UNFPA’s overall strategy in population and development is guided by the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (1994). Further key actions endorsed by the General Assembly at the time of the ICPD+5 review (1999) also guide UNFPA’s strategy of assistance. Both the ICPD and ICPD+5 lay special emphasis on the needs of the LDCs, since, as just described, population and reproductive goals are farther from being achieved in these countries and their national capacities to make up so much ground are severely limited. The average population growth of LDCs is currently around 2.4 per cent per annum, while it is only 1.4 per cent in the rest of the developing world.
Collectively, the development of LDCs has been greatly hampered by gender inequality and low levels of women’s empowerment. It is estimated that well over half of all pregnancies – as well as children born – in the developing world are unplanned. The total fertility rate among LDCs is around 4.9 children per woman of reproductive age, compared with 2.6 in other developing countries. Maternal mortality is extremely high in most LDCs – up to 100 times higher than the average in industrial countries. Women in LDCs, to a large degree, lack access to exercise their reproductive rights and, because of lack of information and services, experience unplanned pregnancies and reproduction. At the same time, they are prevented from contributing productively to the socio-economic development of their countries. Adolescent girls in LDCs – around 75 million at present – are also in danger of being trapped in this reproductive cycle, if low education and low empowerment continue to condition their passage from adolescence to adulthood.
In dealing with population and reproductive health issues and in strongly advocating for gender equality, UNFPA has historically placed great emphasis on the LDCs. As a group, they are members of the highest priority group in UNFPA’s resource allocation system. UNFPA also realizes that to improve in-country absorptive capacity in LDCs, a strong field presence is required to speed up capacity building and transfer of technical know-how. In order to facilitate the achievement of these objectives in LDCs, UNFPA gives priority attention to posting representatives to country offices located in the Least Developed Countries. LDCs collectively comprise only about 13% of the total population of developing countries, however they absorb more than 37% of UNFPA’s country-level resources. The involvement of the UNFPA Country Offices in formulating Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers is important and has been a priority, especially in the LDCs.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) viewed the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries as an event of major importance for the United Nations system in its action towards fulfilling the development goals of the Millennium Summit and other UN inter-governmental conferences. Together with our other UN partners, UNFPA commits itself to achieving the goals and objectives of the Programme of Action of the third conference on LDCs and also has committed to incorporating, as appropriate, the conference objectives into UNFPA’s policies and programmes.
Promoting and supporting South-South cooperation has been central to UNFPA efforts to build national capacity of LDCs by enhancing the sharing of information and successful and innovative experiences among developing countries in reproductive health and population issues. Financial and technical assistance has been provided through inter-country and country programmes for: (a) strengthening of national/regional institutions with comparative advantage in improving the technical capacity of resource persons who can plan, organize and conduct international training programmes; (b) training of participants from LDCs; and (c) provision of technical assistance by experts from developing countries with demonstrated excellence in certain areas to assist LDCs in training of trainers and designing special programmes. In this regard, LDCs from Africa, Asia and Pacific and Arab states have benefited from the training and technical support programmes provided by the six South-South Centers in China, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand, Tunisia and Turkey.
UNFPA has also conducted a set of regional training courses on reproductive health in emergency situations with the goal of establishing a cadre of trained reproductive health coordinators. This has allowed the sharing of experiences and establishment of regional networks of local health and humanitarian workers in LDCs, involved in reproductive health support.
Regional training/women empowerment
UNFPA (UN Population Fund ) supports LDCs’ development efforts in reproductive health and population fields. Inter-country and country programmes are assisted by financial and technical aids in areas such as a) training of participants from LDCs, b) provision of technical assistance by experts from developing countries, and c) improvement of national /regional institutions in enhancing technical capacities of resource. UNFPA launches regional training courses on reproductive health in emergency situations aiming at raising trained reproductive health coordinators. See for further information http://www.unfpa.org