Global Governance - The Case of Population Policies
[This is a summary of the statement by Stirling Scruggs. ]

Director Information and External Relations UNFPA, New York

Those of you from the developing countries will no doubt know what more people means in terms of demand for resources of all kind: land, water and living space. We all celebrate the world's achievement of supporting six billion people. No previous generation would have thought that was possible. But as we celebrate we must think about the needs of six billion people. The media is in the position to play a very important part in this exercise.

Fertility and family size has lowered and that reflects what an international community has been able to accomplish by making services available to many women throughout the world so that they can determine the number of children they want. We must now apply the lesson we have learnt in the last 30 years. For the media this is not the stuff that makes for high drama. Yet modern contraceptives in family planning have changed lives of million of people, particularly women in both developed and developing countries.

In 1994 the ICPD recognised the way to consolidate and extend the progress of recent decades was to empower people, particularly women to exercise free choice. There are still about 150 million women today in the world who do not want to have children but do not have access to the means to control their own fertility. 350 million couples do not have access to information or services.

About 600.000 women die each year from pregnancy-related causes, and just family planning would save a third of lives. To correct this situation, much more attention must be paid to women's health including reproductive and sexual health. And girls' education needs to become a greater priority. Societies need to ensure that women have the same rights as men.

There is another equally important aspect. The world now agrees that reproductive health is a human right, that education is a right, that self-determination is a right. We have in fact learnt that the key to slower population growth is to ensure that all people can exercise their human rights. What we need to focus on as we reach six billion is that the needs of development and the dictates of human rights do not get out of sight.

For a long time, there was a controversy about whether development or population was a priority. Now we know that they are two sides of the same coin. We must concentrate on population to secure development. But unless we ensure development, human development, the goal of slower population growth is out of reach. Carrying out the agreement of Cairo would help all countries to move towards the achievement of both goals. UNFPA is currently in the midst of a major review of success, constraints and continuing needs in implementing the 1994 Cairo agreement.

Next February, we will organise a forum in The Hague. About 120 governments will participate along with our sister organisations in the UN, intergovernmental organisations, NGOs, development banks, foundations and the media. There is ample material here for the media. There are things that the public needs to know. The child marriages are still common in many parts of the world. The teenage pregnancy is a rising problem in many countries.

And many governments are still unwilling to acknowledge that female circumcision still is a real threat to a million girls every year. There are another two million young people between five and 15 sold in the sex trade each year. In many countries there is already an ongoing national debate on these matters. In many others has not yet even begun. The media can make sure that this happens. The media has played an important role before Cairo and can do the same in connection with the five year review.

There is another vital role for the media. The gap between industrialised and developing countries is wide in many cases and is getting wider. Many basic rights such as education, reproductive health and safe motherhood and opportunities we take for granted in industrialised countries are still unfulfilled, they are only ideals in many developing countries. Yet the imperative of development assistance to help poor people in poor countries make the most of their lives and opportunities seems to be slipping. ODA is going down. Media can help audiences in industrial countries understand that poverty has not gone away, that women all over the world are struggling for their lives, that the population problem has not be solved.

It is essential for donors in the North to know that a few dollars a year can help each person make a measurable difference in lives of people around the world. We are moving towards globalization but it won't just happen. The citizens of the world agreed on a blueprint for human rights, development, environment, on population and on gender equality in the great conferences of the 90s, in Rio, in Vienna, Cairo, Copenhagen and Beijing. These conferences epitomised global governance. Governments, NGOs, civil society and activists have spoken. Media must help the world examine the politics of these issues and help as effectively, as humans and partners in the world.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Dezember 1998

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