Commission on Population and Development: Statement by Director General Ursula Müller on "National experience in population matters"
(as prepared for delivery)
Ladies and Gentleman
Let me first of all align myself with the statement delivered earlier by the representative of Greece on behalf of the European Union and its Member States. In addition, I would like to share some of our national experiences with you:
German development cooperation is committed to contribute to the full implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action adopted in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development as well as to the Key Actions prepared five years later. Over the past twenty years, we have worked together with our partner countries to make this great vision of a better world for all come true. Since the conference of Cairo, Germany has spent 4.3 billion US Dollars on population assistance including on population assistance including sexual and reproductive health through bilateral and multilateral aid.
Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for all, with a focus on the most vulnerable groups is one of the priorities of German development cooperation. Let me highlight some important initiatives in the area of health and population policy:
Through our Initiative on Rights-based Family Planning and Maternal Health, we are committed to ensure that more women can exercise their human right to decide when, with whom and how many children they wish to have. This will have a positive impact on children’s health and education, on the economic prospects of the whole family and on the partner countries’ overall development.
Furthermore, Germany supports the initiative to promote comprehensive sexuality education and health services for young people in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA initiative) to which 21 countries of the ESA region have affirmed their commitment. Comprehensive sexuality education is essential to enable young people to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections
German development cooperation is also committed to link measures for HIV/AIDS prevention and SRHR in its health and development efforts to make beneficial use of synergies. Linkages between these two topics are the integration of HIV/AIDS related consultation, tests and treatment into SRHR services, as well as vice versa, the supply of information, services and products concerning SRHR into the counseling and treatment services of HIV/AIDS programs.
In recent years, more and more countries have made considerable progress in development. This success is reflected in shrinking fertility rates in many countries. In turn, a decrease in fertility goes hand in hand with a declining dependency ratio and provides the possibility of a “demographic dividend”. Such conditions will not last forever, as over time, larger cohorts will enter the pension age and therefore the aging of the population gains momentum.
Germany has profited from a demographic dividend for a long time, but over the next two decades the dependency ratio is expected to rise from about 65 to almost 90 per 100 people between the age of 20 and 65. Hence, aging has been identified as one of the major political challenges for the demographic sustainability of German society and its economy.
Already in 2012, the Federal Government published its demographic strategy “Every Age Counts” which was the starting point for a broad societal dialogue, bringing together stakeholders from politics, business, science and civil society. In this document six strategic fields of action and measures were covered:
· Strengthening the family,
· Keeping workers motivated, skilled and healthy,
· Living independently in old age,
· Promoting rural quality of life and integrative urban policy,
· Ensuring the basis for sustainable growth and prosperity,
· Keeping government effective.
To accomplish the objectives set out in the strategy, the Federal Government has initiated, along with its first demographic summit in October 2012, a cross-level dialogue with federal states, local communities, social partners and trade associations, the private sector, academia as well as civil society.
In May 2013, first results of the consultation process were presented at the second demographic summit, which was dedicated to the following three principle goals:
· to empower people throughout their life course,
· to protect and support social and societal cohesion, and
· to mobilize sustainable growth and secure solid finances.
Nine working groups, consisting of politicians, scientists, representatives of civil society and other stakeholders, have published their recommendations for further action. As a consequence of the dialogue process, first results have already been implemented.
In conclusion, demographic change and the aging of the population will impose unprecedented challenges for all countries affected. Never before in history have such large shares of the population lived into old age. Germany, as the country with Europe’s oldest population, is determined to proceed with its demographic strategy to take advantage of the opportunities associated with demographic change. Best practices show that an aging society is not necessarily destined to face deterioration in the population’s quality of life.
In the field of development cooperation, we also respond to the world’s demographic changes and their influence on sustainable development for all, inter alia, by incorporating population dynamics as a central issue into German development cooperation activities.
Thank you for your kind attention.