8 June 2006

In Remarks at UN Population Award Ceremony, Deputy Secretary-General Says UN Mission "Is to Put People at the Centre of Everything We Do"

NEW YORK, 7 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown at the annual United Nations Population Award ceremony, in New York today:

I am delighted to join you for this annual ceremony for the United Nations Population Award.

Since the Award was created by the General Assembly 25 years ago, it has recognized the remarkable contributions of individuals and organizations to issues of population and development.

It has paid tribute to a long list of distinguished laureates, and their impact on development thinking and the development process.

It has honoured excellence, research and innovation.

It has told the stories of individuals and groups taking action to help change lives for the better -- stories often ignored by TV cameras and the newspaper headlines.

Let me thank the intergovernmental committee for the United Nations Population Award for continuing to manage this process so ably.

And let us all recognize the power of these twin weapons of advocacy and recognition -- this honouring of heroes in a cause that has enabled UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] to punch far above its weight, and change world demographic trends in a way that dollars alone could never have never.

How appropriate it is that we hold this ceremony this week, when the world also marks 25 years of living with HIV/AIDS.  We cannot win that fight against AIDS without drawing on the full talent, courage and leadership of the reproductive health community.

Today, we honour two very different, but equally deserving, laureates.  Please join me in giving again a warm round of applause to both Dr. Halida Hanum Akhter, and to the Fondation pour la Santé Reproductive et l'Éducation Familiale.  Both have made invaluable and unique contributions in their respective areas, and the Secretary-General particularly asked me to add his congratulations to all of us, to both of you.

First, it is my pleasure to congratulate Dr. Akhter, whom we honour for her outstanding leadership and achievement in the field of reproductive health.  She has contributed to groundbreaking research on contraceptive effectiveness, reproductive health care, maternal mortality and the consequences of abortion in Bangladesh.  She has promoted better understanding of the risks and benefits of family-planning methods, and worked to make them part of health systems at the community level and at the national level.  She has been instrumental in developing an effective strategy to confront maternal and child mortality.  In these ways, Dr. Akhter has been at the vanguard of efforts to reach two of our dearly held Millennium Development Goals -- those of reducing child mortality and improving maternal health by the target date of 2015.

It is also my pleasure to congratulate the Fondation pour la Santé Reproductive et l'Éducation Familiale, or the Foundation for Reproductive Health and Family Education.  Since it was created nearly 30 years ago, FOSREF has worked as a non-profit organization devoted entirely to reproductive health and the promotion of family life in Haiti.  Through a network of 30,000 young volunteers, it provides reproductive health services for more than a million people, while working for the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.  In that mission, it reaches out to everyone:  men and women of reproductive age, young people and sex workers, community leaders and schoolteachers.  FOSREF has understood what it took the international community the best part of 25 long and difficult years to grasp:  that we can win against AIDS only if we forge a truly collective and united front, bringing together all parts of society.

The achievements of these two laureates should speak for themselves.  The issues they work on are essential to building better lives for all people, and, in many cases, saving people's lives.  Nothing can be more precious than providing people with information and services that help them plan their pregnancies, avoid unsafe abortion, or practise safe and responsible sexual behaviour.  All the world's Governments recognized this last year when pledged to integrate the goal of universal access to reproductive health into their national strategies.

With this ceremony today, we are sending a message to the world:  the mission of the United Nations is to put people at the centre of everything we do, and that means investing seriously in the work on population and development.

I and the Secretary-General offer our warmest congratulations to the winners, and thank them for playing such an indispensable part in that mission.  I have no doubt that many more will come to this podium in years ahead to be honoured in this way.  Yours is an example which I know many will take up and follow.

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