Bangkok Population Conference offers springboard for broader regional cooperation

Publicado: 18 diciembre 2002 0:00 CET

Omar Valdimarsson in Bangkok

The International Federation has used a United Nations conference on population issues in Asia and the Pacific to promote its recently adopted regional priorities as the foundation for closer cooperation with UN agencies and governments.

The Fifth Asian and Pacific Population Conference in Bangkok, which was jointly organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), adopted an action plan which emphasizes the need to address key population issues, such as reproductive health, gender equality, HIV/AIDS and migration as a way of reducing poverty in the region and meeting the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people living on less than US$1 a day by 2015.

The conference was attended by representatives from the 57 ESCAP member states, including ministers from more than 20 countries.

The International Federation has been highly visible during the conference, making six interventions on subjects of particular relevance to the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. In particular, the Manila Action Plan, adopted at last month's 6th Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, was introduced to participants and its complimentarity to the UN conference's own plan of action highlighted.

Tadateru Konoe, Vice-President of the Japanese Red Cross Society and a member of the Federation's Governing Board, said the Manila Action Plan had been submitted as a conference document because of the similarities between the work of national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and governments on questions like public health, HIV/AIDS and population questions, and because of the the broad linkages between population, poverty and development.

"The International Federation very much shares your recognition of the major challenges still confronting us all," Konoe told the conference.

"With this complementarity in mind, the International Federation undertakes to broaden its collaboration with Asia-Pacific regional institutions, including particularly ESCAP and the regional agencies of the UN system. Working together, it should be possible for us to make much stronger progress towards the goals we have both identified," he added, pointing out that several new programme cooperation areas had already been identified during the preparations for this meeting.

In a debate on migration and population movement, Juergen Weyand, head of International Federation's regional delegation in Bangkok, called on ESCAP governments to ratify existing migrant and refugee conventions, as Asia-Pacific is the region with the fewest ratifications.

"Population movement in our part of the world has left a trail of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion. We are committed to confronting the attitudes that discriminate against migrants and refugees – people who have to struggle to have as little as the basic right of access to health care," Weyand said.

In a similar vein, Dr. Grete Budsted, head of the Federation's regional health unit for East and Southeast Asia, urged ministers to strengthen their governments' work with the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in their home countries particularly in the field of water and sanitation. Next year is international year of fresh water, and the Third World Water Forum will be held in Japan in March 2003.

Dr. Usa Thisyakorn, deputy director of the Thai Red Cross HIV/AIDS Research Centre, called on every government in the region to "ensure that medical services are provided to all those who are HIV-positive and that every HIV-positive person has unhindered access to the most effective drugs available". She also called on governments to support the Red Cross Red Crescent campaign against HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

The Federation's International Disaster Response Law project, whose outcomes will be discussed by National Societies and governments at next year's International Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference, was also explained to participants.

"This project, which has been identified as having particular value by the Secretary-General of the UN, is now in its final project phase," Christopher Lamb, head of the Federation's Humanitarian Advocacy department, said.

"Field studies we have conducted will enable us to consider the adequacy of legal regimes. This, in turn, will help all governments, international organizations and others concerned with disaster management to work more speedily, productively and efficiently to protect the most vulnerable in their population," he added.

Related links:

UN Asia Pacific Population Conference, Bangkok
Asia/Pacific: regional documents
Asia Pacific Regional Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Manila
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