Press Releases

                                                                                                                            30 June 2004

    Cairo Population Agenda “Practical Blueprint” for Reducing Poverty, Says Secretary-General in Message to San Juan Meeting

    NEW YORK, 29 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the meeting of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) Ad Hoc Committee on Population and Development, delivered by José Luis Machinea, Executive Secretary, ECLAC, in San Juan, 29 June:

    It gives me great pleasure to send my best wishes to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and its member States.  I would like to thank the Commission for convening this important meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Population and Development.  I would also like to thank the Government and people of Puerto Rico for hosting this event, and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) for the unique and critically important work it does in helping the world address vital questions of population and reproductive health.

    Population issues are not just a matter of numbers; they are first and foremost about people -- men and women and their inherent right to development and to lead a decent life no matter where they happen to be born. That is precisely why the Programme of Action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development places such strong emphasis on human rights.

    In the 10 years since then, the ECLAC region has taken significant steps to integrate the Cairo goals into national development strategies and public policies.  Governments and their partners have also worked hard to provide greater access to reproductive health services, which are essential for reducing infant and maternal mortality and combating poverty in general.

    But much more can and must be done. The region needs to invest more in universal access to education and health, including reproductive health and family planning. There is also a need for stronger efforts to promote women's rights.  Every woman and girl should have equal opportunity, and enjoy freedom from discrimination and violence.  Such guarantees would yield high returns not only for individuals, but also for families and communities.

    Implementation of the ICPD agenda is crucial for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  I call on all ECLAC member States to do their utmost to continue following these practical blueprints for reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development.  The price of inaction -- in lives lost, in the spread of AIDS, in the persistence of social, ethnic and gender inequities -- is too high to contemplate.

    People are looking to us all -- governments and intergovernmental organizations alike -- to act with greater urgency.  Let us not disappoint them.  Thank you for your commitment and support, and please accept my best wishes for a successful meeting.

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