Published by the International
Institute for Sustainable Development
Vol. 06 No. 42
February 09 1999
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE HAGUE FORUM
MONDAY, 8 FEBRUARY 1999
On Monday, 8 February, delegates at The Hague Forum heard
opening statements, and a panel discussion by the heads of UN
agencies on follow-up to the ICPD POA in a morning and afternoon
Plenary. Ministers and high-level representatives of governments
and international organizations delivered statements on the
operational review and assessment of POA implementation at the
country level in an evening Plenary. The Main Committee met in
the afternoon to consider the substantive theme of Creating an
Enabling Environment for Further Implementation of the POA.
Nafis Sadik, UNFPA Executive Director, announced the election
Nicolaas Biegman (Netherlands) as President of the Forum.
Biegman invited participants to observe a moment of silence for
the late King Hussein of Jordan.
W.J. Deetman, Mayor of The Hague, welcomed delegates and
expressed hope that they would reach meaningful conclusions in
their deliberations. He highlighted poverty as a global problem
requiring global solutions and addressed the problem of forced
prostitution, one of the worst forms of modern slavery and a
violation of human rights.
E. Borst-Eilers, Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands, said
efforts to tackle population problems cannot be confined to
birth control and family planning. She recalled the lessons from
Cairo that broadened the debate to include reproductive health
and reproductive rights and the need to eradicate poverty and
empower women. She highlighted the need to ensure that the needs
of adolescents are met and called for a more active approach
with the involvement of civil society, voluntary organizations
and the private sector.
Louise Frechette, UN Deputy Secretary-General, emphasized the
importance of empowering women. While acknowledging the
successes since Cairo, she warned that much more remains to be
done. The spread of HIV/AIDS, particularly in developing
nations, increases the challenge.
Nana Rawlings, First Lady of Ghana, focused on issues relating
to African women. She identified a number of obstacles to
achieving the POA goals, especially in the area of reproductive
rights, including gender discrimination, customary practices
such as ritual servitude and genital mutilation, and the
feminization of poverty. She observed that adequate resources
and a multi-sectoral, cooperative approach are needed and that
women leaders must take the initiative. On legislative reform,
she highlighted the ban on genital mutilation in Ghana and
other parts of Africa, noting that legislative changes by
themselves do not eradicate undesirable practices if they are
not accompanied by resources and political will.
Elizabeth Aguirre de Calderon Sol, First Lady of El Salvador,
stressed promotion of women-oriented activities as the key for
improving equality of life for all human beings. She highlighted
the primacy of the family as the first school of life where
basic life-governing values are established. She outlined
development plans, programmes and initiatives in El Salvador
addressing: womens vocational opportunities; equality in and
access to education; discrimination and violence against women;
sexual and reproductive health; the elderly; and women in the
agricultural sector. She said delaying action delays
Nafis Sadik, UNFPA Executive Director, highlighted the
commitment and work of the Dutch government, NGOs and youth
organizations as an example for donor countries. She recalled
efforts to achieve consensus in Cairo and the progress made
since, saying the Forum would serve to appraise experiences,
lessons and obstacles. She introduced the background document
prepared by UNFPA, noting that it is intended as a starting
point for discussion and is not a draft to be renegotiated.
Stating that economic progress is built on a social foundation,
she emphasized the need to move from prescription to action and
highlighted the importance of partnerships.
Eveline Herfkens, Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation,
expressed disappointment that little had been done to make
financial resources available, and called on parliamentarians to
bring this to their governments attention. She noted that poor
reproductive health results from misguided priorities. She
highlighted the importance of reproductive health of
adolescents, refugees and other displaced persons, effective
multilateral partnerships and the role of NGOs. She noted the
absence of the World Bank at the Forum and called for
incorporation of the Forums concerns into World Bank policies.
Baron Vaea, Prime Minister of Tonga, speaking on behalf of
Pacific Island states, highlighted the remoteness of the Pacific
islands, limited resources, large populations of youth and
escalating migration as constraints to POA implementation. He
noted progress in education and improvement of womens status.
To sustain the momentum of progress, he called for sensitization
of development partners to the need for continued partnerships.
Forum President Biegman introduced the rules of procedure,
provisional agenda and programme of work, which were adopted by
the Plenary. Delegates elected to the Bureau of the Forum Aicha
Belardi (Morocco), I. Sall (Senegal), Gerald Sendaula (Uganda),
Anwarul Karim Chowdhury (Bangladesh), Kiyotaka Akasaka (Japan),
Datin Paduka Hajah Zaleha Binti Ismail (Malaysia), Elsa Berquo
(Brazil), Rudolph Collins (Guyana), Alfonso Tuiran (Mexico), P.
Boyajiev (Bulgaria), Jerzy Eysymontt (Poland), Victor Golovko
(Ukraine), Rosa-Anna Weiss (Austria), Nicolaas Biegman
(Netherlands) and Margaret Pollack (US). Anwarul Karim Chowdhury
(Bangladesh) was elected as Chair of the Main Committee and J.
Singh (India) designated as Secretary and ex-officio Bureau
member. President Biegman said the Bureau would act as the
drafting committee for the final document to emerge from the
Representatives from the Parliamentarians, Youth and NGO
Forums, held in The Hague in the preceding days, presented
reports of their deliberations.
PANEL ON FOLLOW-UP TO THE ICPD POA
Heads of UN organizations participated in a panel on follow-up
to the POA. Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO Director General, noted
that since Cairo, more open debate has occurred on previously
taboo topics related to sexual and reproductive health. She
stressed that failure to address reproductive health needs is a
matter of human rights and social justice. She highlighted
increased attention to the previously neglected issues of STDs,
maternal mortality and morbidity and reproductive tract cancers,
and pioneering efforts by NGOs in these areas. She noted that
aid fatigue has worsened since Cairo and global resources for
public health interventions have not kept up with increasing
demand. Looking ahead, she highlighted maternal health and
adolescent sexual and reproductive health as issues demanding
particular attention. She expressed WHOs commitment to putting
health in the center of the development agenda.
Carol Bellamy, UNICEF Executive Director, underscored that
adolescents should enjoy the rights of access to education,
health and other services, and said parents and teachers must be
active in adolescents education. She stressed the need for
investment in girls education, expanded approaches to safe
motherhood and womens reproductive health, and political will.
She highlighted the importance and effectiveness of peer
programmes in preventing HIV/AIDS among adolescents.
Peter Piot, UNAIDS Executive Director, stated that the AIDS
epidemic has worsened since Cairo, with youth experiencing the
brunt of it, particularly girls. He said AIDS is reversing hard-
won gains in development. He highlighted that some countries
have succeeded in reversing the trend with vigorous education
campaigns and emphasized the need for political commitment,
greater investment and technological breakthroughs.
Nafis Sadik, UNFPA Executive Director, said the global
conferences of the 1990s demonstrate that social investment is
fundamental to progress. She highlighted the need for a new
development paradigm where macro-economic policies look at
micro-level needs and stressed the need to incorporate
communication with economic leaders into advocacy for population
issues. She called for: a more integrated approach to
reproductive health; involvement and education of men; improved
data and knowledge; and maximization of resources to the social
The Main Committee considered the first thematic issue,
Creating an enabling environment for further implementation of
the ICPD POA. Chair Chowdhury stressed that the POA would not
be re-negotiated. Joseph Chamie, Director of the Population
Division of UN DESA, introduced the background papers chapter
on the thematic issue, highlighting historical deliberations on
population and development issues and stressing advances in
health improvements and life expectancy. He underscored the need
for consensus on the meaning of the terms population and
development, the importance of wide participation and
comprehensive deliberations, the importance of using statistics
and a sound knowledge base, and economic and political
difficulties facing many countries.
Ensuing discussion highlighted institutional capacity-building,
enhancement of partnerships, data needs and indicators for
monitoring progress, strategies to increase awareness, and
impacts of structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) on the
creation of enabling environments for population programmes.
Noting that cultural and traditional norms may hinder progress
on adolescent and reproductive health issues, IRAN highlighted
the use of pilot studies and negotiations among religious
leaders, policy makers and academia as well as parental
consultations to reach an understanding on methods, strategies
and approaches. EGYPT stressed community mobilization, creation
of partnerships, prioritization of high-risk groups and
consideration of population in the wider context of global
problems. GHANA called for simple booklets to help integrate
population into planning and resource mobilization for censuses.
The UK stressed public health systems and the need for
partnerships focusing on outcomes that bring direct benefits to
the poor. The US advocated maintaining quality of life as the
priority, and emphasized coordination with financiers and
businessmen in building coalitions and networks and the use of
communication systems and technologies. ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
recommended addressing the impacts of the Y2K phenomena.
UGANDA and ZIMBABWE said SAPs have had negative impacts on
national economies, undermined institutional capacity and
hindered implementation of population programmes. CANADA
proposed involving the IMF in design and planning of new
programmes and in the population and development dialogue.
SWEDEN and the NETHERLANDS said capacity needs should be
identified from curricula in schools and other training
institutions and cautioned that sector-wide approaches in the
health sector may reduce the focus on reproductive health.
BANGLADESH stressed decentralization of reproductive health
programmes. NIGERIA supported strengthening and consolidating
viable institutions, clearly articulating training policy, and
improving support mechanisms addressing women and poverty. The
YOUTH FORUM emphasized access to education and employment,
reproductive and sexual health, and private sector
participation. LESOTHO called on governments to create or
strengthen structures that coordinate collaboration with civil
societies and to facilitate early inclusion of the private
sector in POA implementation.
JAMAICA said a clear vision of the reports recommended
structures and paradigms is essential to avoid the risk of
misguiding governments. BRAZIL said the report should include
more facts about economic and social transformation.
Highlighting details of the POA and the importance of the human
rights framework, the IUCN, supported by others, stressed their
concern that the background paper does not reflect the essence
of the POA. SOUTH AFRICA recognized debt financing and
unsustainable resource use as fundamental problems undermining
governments ability to address poverty. Supported by NGOs and
the YOUTH FORUM, she called for the cancellation of debt,
especially for the poorest countries. NGOs stressed the need for
clear and adequate rules on capital flows and a sound
macroeconomic environment as preconditions to POA
implementation. PALAU said elements that hamper implementation
should be identified and eliminated.
SUDAN and the HOLY SEE called for greater emphasis on refugees
and displaced people in the report. BURUNDI said sanctions and
embargoes affect the most vulnerable members of society and
negatively impact primary health and education services and,
with LIBERIA, said countries emerging from conflicts or natural
disasters should be given special assistance. Noting that
migration is linked to other issues related to trade,
environment and socio-economic development, CANADA suggested
inclusion of these as well as factors leading to involuntary
migration in the report.
The HOLY SEE said the background report inadequately addresses
ageing and noted that communities and families should be
prepared to assume responsibility for older people. He called
for resources to support awareness and sensitization for family-
and community-based programmes to care for the elderly. JAPAN
and AUSTRIA highlighted implications of rapid population ageing.
The NETHERLANDS said data is important for financial flows and
called for information on the impacts of financial resources.
SUDAN emphasized the need for social indicators that cover a
diversity of socio-cultural norms.
OPERATIONAL REVIEW AND ASSESSMENT OF POA IMPLEMENTATION
Ministers and high-level representatives of governments,
international organizations and NGOs delivered statements on the
operational review and assessment at the country level of POA
implementation in an evening Plenary. Recurring themes included
the need for a multi-sectoral approach to population issues,
financial constraints that have hampered developing country
capacity to implement the POA, and the need for donor countries
and organizations to increase their level of support.
Editors Note: Due to space constraints, the ENB will not
provide coverage of specific statements.
IN THE CORRIDORS
As participants begn to settle into substantive discussions,
early Forum buzz swayed towards the inadequacy of financial
resources committed by donors for implementation of the ICPD
recommendations. Some participants suggested that this may
become an issue of some controversy during the Forum. Both in
formal statements and in the corridors, particular donors have
come under criticism for failing to meet their funding
commitments. Others noted that high-level political attendance
is intended to signal a significant degree of political will to
address the concerns.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
BUREAU MEETING: The Bureau will meet at 8:00 am in the Vermeer
Room to identify points from Main Committee discussions that
could be included in the final Forum report.
PLENARY: Plenary will convene at 11:30 am in the Prins Willem-
Alexander Hall. US First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will
deliver a keynote speech, followed by statements on operational
review and assessment.
MAIN COMMITTEE: The Main Committee will convene in the Van Gogh
Room at 10:00 am to consider the substantive theme Gender
Equality, Equity and Empowerment of Women.