Press Releases

                                                                                                                            18 May 2004

    Cultural Sensitivity Key to Development, New UNFPA Report Shows

    NEW YORK, 18 May (UNFPA) -- Development efforts stand greater chances of succeeding when they are presented to beneficiaries in a culturally sensitive manner and built on open dialogue and community involvement, according to a new report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

    Recognizing local social and cultural realities and actively supporting a process of local ownership of programmes creates an environment that makes them more readily acceptable and sustainable, the report concludes.

    The report, Working from Within: Culturally Sensitive Approaches in UNFPA Programming, highlights approaches and partnerships with local figures and institutions in nine countries. These initiatives illustrate how working from within complex cultural systems can help achieve goals that benefit communities and respect individual rights. Working from Within is based on UNFPA’s field experiences.

    “Social and cultural realities present challenges, as well as opportunities for advancing development goals and human rights”, said UNFPA’s Executive Director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid.  “This is particularly true when dealing with the issues of gender equality, HIV/AIDS, female genital cutting, violence against women, maternal health and family planning.”

    In Uganda, for instance, the long-held practice of female genital cutting is being eliminated in one community by partnering with its elders in a process that reinforced the cultural dignity of its Sabiny people.  Reproductive health and rights -- long taboo subjects for public discussion -- were promoted in the country’s Muslim community by working with Muslim leaders.  Messages on sexual and reproductive health, including HIV/AIDS prevention, were also spread by working with the Church of Uganda.

    In Guatemala, which has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in Latin America, the UNFPA played a leading a role in the passage of legislation promoting better health for women and their families.  By finding common ground among various groups, including the Catholic Church, various evangelical denominations, professional associations, trade unions and business leaders, the Fund was able to facilitate an alliance that pushed for the adoption of the ground-breaking law.

    Other examples in the report are drawn from case studies in Brazil, Cambodia, Ghana, India, Iran, Malawi and Yemen.  Working from Within was released in New York today in time for the United Nations World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.  The observance, on 21 May, is intended to emphasize the need to enhance the potential of culture as a means of achieving prosperity, sustainable development and global peaceful coexistence.

    The UNFPA is the world's 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 development efforts.

    For more information, please contact:  Abubakar Dungus, tel.: +1 (212) 297-5031, e-mail:; Omar Gharzeddine, tel.: +1(212) 297-5028, e-mail:; or visit UNFPA’s web site at

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