Address by Mr. Anwarul K. Chowdhury
Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS,
United Nations, New York
at the opening session of the High-level Policy-Makers’ Symposium on South-to-South Collaboration: Multi-sectoral Approaches to Population and Development
Organized by NPO2050, UNDP & PPD, 11-13 September 2002, UN House, Tokyo

It is a special pleasure for me to join all of you here at the UN House in Tokyo for the second time at these high-level policy-makers’ dialogue and interaction after missing the occasion last year. In 2000, I spoke here as my country’s Ambassador to the United Nations. Today, I come in a different capacity, as Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS. I am happy to be here among policy–makers and practitioners from different parts of the world. I have worked closely with many of you in our common collaborative endeavours for the cause of population and development. The challenges before us, I am sure, will continue to keep us in close association.

Population and development issues remain at the centre of the global agenda because of their multi-sectoral linkages. Sustained focus on the ICPD goals is thus essential to keep the momentum generated in the five-year review process in 1999. The initiative of NPO2050, UNDP, and PPD to organize this symposium responds to the critical need for mainstreaming that effort. This is a very timely event especially as the tenth anniversary of the ICPD approaches in about two years. Our appreciation goes also to UNFPA and UNAIDS for their continued engagement and contribution.

I like to pay special tribute to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their continued support to the pursuit of the ICPD objectives. Their involvement and commitment in this area as in other United Nations programmes go beyond philanthropy.

Japan has been a leader in population and development. The support of the government of Japan – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and JOICFP has been invaluable. The progress in achieving ICPD goals owes a great deal to the government, parliamentarians, civil society organizations and the people of Japan.

This Symposium is designed to address key issues confronting us today in the area of population and development – mainstreaming women and youth, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, sustainable cooperation and new approaches. A fifth session will be devoted to drawing conclusions and defining actions.

Over the past three decades, beginning with Bucharest and progressing through Mexico City, population and development emerged as a major global issue. Cairo carried it forward with clearly defined goals and strategies. The implementation process was re-examined in the ICPD+5 process that I had the honour to chair. In the context of building partnership for achieving the ICPD goals, two areas came up prominently during the review – role of civil society, and the potential for South-South cooperation. Both these aspects, I am happy to find, are reflected in the programme of our Symposium.

Population and development issues remain at the centre of national priorities in a large number of countries. Their interconnectedness with other major global concerns is clearly recognized. As my colleague Thoraya Obaid has very appropriately articulated,” Growing populations that are unable to meet their basic needs can easily become unstable. Population pressures and poverty are also related to involuntary movements of people. Such movements, often facilitated by famine, resource scarcity, environmental degradation or conflict, cannot be always contained in national boundaries and can threaten global security”.

The demographic dimensions of poverty are long established underscoring the close correlations between persistent poverty and rapid population growth. Rapid population growth constrains economic progress. And that is occurring where it is least wanted – in the developing countries. Sustaining socio-economic gains in these societies is critically related to eradicating extreme poverty. Implementing Cairo Programme of Action as a major instrument for poverty eradication should therefore get priority.

In achieving the ICPD goals, expansion and strengthening of South-South cooperation remains an important strategic choice.

The rationale and potential of South-South cooperation in general have been recognized for over two decades especially since the adoption of the Caracas Programe of Action for South-South Cooperation (1981). The basic premises of cooperation among developing countries, as the South Commission report noted in 1990, remain valid. The advantages of geographical proximity, relevance of respective development experience and complementarity of resources make strong arguments for enhanced South-South collaboration.

The full potential of ECDC and TCDC, buzzwords in many development forums including the UN for years, however, remains to be realized. Opportunities of collaboration have expanded over the years in achieving the objectives of the programmes of action coming out of the 1990s cycle of international conferences and their five-year reviews.

In the area of population and development, South-South cooperation has been manifest in practical, collaborative and mutually beneficial ways. The establishment of the Partners in Population and Development following Cairo sets an example. As an intergovernmental body of now comprising 19 developing countries, its mission consists in helping implement the Cairo Programme of Action. Its mandate includes expansion and improvement of South-South collaboration in the fields of family planning and reproductive health through exchange of knowledge, expertise, and skills.

There are greater possibilities for increased and beneficial cooperation among developing nations now. A number of the countries of the South have acquired the knowledge, the tools and the capacity in critical areas of social and economic development. This is possibly most relevant in the area of population and development.

Developing countries, more often than not at similar levels of development, have achieved significant results, innovated institutions and practised new instruments and methods. They have shared the best practices, exchanged lessons learned and replicated institutions.

In this context I can speak of the country I know best. In Bangladesh, significant progress has been made in the area of population and development. Policy planners and practitioners and also civil society organizations have acquired extensive experience and expertise in various areas including awareness-raising, partnership-building, empowerment of women notably through micro-credit, education of girls through non-formal education, dispensing reproductive health services and effective data collection. The knowledge and experience thus gathered might be fruitfully utilized in fellow developing countries with minimum cost.

Also, financing of South-South cooperation by the donors through trilateral format in the area of population and development would prove to be a more cost-effective way of supporting developing countries. The United Nations has an important role to play in the matter. The Millennium Development Goals focus on poverty, education and heath. Johannesburg Plan of Implementation adopted last week brings fresh impetus for sustainable development issues. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has emphasized time and again the need for the operational activities of the United Nations system to be increasingly oriented towards support for South-South cooperation.

Of course, there is need to combine national, regional and international efforts. But at the same time, I believe very strongly that societies in the developing countries have their inherent potential, which remains vastly untapped. They need to do better to realize that.

As we approach the tenth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, the international community should come together, in a more determined way, to realize the goals and targets agreed in Cairo. I am confident this Symposium will contribute significantly towards that objective.

I thank you for your attention.