New EU backing for population action plan

Posted: 28 October 2004

Development co-operation ministers of the European Union (EU), have reaffirmed the importance of reproductive health and rights as central to efforts to combat poverty.

Meeting near the Dutch city of Maastricht to discuss Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) they agreed on the need to speed up work on the Action Plan agreed at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, in 1994.

"The EU meeting is a confirmation that we cannot reduce poverty and maternal and child deaths, promote women's empowerment, reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and ensure sustainable development, unless reproductive health and rights are given the highest priority," said Thoraya Obaid, Executive Directorof the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

The Dutch Minister for Development and Co-operation and the meeting's president, Agnes van Ardenne-van der Hoeven, said there was a need to seek long-term solutions to guarantee required levels of reproductive health supplies at the country level. She recalled that EU member States and the European Commission had agreed to provide $75 million through UNFPA to cover some of the commodity gap for this year.

The Maastricht meeting agreed on EU Presidency proposals that the "current 25-member European Union must continue to stand firm on the Cairo consensus. It must also stand firm on the full implementation of the agenda and contribute to poverty reduction and attainment of the MDGs. It is the poor who often lack access to information, family planning services or affordable and reliable contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies."

In addition to reproductive health and rights, the ministers discussed ways to improve EU policies in support of developing countries, in addition to issues of peace, security and development, particularly in Africa.

The renewed European show of support for the Cairo consensus, UNFPA and its work, followed a partnership agreement that the Fund signed two days earlier with 79 developing countries - forming the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. The agreement aims to strengthen their co-operation on development and poverty reduction efforts.

Related link:

Europe fills reproductive health funding gap