth rates, if combined with investments in human capital, could lead to a demographic dividend that accelerated a country’s growth, she said. Women must be empowered and afforded the same employment opportunities as men. Men must also do their share of household work and childcare. Investing in people would help alleviate the financial strain associated with an ageing population by providing opportunities for healthy ageing and ensuring that older persons could participate fully in society, including in the workforce, while they were able. Governments could promote efforts to slow the process of ageing populations. Parents should be supported, particularly mothers, so they could better manage the responsibility of working and raising children at the same time. All Governments were encouraged to facilitate migration that was safe, orderly and regular. The work of the Cairo Programme of Action remained unfinished, particularly with regard to child marriage. At least 250 million women worldwide had an unmet need for methods of family planning. “Sustained global commitment is necessary to ensure that the fragile gains of the past are not squandered,” she said.
WU HONGBO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the world had witnessed nothing short of a demographic revolution since 1947. Over the past seven decades, the global population had substantially increased due to a remarkable rise in life expectancy and a drop in the birth rate. During the 1980s and the 1990s, the debate moved from a top-down focus on fertility reduction for the sake of population control to a bottom-up focus on human rights and individual well-being. Today, as population growth had slowed or even come to a halt in many countries, the debate over population issues was shifting once again. Population ageing and population decline had now become key issues for a growing number of Member States. With fertility at, or even below, the replacement level, international migration was becoming the main driver of population change several countries.
The shifting context of population policies was reflected in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he continued, recalling that two population megatrends — international migration and urbanization — had been absent from the Millennium Development Goals. Using critical data, Governments were now able to anticipate major shifts in population and implement smart policies that respected demographic realities. While the Commission had provided invaluable guidance to Member States over the past 49 years, it had to adjust to changing circumstances and to be able to contribute to the follow-up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals.
BABATUNDE OSOTIMEHIN, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said the Millennium Development Goals lacked a human rights base while the 2030 Agenda — a transformational plan — focused on issues relating to equality, inclusion and human rights. That was vital as people’s rights were the basis of development. Expressing concern that the global population was ageing, he noted that different patterns in different countries reflected varying economic structures. The 2030 Agenda must never disconnect from the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda as those pacts were driving human development. Echoing the Secretary-General’s report, he underscored that sustainable development could not be advanced without guaranteeing the rights of all people, including women.
Even in countries where there was prosperity, widows were poorer than widowers, he continued. “We don’t look after women and we don’t make any effort to ensure that in their old age they are taken care of,” he added. Expressing concern that the rights of young people continued to be denied in many parts of the world, he noted the trend of young people leaving their home countries in search of opportunity and employment. Hence, young people must be part of human development. Expanded investment in education, the empowerment of young people and the well-being of their sexual and reproductive health enhanced human capital throughout all sectors of society. Governments must also do more to address high rates of child marriage and teen pregnancies.
On the other spectrum, older people had a right to live in dignity, he said, emphasizing that the old concept of “school, work and retirement” had to be re-examined. “We need a new social structure that looks after the ageing population,” he urged, adding that the burden of ageing cannot be placed on the backs of other older people, particularly women. Underscoring the role of data, including from the private sector, he said that many countries underused information and statistics on fundamental topics.
JOHN WILMOTH, Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said that while some countries must meet the challenge of a young and growing population, others were facing the challenge of an ageing population. Changes in the age distribution of populations were an outcome of success, including in improving health and reducing mortality, enabling women and men to exercise greater control over the number of children they had, and in reducing death rates, including for older persons. Between 2015 and 2050, the population aged 65 or older in Europe was projected to increase from 23 to 28 per cent, while in North America that percentage was projected to increase from 18 to 23 per cent. Due to a slow decline in rates of fertility, many parts of Africa would retain a young population for decades to come, although there would be an opportunity for a demographic dividend there. If the future population was empowered by having access to health care and education, countries would be in a good position to reap the dividends.
The Population Division’s data-driven support to the Commission’s work continued, he said. The importance of objective, impartial evidence to support fact-based discussion was widely recognized. The Division also continued to support various intergovernmental processes and expand its work in capacity development. The Cairo Programme of Action promoted the rights, health and well-being of all people at all ages, much like the 2030 Agenda had pledged to “leave no one behind”.
Introduction of Reports
JORGE BRAVO, Chief, Demographic Analysis Branch, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report titled “Changing population age structures and sustainable development” (document E/CN.9/2017/2) and noted that women were having fewer children and having those children later in life, while also increasing their participation in the labour force. A key macroeconomic implication of the demographic transition was the end of an era of increasing global labour supply. There was evidence that a second demographic dividend could remain positive long after the first dividend had elapsed. In countries with an increasing number of children and youth, policies that improved maternal and child care must be prioritized, as must universal access to care services. In areas where fertility was declining, there was an opportunity to benefit from the demographic dividend, which could be further enhanced by investment in human capital, productive employment and policies to encourage saving and investment.
BENOIT KALASA, Director, Technical Division, UNFPA, introduced the Secretary-General’s report titled “Monitoring of population programmes, focusing on changing population age structures and sustainable development in the context of the full implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development” (document E/CN.9/2017/3), saying that good population data and knowledge systems were essential. Investments in population and development — including access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality — were necessary to eliminate barriers to poverty reduction. Without such investments, individuals and communities would be unable to meet their full potential.
HORACIO SEVILLA BORJA (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said implementation of the Cairo action programme was crucial for ending poverty and hunger. Recognizing the links between changing population age structures and sustainable development, on the one hand, and the need for policies that strengthened developing country capacities, on the other, he said implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action was essential and he advocated efforts to find the most appropriate means to support the human rights of older persons.
Recalling that population issues required a broad approach at the national, regional and global levels, he recognized the need to integrate into planning an analysis of changing population age structures and use of disaggregated demographic data. Indeed, population and changing age structures had implications for climate-related vulnerabilities. The right to development was universal and inalienable, and it must be fulfilled in order to equitably meet the population, development and environment needs of future generations.
CARMELO INGUANEZ (Malta), speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted that changing population structures had an impact on all the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda and voiced regret that few of the Secretary-General’s recommendations had found their way into the “zero draft”. In particular, investments in sexual and reproductive health care services — including family planning, evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education and laws and policies on violence and discrimination — were crucial elements for the realization of human rights and for Governments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. “We have the largest generation of youth in history,” he said, urging States to harness that demographic dividend by paying particular attention to realizing the rights of children, adolescents and youth without discrimination of any kind, including based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It was also critical to invest in social services in rural areas and ensure gender equality and the empowerment of girls throughout their life cycle. He went on to describe efforts under way in the European Union to manage the bloc’s unprecedented demographic changes, which included an ageing population, low birth rates, changing household compositions and migration.
ZAHID MALEQUE, State Minister for Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the least developed countries and associating himself with the statement of the Group of 77 and China, noted that in the past 20 years, the least developed countries had made considerable progress in ensuring better health, education and job opportunities for their people. However, numerous challenges continued to persist in those countries, including with regard to primary education, life expectancy, maternal mortality and child health. Furthermore, they faced new and emerging challenges such as climate change impacts, rapid urbanization, human mobility and migration, conflicts, and other issues. The continued high fertility rate in the least developed countries combined with the decline in mortality had resulted in rapid population growth. Young people were projected to constitute 25 to 30 per cent of the population in least developed countries by 2060.
Given the reality that millions of girls and boys were currently only attending school for a few years, the least developed countries urgently needed to fundamentally reform their education systems so that the next generation of young people could contribute to modernizing the economies of their own countries, he said. Women’s empowerment was inextricably linked to their access to good education, their participation in the formal labour force and materializing their sexual and reproductive health as a human right. Decent work was a central aspiration for individuals and societies and efforts must be made to substantially reduce the proportion of unemployed young people. Enhanced investment were needed to ensure that every adolescent and youth, particularly girls and women, would not continue to face barriers such as child marriage, early childbearing, limited schooling and maternal health care, gender inequality and discrimination.
JULIO OSCAR ROBLES, Vice-Minister for Health of El Salvador, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that the availability of high-quality, accessible, timely and reliable data was essential for planning and implementing policy. Vulnerable people must be empowered. That included children, youth, persons with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS, older persons, indigenous peoples, refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as migrants. To fulfil the pledge of “leaving no one behind”, it would be critical to formulate policies and assess progress towards sustainable development. To document changes in population age structures and to evaluate the impacts of those changes, age-disaggregated data were essential.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, one quarter of the population was young, a demographic offering unique opportunity for social investment in adolescents and youth, he continued. The empowerment of older persons was also essential in realizing their participation in a development model that would only be sustainable if also inclusive. Underscoring the need to improve mechanisms of regulation, supervision and control of international and regional financial systems, he noted that the mobilization of national resources alone was not enough to achieve sustainable development. A universal, comprehensive, inclusive and equitable approach, based on quality and solidarity, was vital.
SALEH BIN MOHAMMAD AL NABIT, Minister for Development Planning and Statistics of Qatar, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the statement to be delivered by the Arab Group, said the global gap between the two sexes must be dealt with to realize the sustainable development objectives. Qatar had implemented many of the recommendations reached in Cairo in 1994, while taking into account its particular religious, moral and cultural values. Qatar’s population development policies had enabled the country to achieve great progress in the health and education sectors, and in regard to the rights of women, youth, migrants and the elderly.
Population structure in the Arab region had changed significantly due to armed conflicts, forced displacement, mass migration, and other social and economic factors, he continued. Youth were critical to achieving development and they must be enabled to participate in development activities and initiatives. Full participation of all stakeholders was vital to achieve sustainable development, he added, and underscored the importance of national data and statistics in guiding policies. Qatar would continue to work with all parties to confront challenges and to realize prosperity for all.
ELIYA ZULU, Director of the African Institute for Development Policy in Nairobi, said the world had witnessed a remarkable transition from high to low birth and death rates, which impacted current and future population dynamics. Due to its slower demographic transition, Africa had a younger population, which was growing faster than populations in Asia and Latin America. However, in Africa and Asia, it was projected that by 2060, birth and death rates would be about the same, which meant that the population would stabilize. Around 2015, a dramatic change in population dynamics took place in Asia and Latin America, whereby there was a 20 per cent decline in the number of children, while in Africa 60 per cent of the population was still below the age of 25.
Between now and 2050, the biggest proportion of change was projected to be in the elderly population, whereby the number of people in that age group was projected to double, he said. In youthful populations, there were relatively fewer people who were of working age, which meant that they were forced to carry a tremendous burden to provide for the younger and older generations. When birth rates fell and the proportion of those who were of working age increased, accelerated economic growth could take place. That phenomenon was referred to as the demographic dividend.
As demonstrated in South Korea, there was a limited time period to take advantage of a youth bulge before it turned into an older population bulge, he said. The opportunity to harness the demographic dividend was time-bound. Most populations in sub-Saharan Africa were dominated by children and youth, although there were big variations between countries on the continent. There were some countries in Asia that had slower demographic transitions than the rest of the region, while the population distribution in Latin America could vary considerably between countries. In countries with high birth rates, it was important to put into place family planning programmes and to address all barriers of access to and use of contraception in order to eliminate unplanned pregnancies and reduce fertility. There also needed to be reforms within the education system to prioritize transferable skills, innovation, science and technology and entrepreneurship.
Introduction of reports
RACHEL SNOW, Chief, Population and Development Branch, UNFPA, introduced the Secretary-General’s report titled “Flow of financial resources for assisting in the further implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development” (document E/CN.9/2017/4). Official development assistance (ODA) remained critical for sexual reproductive health support, especially for least developed countries, she said. The importance of reliable data on resource flows was undeniable for sustainable advocacy. The evolution of sexual reproductive health assistance called for a review of methods, greater specificity, and new sources to be explored. It was also critical to explore combining that with more significant national efforts.
RAKIATOU CHRISTELLE KAFFA JACKOU, Minister for Population of Niger, said her country had a population of 20 million and an annual growth rate of 3.9 per cent. More than half of the population was under the age of 15. If that trend continued, Niger would soon make it on the list of highly populated countries. The Government had set up a number of strategic projects to meet population challenges. Young people were being educated on the consequences of pregnancy and marriage. In Niger, poverty had decreased while the number of children enrolled in primary education had jumped. A national initiative had also been set up to promote the independence of older people. Various government projects were addressing challenges faced by migrants and women as well, she noted.
MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, associating herself with the statements of the Group of 77 and CELAC, recalled that the Cairo Programme of Action had a broad mandate on matters related to development and establishing human rights as a fundamental element. In her region, tens of millions of people had been lifted out of poverty and homelessness over the last five years. Nevertheless, millions more were still victims of the unequal distribution of wealth worldwide. The situation of women in the region was far from satisfactory on many accounts. Intense urbanization brought about improvements, but also new challenges. The international community must make elective efforts to implement sustainable development with tangible results. The participation of women was a driving force for change and stimulated development in Nicaragua. The country had in place a national plan for fair and decent employment for young people. The international community must renew its political will and strengthen cooperation with regional organizations. Financing for development would be essential for success, as would be adequate means for implementation.
CHU LI, Vice-Minister for the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China, associating herself with the statement of the Group of 77, said that population trends would have comprehensive and long-term impacts on development. China was entering a critical stage in terms of its population size and distribution, which reflected global changes as well as the country’s unique dynamics. China had a national development plan that was people-centred and oriented towards green, open and inclusive development. The goal was to achieve an appropriate population structure and pursue population development in a coordinated and sustainable manner. Investment in people, particularly youth, was the most rewarding investment of all. Senior citizens should be encouraged to engage in all activities as a reflection of their value within societies. Support for family development should be enhanced to ensure families could respond to risks in a coherent manner.
SALEH BIN MOHAMMAD AL NABIT, Minister for Development Planning and Statistics of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed the need to respect the rights of all people in society, particularly the most vulnerable. Population planning depended on vital data and undertaking such initiatives required technical and financial support. The Arab region had witnessed changes in its age structure due to military conflicts, terrorism, and mass migration which had placed significant pressure on transit and host countries.
While host countries had demonstrated their ability to help refugees, the international community had a critical role to play as well in supporting the socioeconomic stability in those countries, he continued. The Israeli occupation of Palestine had gone from bad to worse. Rules and regulations adopted by the occupying Power were reminiscent of apartheid policies, he added, urging the international community to boycott the Israeli settlement policy. He also stressed the need to respect the unique social, cultural and legal backgrounds of each country.
VALENTIN RYBAKOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said his country had taken steps to further ensure social integration of the elderly, improve health care and family welfare, and increase birth-rates. The Government had developed education and health-care services for the elderly and had recognized that supporting the family structure was critical to maintaining population balance. Belarus had adopted initiatives supporting mothers, providing free food for children under age 2, and heightening the role of the father. Overall, State policies had yielded positive results with life expectancy having grown in recent years, overcoming the trend of depopulation.
JEAN-MARIE LE GUEN, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie of France, associating himself with the European Union and expressing condolences to the family and victims of the attack in Saint Petersburg, outlined what his country was doing to help the elderly grow old in good conditions, noting a new law that provided them care. To meet the expectations of young people, public policy was focusing on education, training and jobs. “It is a matter of stability,” he said, emphasizing the need to create conditions for youngsters to thrive and to make “free and enlightened” choices in regards to their reproductive and sexual lives. Lack of access to modern contraception increased the use of abortion. The recent rise of conservatism sought to reassign women to their archaic status, he warned, stressing the need to maintain the rights of women and girls. Underscoring the need to abandon traditional yet harmful practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation, he said that such topics must be addressed despite the difficulty in doing so.
JAIME BURROWS, Vice-Minister of Health of Chile, associating himself with the statements of the Group of 77 and CELAC, said that the country’s population was gradually ageing. By 2025, more than 20 per cent of the population would be over the age of 60, while about 18.5 per cent of the population would be under the age of 18. Chile had put in place public policies to improve the standard of living of older persons as a matter of priority. A programme of action for older women, as well as for midwives, went hand-in-hand with other initiatives aimed at the well-being of women. The country had prioritized improving reproductive health, which now represented 29 per cent of the country’s health expenditures. Demographic trends which were determining important social changes drove ethical and political imperatives for public policy in Chile, in both the short- and medium-terms.
Mr. MALEQUE, State Minister of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh, speaking in his national capacity, said that by putting peoples’ empowerment at the heart of its national development agenda, his Government was poised to join the ranks of middle-income countries by 2021. One of the world’s most densely populated countries, Bangladesh had achieved inclusive economic growth at a rate of over 6 per cent for the past decade, reducing poverty to below 21 per cent. Bangladesh had also invested heavily in education, ensuring free primary and secondary education for all and providing free books to 44 million children. With a focus on primary health care, it was providing free medicine at thousands of community clinic and health centres.
Maternal mortality had decreased substantially, he continued, underscoring that the Government was committed to ensuring the social and economic empowerment of women. Noting that special quotas for women had been reserved in all public services, he said the Government had also prohibited marriage before age 18. To ensure the well-being of the elderly population, the Government had created pension schemes and expanded housing and medical treatment facilities. Noting that migration was a major contributor to population dynamics, he stressed the importance of safe, regular and orderly migration.
JULIO OSCAR RUIZ, Vice-Minister for Health of El Salvador, associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said his country had been working to implement the Cairo Programme of Action as a matter of priority. El Salvador had set out to reduce inequality and promote inclusion in social and economic development through a comprehensive national system. El Salvador was in the early stages of a transition toward an ageing population. The National Institute for Youth had put in place a number of programmes, including those geared towards greater youth employment. The country had also worked to implement a model of social prevention of violence, with youth participation. The model was built on civil co-existence, which prioritized a culture of peace. Sexual and reproductive health campaigns aimed at reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies. Youth pregnancy had a great impact on the long-term well-being of young people.
PATRICIA CHEMOR RUIZ, Secretary-General of the National Economic and Development Authority of Mexico, said that shifts in population age structures were an opportunity for development and improved well-being. In Mexico, the growth rate was decreasing, while life expectancy was increasing and infant death decreasing. There were shifts from rural-urban to urban migration flows. Parity between men and women was sought at all levels. Demographic and migration flows showed a particular need to assist older women, as they suffered from many forms of discrimination and were exposed to abuse and abandonment. As good health was necessary for development, universal access to social security was a key Government objective. Efforts in that regard had allowed various parts of society to live healthy, satisfactory lives. The human rights of the millions of Mexicans and their descendants living in neighbouring countries must be respected.
JOSE MIGUEL DE LA ROSA, Under-Secretary of the National Economic and Development Authority of the Philippines, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that fertility remained the primary source of population growth. The poorest 20 per cent of the population had an average fertility rate of five children per woman. In highly urbanized regions, there were more people of working age compared with the national average. The Government continued to promote access to reproductive health services, especially maternal health and family planning. Underscoring the need to invest in primary and secondary education, skills development, and livelihood assistance, he called on developed countries to continue supporting middle-income and developing countries in improving their capacities to accelerate the rate of change in the population age structure.
UNURBAYAR GOMBOSUREN, State Secretary for the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Mongolia, said his country had made substantial progress in implementing its population development policy, as well as drafted a strategy on ageing and approved its Sustainable Development Vision 2030. Thirty-five per cent of the population was between 15 and 34 years of age, and as such, Parliament would discuss a draft law on youth development in its upcoming session. At the same time, the percentage of people over age 60 was expected to double by 2028 and triple by 2040. Thus, demographic dividend issues, along with social welfare and health care for older people, must be immediately addressed, he said, citing the adoption of the elderly law as a legal base to promote social protection. With 68.5 per cent of the population in urban areas, and 45.5 per cent in the capital alone, he said such challenges must be tackled in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said that the global ageing population was a reflection of one of humanity’s greatest achievements. Yet that bulging population also underscored the need to adopt a comprehensive strategy that monitored and promoted rights from birth to old age. While a lot of progress had been achieved in the 23 years since the Cairo conference, much remained to be done, he added, urging greater focus on society’s most vulnerable groups with a human rights-based and gender-sensitive approach. The document to be adopted by the Commission this year must include issues relating to all three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. Consensus to be reached must also respect various forms of family, continue to promote the empowerment of women, protect the environment, and mitigate the effects of climate change.
Ms. ALVAREZ OCH (Guatemala), associating herself with CELAC, said her Government was creating a mechanism that would monitor urban and rural development. Having aligned its national strategy with the 2030 Agenda, Guatemala was focusing on the distribution of national resources and improving its statistics to effectively monitor and evaluate progress. Partnerships between the private and public sector were critical in all development initiatives. The Government was also focusing on reducing child hunger, informal labour and unemployment, which affected young people most of all. It was critical to invest more in women, children, youth, people with disabilities, the elderly, refugees, migrants and people living with HIV/AIDS. The Government was also working to reduce crime and the murder rate.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said the country’s expanding population was a significant development. By 2050, the population in Peru would reach an estimated 40.1 million inhabitants. That dynamic was the result of two factors: a high birth rate, and a continued drop in mortality due to increased access to quality health care and better living conditions. Peru was in the early stages of a demographic transition. One of the most striking characteristics of the population structure was the existence of a demographic dividend, which was expected to carry on through 2050. Peru intended to take advantage of that dividend by implementing public policies which created a balanced approach to sustainable development and economic growth. The percentage of Peruvians under the age of 15 was shrinking due to a slowing birth rate.
SYED AKBARUDDIN (India), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that his country was home to one sixth of the world’s population and was a “nation of young people”. Nearly two thirds of Indians were less than 35 years of age. Extensive economic reforms and the strengthening of institutions meant that India was among the fastest-growing large economies and was also expected to sustain high levels of growth on account of the demographic dividend. The Government was placing special emphasis on improving access to quality education, vocational skills, entrepreneurship and innovation. India was also implementing an ambitious financial inclusion programme for social empowerment, especially of women and the most vulnerable sectors. Together with affordable health care, programmes for family planning, health insurance and pensions were being implemented.
ANDRIAMASY HONORE FOLOZARA, Director of the Cabinet of the Ministry of Economy and Planning of Madagascar, said that in the last two years, his Government had focused on accelerating poverty reduction by targeting women and young people, particularly those living in rural areas. The country had promoted links between population and development, including by integrating population issues into development plans. Human capital had been placed at the centre of development. More than 64 per cent of the country’s population was under the age of 25. Young people often found themselves in a vulnerable situation, due to their inability to attend school or obtain regular work. More than half of the unemployed youth had been out of work for one year or longer. These various challenges meant that Madagascar needed updated information and statistics to ensure policies were effective and sustainable.
JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, called for urgent measures to address the global ageing population. Costa Rica’s social policy focused on protection of human rights and addressing poverty in a more holistic, systemic manner. Costa Rica was developing the potential of young people and guaranteeing enjoyment of their basic rights, he added, emphasizing the need to strengthen access to sexual and reproductive health. It was vital to ensure gender equality and the empowerment of women in all phases of a woman’s life. Recognizing the importance of comprehensive care programmes, he pointed to a national policy focused on promoting and protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of older adults. Costa Rica would continue to invest in its most vulnerable populations and work with international partners to ensure human dignity for all.
SURYA CHANDRA SURAPATY, Head of the National Population and Family Planning Board of Indonesia, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had improved access to contraceptives and was offering a nationwide family planning programme. It had also instituted a mandatory 12 years of basic schooling and was providing funds for children from underprivileged families. As it headed towards an ageing population, Indonesia focused on improving quality of life, addressing disparity and inequality, and strengthening good governance. It was focusing on enhancing elderly people’s access to health care and equipping them with the skills to function in an increasing competitive job market. Strengthening social security, especially for vulnerable groups, was essential as well.
MAAYAN KEREN (Israel) said her country had a rapidly growing elderly population and among the highest life expectancies in the world. At the same time the fertility rate had remained relatively high. The rapid population growth and changing age structure underscored the need for an integrative strategy that took into account all age groups and sectors. Israel had worked to fully integrate older persons into society and encouraged them to stay in the work force, having been among the first countries to increase the retirement age from 60 to 62. Promoting the dignity, health and independence of older persons was central to its approach on ageing, and in recent years, the Government had worked with civil society and local authorities to strengthen the intergenerational bond by pairing students seeking affordable housing with older persons who live alone.
SANNE THIJSSEN, Youth Ambassador for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, speaking on behalf of the Netherlands, said the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people in humanitarian and crisis situations required attention and investments. Half of the people living in crises around the world were under 20 years of age. As they fled their homes and countries, many had seen their family networks and educational and health structures break down, which left them vulnerable to many risks, including early marriage, unplanned pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections. Upholding all young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights without discrimination of any kind often meant the difference between pain and prosperity. The changing population structures and accompanying processes, such as ageing, demographic dividend and urbanization, called for a stronger integration of young people to empower them to improve their communities.
HANIF AHMADZAI, Deputy Minister for Policy and Technical Affairs, Ministry of Economy of Afghanistan, said investments in population and development, including access to sexual and reproductive health care, were essential to reducing poverty. In Afghanistan’s case, insecurity and the terrorism threat had made it difficult to sustain hard-won gains. Underscoring that both country ownership and international partnerships were essential, he noted that Afghanistan’s transformation decade (2015-2024) was focusing on investing in education and health. Ensuring such services to young people and sustaining access throughout their lives was essential. The cost of inaction could exacerbate development gaps and result in lost opportunities for development.
JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said that the number of young people and adolescents in his country was growing. More than 70 per cent of the population was under the age of 30. In that context, ending poverty and ensuring health care and education were priorities for the country’s national development plan. The most recent national population surveys indicated that the country was in the beginning stages of a population transition as the adult population expanded. Since 2010 Paraguay had pursued a national plan aimed at protecting the rights of older persons. His country had also sought to identify key actions over the next five years that focused on the implementing the 2030 Agenda. He called for increased support for capacity-building, particularly for countries in vulnerable situations, such as landlocked countries.
TONI-SHAE FRECKLETON (Jamaica) noted that her country was quickly approaching a turning point in its demographic transition. Jamaica had been experiencing a demographic bonus for more than three decades, which was now peaking and would start to decline in the very near future. The child population was declining, while increasing proportions of the population were of working age, as well as elderly. Those dynamics were presenting both opportunities and challenges for Jamaica. The shifts were placing undue pressure for reforms in social development, as well as sustained economic growth and environmental protection. The priority was to maximize the demographic dividend by accelerating job creation in human capital and ensuring an enabling environment for private-sector development.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that no person should be discriminated against based on race, sex, class, sexual orientation or gender identity. The most vulnerable people must be empowered and that included people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and West Africa. He also stressed the need to address the challenges faced by people with HIV/AIDS. An ageing population must live in dignity and have access to vital services. Ensuring rights to the most marginalized in society was essential to achieving sustainable development, he added, noting an upcoming conference in South Africa that would focus on population and development
JOUNI LAAKSONEN (Finland), noting that his was a country with an ageing population, said one in five people in Finland was at least 65 years old. The total fertility rate was low and the country had seen a general upturn in the health and functioning of its population in recent decades. Pointing to its historical basis as a Nordic welfare State, he said that model was renowned for the universal nature of its welfare provision and the core values of equal opportunities, social solidarity and security for all. Care for socially marginalized and vulnerable people was another cornerstone of Finland. The country also had a long tradition of promoting gender equality both nationally and internationally. In that regard, he stressed the importance of consistent and comprehensive international efforts to promote those goals through advocacy on issues relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights, increasing comprehensive sexuality education and preventing mother-to-child mortality.
REIKO HAYASHI, Director of the Department of International Research and Cooperation at the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research of Japan, said her country had the highest proportion of elderly people in the world. The speed of ageing in Japan had been very quick, requiring reforms of the social security system. Due to the rise in the number of elderly people, the cost of medical care was increasing and posing numerous challenges. Family structure was changing as well, as more and more elderly people were living alone. Relationships among people of different ages were becoming more important. Population ageing was a global phenomenon. To cope with it, Japan was working to develop care programmes for the elderly throughout Asia.
ABDUL GHAFFAR KHAN, Director General for Population of Pakistan, said his country hosted one of the largest populations of refugees in the world, including skilled and unskilled workers. His Government had designed various policies to improve access to education and services to vulnerable sectors of society. Developing the potential of young people was a key priority. Public health spending had increased as well. Some centralized health programmes had been relocated to rural areas and the federal Government had shifted its population and development strategy to align with the 2030 Agenda. Improving access to education, providing loan schemes to young people and economically empowering women were areas of critical focus.
HELEN KUYEMBEH, Member of Parliament of Sierra Leone, associating herself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the world’s population was undergoing significant changes influenced by various social and economic factors. Eighty per cent of people in Sierra Leone were less than 35 years of age, and only 4 per cent were above the age of 60. The Government recognized that such a demographic boom continued to pose challenges for jobs and the delivery of social services. Appropriate investments in health, education, job creation and good governance would enable the country to move towards middle-income status by 2035.
Legislation was also in place to empower women and ensure the rights of the elderly, she continued. The Government was committed to substantially increasing financing for the health sector. Sierra Leone was also in the process of finalizing a policy that would ensure the rights and needs of all those aged 60 years and above. She noted significant progress to assist people with disabilities, including through the establishment of a national social safety and pension scheme.
* The 1st Meeting was covered in Press Release POP/1051 of 15 April 2016.