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Africa evaluates 15 years of population development ahead of MDGs deadline

afrol News, 20 October - Fifteen years after the adoption in 1994 of the Plan of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD PoA) in Cairo, Egypt, African Ministers and experts in population and social development are meeting at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to review the progress made by African Governments in the implementation of the ICPD.

Jointly organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), participants at the four-day Conference are expected to produce a commitment document on the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action over the next five years, amongst others.

Addressing participants at the opening ceremony, Lalla Ben Barka, Deputy Executive Secretary of the ECA, said while laudable efforts and achievements have been made there was still a need to redouble efforts towards the PoA.

“Very limited headway has been achieved on poverty reduction, eradication of hunger, maternal mortality and in addressing social exclusion. Across the continent, emergency situations caused by armed conflicts continue to beset many countries and to erode the little progress that has been made,” she said. “Your task is not an easy one but I am confident that with the critical mass of your expertise, the outcomes of our deliberations will reflect the realities on the ground.”

Also speaking at the occasion, Adv Bience Gawanas, Commissioner for Social Affairs of the African Union Commission, said the ICPD as a twenty-year initiative, has the potential to foster global thinking about the relationship between population and development. “This,” she recalled, “can only be done by dealing comprehensively with existing realities while reflecting on past experiences. This is the right time to pause and review progress within the context of the ICPD/PoA and accelerate the implementation of the various health and social programs in the continent,” she went on.

Commissioner Gawanas urged the African governments to ensure access to essential health care services for all Africans, especially the poorest and most marginalised, by 2015.

“We should all become advocates for better healthcare by raising awareness for appropriate responses at all levels: global, continental, regional and national” she said.

Representing the African Development Bank (AfDB), Peter Mwanakatwe, highlighted the contribution of his organisation in assisting member countries to meet the ICPD goals.

In the domain of health, he said the AfDB has specifically targeted projects to help reduce maternal mortality, HIV/AIDs prevention interventions, education involving women particularly in secondary and tertiary education as well as science and technology.

The AfDB is also supporting the small and medium entrepreneurs, as well as efforts to reduce the gender-based violence in the Great Lakes Region as part of demobilisation and reintegration amongst others.

Lina Mousa, the Deputy Director, UNFPA Regional Office for Africa, lauded the efforts made by African countries in leading the review progress towards the achievement of the objectives of ICPD-PoA.

She called on the participants to address to strategic priorities during their deliberations, which would be considered systemic and would have a multiplier effect given the broad scope of the ICPD/PoA.

According to Ms Mousa, social development has lagged behind for too long, retarding the ability of most countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

The Minister of Finance and Economic Development of Ethiopia, Ato Mekonnen Manyazewal, presented the status of his country’s achievement on population and development, adding that the conference needs to address ways of strengthening implementation of policies, programmes and laws as well as strategise, and of mobilising more resources and partnerships with a view to achieving the ICPD objectives. He asked the experts to carefully examine the ICPD+15 Report, and called on the conference to translate the declarations into action.

The International Conference on Population and Development ends on Friday 23 October 2009.

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