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African governments urged to recommit to develop people

afrol News, 13 October - With the deadline of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) close at hand, African governments need to recommit to pushing forward policies that address population and other critical social development issues, especially the health and rights of African women, a review report from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) states.

The report, called International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)@15, reviews the progress achieved by African governments and the challenges they face in implementing population, gender, and other social development policies since a Plan of Action was first adopted 15 years ago in Cairo.

The report will underpin a week-long conference on these issues taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in October 2009. The conference, which will be held at ministerial level, is called ICPD@15 and it is jointly organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the African Union Commission (AUC) and UNECA.

More than 300 people are expected to attend the conference, representing African governments, civil society organisations and experts on gender, human rights, maternal health, population issues and sustainable development. A ministerial statement on the conclusions of the review will be adopted at the end of the conference.

According to Dr Monique Rakotomalala, Director of ECA’s African Center for Gender and Social Development, the conference will provide a forum for interaction and the opportunity to recommit to working toward resolving these challenges.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the ICPD, which adopted in 1994 a 20-year Programme of Action (PoA) with a broad mandate on interrelationships between population, sustained economic growth and sustainable development. It also marks the alignment of the ICPD PoA with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), thus uniting on the common goals of ending Africa’s pressing problems of poverty, HIV/AIDS and the burden of disease.

The review report, which will be released by UNECA during the conference, highlights some concerns including the facts that: Africa still has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Most of these deaths could be prevented if a few measures were put in place, including: access to skilled personnel at the time of birth, prompt emergency obstetric care if things go wrong and access to quality family planning methods.

It also states that high population numbers are hurting development on the continent. There is a direct correlation between high fertility and poverty in Africa, which has led to a dilution of poverty reduction programmes.

Moreover, it states that people under 30 constitute more than 50 percent of Africa’s population, creating additional challenges such as unemployment and socially-related problems.

It also points out that urbanisation can be beneficial to countries - if handled properly. By 2030, the urban population in Africa will more than double. Investment in urban planning and the expansion of social and economic services can help mitigate the problems associated with increasing size of cities, it says.

Migration within Africa and away from the continent is also highlighted as placing big strains on governmental resources. International migration within Africa has frequently led to friction between migrants and the host community, while movement outside of the continent has led to a drain of skilled workers, particularly in the healthcare and education sectors.

The ICPD@15 will take place from 19-23 October at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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