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UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


POP/679
REC/28

22 September 1998


ARAB MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE ON POPULATION
AND DEVELOPMENT BEGINS IN BEIRUT


BEIRUT, 22 September (UN Information Service) -- A Ministerial Conference to assess the state of progress of the implementation of the Programme of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) began this morning at the United Nations House in Beirut.

Organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), the League of Arab States and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the four-day Conference will examine the population situation in the Arab world and its population and development strategies, with special emphasis on labour migration. Participants will also discuss reproductive health issues, including the integration of reproductive health components in development schemes.

In the context of evaluating the implementation of the 1994 Programme of Action, Conference participants will examine issues such as access to and quality of reproductive health services, as well as adolescent reproductive health and male involvement. Further focus will be placed on partnership with civil society and the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Programme of Action's implementation. Arab Ministers and United Nations officials will debate gender equality, equity and the empowerment of women, and will gear up for the special session of the General Assembly, to be held from 30 June to 2 July 1999 when the United Nations will evaluate the performances of countries and regions in implementing the recommendations of the ICPD.

Hazem El-Beblawi, Executive Secretary of ESCWA, said the purpose of the Conference was to review and discuss what has been implemented since the 1994 ICPD. This would involve an assessment of the progress made, and the success achieved in the Arab march towards the realization of ICPD goals in the fields of reproductive health, including the following: family planning, safe motherhood and quality of services; population policy and development strategies; the question of migration; gender issues and empowerment of women; participation at the grass-roots level and by NGOs; and the development of the mechanisms, tools and indicators used to implement and follow up on the recommendations of the ICPD.

Mr. El-Beblawi added that in recent years the Arab world had suffered from crises, problems and basic economic, political and military developments that had cast a dark shadow over the Arab situation in general, and had negative repercussions on the life of the Arab individual. The most striking features of that reality were: a decline in economic and social development activities; aggravation of the debt crisis; lack of skill in managing development and resources; growing unemployment and inflation rates; a greater and greater number of poor and broadening of the gap between them and the rich.

Ali Abdelkarim, Assistant Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said that today's meeting materialized joint Arab action to serve the Arab nation and ensure its sustainable development. He added that the effort to achieve development was unfortunately occurring in the context of a new world order that preserved the interests of certain parties at the expense of others. The Arab nation should express one common will emanating from its values in order to determine a position that protected the interests of the Arabs. Achievement could not become reality without cooperation, consensus and brotherhood.

Mr. Abdelkarim hailed the cooperation between the United Nations, ESCWA, UNFPA and the Arab League. Such cooperation, he added, had led to the holding of today's Conference, which itself illustrated the thorough and sincere cooperation between the Arab region and the world.

Kerstine Trone, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA, said that population and development policies and strategies were generally recognized as an important and integral part of all development considerations. Now, more than ever, it was recognized that the unprecedented growth in human numbers, environmental degradation, and uneven patterns of development were inseparably linked. Those phenomena were themselves closely associated with widespread and persistent poverty, income disparities, and wasteful consumption.

She added that poverty denied women, men and children their rights as human beings; alleviating poverty was a moral duty. Successful population programmes assisted in the fight against poverty, encouraged freedom of thought and action, and empowered women to claim their rights to equality and autonomy. Successful population programmes were an integral part of human rights, and a highly practical route to helping achieve poverty eradication. They constituted some of the essential steps to guaranteeing and securing a sustainable future for the twenty-first century.

Ms. Trone pointed out that a comprehensive reproductive health programme, in line with the ICPD approach, would include elements such as family planning information and services; maternal and neonatal care; prevention and management of sexually transmitted diseases; and adolescent reproductive health and male involvement; she added that some countries in the region had taken the lead in adopting initiatives and policy changes to convert the ICPD Programme of Action into reality.

In occupied Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Sudan, Governments had formally endorsed a more holistic approach to maternal and other aspects of reproductive health, she said. In the Sudan, institutional changes had resulted in the formation of a Directorate General for Reproductive Health, and in Yemen, Jordan, Djibouti, Bahrain and Egypt adolescent reproductive health components had been incorporated into a number of national programmes.

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