Director Tells NGO Global Meeting:
More Funding Needed to Back
Strong Commitment to Reproductive Health and
August 31, 2004
LONDONDeveloping countries are making real
gains in promoting reproductive health and
womens rights, but they are hampered
by inadequate support from rich nations and
serious problems persist, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid,
Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations
Population Fund said today.
She was speaking at Countdown 2015, a global
round table meeting organized by non-governmental
organizations to mark the 10th anniversary
of the 1994 International Conference on Population
and Development (ICPD) in Cairo. Some 700 participants
from 109 countries are assessing progress in
meeting the goals of the ICPD, which linked
poverty alleviation to womens advancement
and improved access to reproductive health
"Countries have made the ICPD Programme
of Action part of their national agendas,"
Ms. Obaid said in a plenary discussion on global
changes since the Cairo Conference. In regional
review meetings, they have reconfirmed their
commitment to the programme despite pressure
not to do so, she noted. They say, Nobody
can tell us to change it, she added.
At a press conference, Ms. Obaid said a recent
UNFPA survey answered by 169 governments confirmed
that most countries have taken steps since
1994 to empower women and address key reproductive
health concerns. But it also showed that much
more needs to be done to improve maternal health,
slow the spread of HIV/AIDS and ensure adequate
supplies of essential contraceptive commodities.
"In 2004, it is a crime that women still
die because they are having babies," she
declared, referring to the persistence of high
maternal death in many developing countries,
especially among the poor and young women.
"We know what to do: increase access to
skilled access at birth and to emergency obstetric
"Because it is poor women who are suffering
and dying, maternal mortality is a crisis that
does not get the urgent attention it deserves,"
she added in a later working group discussion.
"Half of the 14,000 people newly infected
each day with HIV are women, and half are between
ages 15 and 24," Ms. Obaid told reporters.
We must ensure that young people have the knowledge
and means to protect themselves."
Support from developed countries for reproductive
health programmes falls far short of commitments
made at the ICPD. Donors share of funding
for contraceptive supplies and condoms for
HIV/AIDS prevention has declined by one third
since 1994, and needs for such commodities
will grow 40 per cent by 2015.
An increase in funds for the ICPD action plan
is critical to realizing the United Nations
Millennium Development Goals for 2015, including
halving extreme poverty and hunger, slowing
the spread of HIV/AIDS, empowering women and
reducing maternal mortality. Unless serious
attention is given to reproductive health,
Ms. Obaid asserted, the MDGs cannot be
Also addressing the press conference were Steven
W. Sinding, Director-General of the International
Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), and Dr.
Fred Sai, Adviser to the President of Ghana
on Population, Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS
and a key figure at the 1994 Cairo conference.
Both spoke in the meetings opening session.
Countdown 2015 is "the result of an amazing
collaboration among key networks of NGOs
to identify what needs to be done to achieve
the goals set at the ICPD for 2015, Mr. Sinding
stated. We must learn from the successes
and failures of the last 10 years and apply
that knowledge to the next 10 years,"
Towards that end, working groups will make recommendations
on key topics including HIV/AIDS, poverty,
safe motherhood, human rights, sexuality and
abortion. These will be incorporated in a final
declaration addressed to world leaders and
The meeting is an initiative of Countdown 2015:
Sexual and Reproductive Rights for All, a coalition
launched by Family Care International, IPPF
and Population Action International. These
three groups today released a "report
card" grading countries on their progress
in implementing the ICPD programme. It found
that 23 countries have made significant advances,
while 17 have achieved little or even lost
UNFPA is the worlds largest multilateral
source of population assistance. Since it became
operational in 1969, it has provided help to
developing countries, at their request, to
meet reproductive health needs and support
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