International Forum on “Universal Access to Reproductive Health for the Attainment of ICPD Goals and MDGs”

Welcome Address by
Mr. Harry S. Jooseery
Executive Director, PPD

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is my pleasure welcoming you all to this International Forum on “Universal Access to Reproductive Health for the Attainment of ICPD Goals and MDGs”, which PPD is organizing with assistance from the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco and UNFPA. I would like in the first instance to thank the Kingdom of Morocco and most particularly H.E. Madame Yasmina Baddou, Minister of Health of Morocco for all the support and assistance provided to PPD in the organization of the Forum in Rabat and also for the warm hospitality of the people of the Kingdom of Morocco to all our delegates from different countries gathered in Rabat for the events.

I am also thankful to UNFPA for its financial and technical assistance provided to us. We are indeed honoured to have among us
Dr. Purnima Mane, the Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA,
Dr. Rogelio Fernandez-Castilla, Director of Technical Support Division of UNFPA. I welcome also representatives from IPPF, JICA and WHO for their presence and support to PPD. I thank also all the Board Members, most particularly, the Chair H.E. Zhang Weiqing, Minister of National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC), Government of the People’s Republic of China and all the PCCs for their active involvement, collaboration and advice in the organization of all the events in Rabat.

Ladies and gentlemen, if we sit back and look at the promises and targets of the MDGs as we are at the midway point of the 15 years target, we find ourselves at an unprecedented crossroad. We find ourselves at a situation of extreme dichotomy and opposites.

While on one hand rich countries become richer, billions of people live in extreme poverty with short brutal lives. According to the 2007 MDGs Report, over half a million women still die each year from complications of pregnancy and child birth. The risk of a women dying in Sub-Saharan Africa is one in every 16 women while in the developed world. It is 1 in every 3800 women. Half the population of the developing world lack basic sanitation. 3 million children die of preventable diseases yearly in the developing countries.

Within the developing world itself, there is a widening income disparity, especially in Eastern Asia where the share of consumption of the poorest declined dramatically between 1990 and 2004.

From the demographic perspective, it is the same scenario of opposites. It is estimated that the Earth’s population will soon be increased by 2.5 billion people, most of them in the countries least able to grow enough food. Excessive population growth leads to poverty, starvation, disease squalor and social violence. While population in the wealthy industrial nations is about 1 billion with a growth rate below replacement rate, the situation in the developing world is worsening day by day. Some countries, commonly known as the Fourth World, are so destitute that recovery is almost impossible. UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health in January 2007 alerted world leaders on what they called the “Return of the Population Growth Factor” especially in developing countries where 99% of global population growth will take place.

Access to Reproductive Health in developing countries is either limited, scarce or inexistent. Today, an estimated 20 Million women want to postpone or delay childbearing, but do not have access to family planning. Closing the gap so that any women at risk of unwanted pregnancy has access to modern contraceptives would cost $ 3.9 billion more per year. It would save the lives of 1.5 million women and children annually and reduce abortion by 64%. And yet military spending from the rich countries is substantially higher than ODA.

Between 1995 and 2003, donor support for family planning commodities and service delivery fell from $ 560 million. Promotion of family planning in countries with high birth rates has the potential to reduce poverty and hunger, and avert 25 to 35% of all maternal deaths and nearly 70% of childhood deaths.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this Forum on “Access to Reproductive Health for the Attainment of ICPD Goals and MDGs” is more than opportune. There are serious Reproductive Health issues that need to be addressed urgently to alleviate the sufferings of billions of our brothers and sisters in the developing world. The cost of apathy could be staggering. We need collectively to come at the rescue of our people. The rich world will not be insulated if in two or three decades, billion of people living in appalling poverty are struck with disease, famine and violence and continue to deplete the environment.

Success in achieving the MDGs in the poorest and most disadvantaged countries cannot be achieved by these countries alone. Developed countries need to deliver fully on longstanding commitments to achieve the Official Development Assistance (ODA) target of 0.7% of Gross National Income. G8 industrialized nations must live up to the 2005 pledge to double aid to Africa. It is unfortunate that ODA instead decreased between 2005 and 2006 and is likely to be lower in 2007.

At the same time, we are unlocking formidable new opportunities for greater effort from the developing countries themselves. With countries like China and India, a new South-South ODA has emerged.

It is however refreshing to learn that United Kingdom has put GBP 10 Million at the disposal of UNFPA for Reproductive Health Programme. Concrete actions have been taken through South-South Cooperation by China to promote access of Reproductive Health Commodities and transfer of technologies to developing countries. It is our earnest wish that all developing countries join hands together to improve the lives of the most destitute nations. Globalization has resulted in the need for more collective actions, for people and countries to act together to solve common problems. As nation-state has been weakened, there is need for the creation at the international level the kind of institutions that can deal effectively with the challenge. Partners in Population and Development is mandated to promote South-South Cooperation in the field of Reproductive Health, Population and Development and is well posed to re-link the developing nations. South-South Cooperation is the key route for alleviating the sufferings of many in the developing world. The declining ODA should not be a cause for despair but instead the basis for greater cooperation, partnership and coalition building for a unified force. With these, I wish that by the end of these two days of deliberation, we come up with a commitment for a Rabat Declaration that will pave the way for a roadmap for greater concerted effort to address emerging Reproductive Health needs for the attainment of ICPD Goals and MDGs.

Thank you for your attention.

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