Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin (Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Honourable members, good afternoon, and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.
On behalf of all of us at UNFPA, I would like to thank you, the government, and the people of Canada for the steadfast support that we have received to the mandate of UNFPA in delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person's potential is fulfilled.
We look forward to continuing this partnership as we begin working with countries to implement the global goals agreed to by the international community in September 2015.
Let me quickly remind you that it was actually not one set of agreements last year; there were three agreements: first, financing for development which happened in July in Addis Ababa; second, the September agreement on the goals themselves which happened in New York; and third, the climate agreement which happened in Paris. We need to take the three together, because they all work together in terms of going forward for a sustainable planet.
The 2030 agenda for sustainable development calls on all of us to leave no one behind and to start with those furthest behind. All too often these are the ones that we never even reach and when you drill it down, the demography of that are women and girls.
Let's look at adolescent girls. There is overwhelming evidence that investing in adolescent girls, in their education, health and well-being, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, yields huge returns. Whether girls flourish with opportunities or languish in poverty can determine the long-term development prospects of their countries.
Ensuring that girls are able to exercise their rights, can stay in school, not be married off at the age of 10 or 11, have the skills and opportunity to join the workforce, are free from violence, for example, female genital mutilation, free from abuse and exploitation, for example, trafficking, is essential for their own well-being, but most important, it is the critical foundation for the health and prosperity of families, communities, and nations.
We need to give these girls unfettered access to comprehensive sex education, remove laws that impede their access to information and services, including contraceptive services, and as I said, protect them from child marriage and other harmful practices that keep girls out of school.
Two examples of the programs that are yielding tangible results in reaching those furthest behind in regard to adolescent girls are the the action for adolescent girls initiative and the global program to accelerate action to end child marriage. In Niger, for example, adolescents who have participated in these programs are married later. Among those who have married, the contraceptive prevalence rate has risen from 18% to 34%. We're able to assist them to actually take charge of their lives and do something more meaningful.
In these circumstances, Canada's support makes this result possible. We would like to acknowledge the Government of Canada for doing this.
What about family planning and UNFPA supplies?
It is widely acknowledged that family planning is one of the best investments we can make for human development. Indeed, I think it is accepted now that it is the most important and most effective intervention in human development. When women and couples can choose when to have children, women's rights are advanced. Women and their families are healthier and nations and economies are stronger and more sustainable. My argument all the time is that family planning is not a health intervention, it's an intervention to empower women, and we will see it in that light. The rights of women to make choices, to take control of their bodies, and make decisions about themselves are critical to human development.
UNFPA supplies is the largest supplier of contraceptives worldwide in the public sector. Since 2007 we have provided contraceptives that have saved over 700,000 lives and billions of dollars in direct health care spending in countries with the highest maternal mortality and highest unmet need for family planning. Last year alone we helped some 33 million women in more than 46 countries receive access to modern contraceptives and reproductive health services, potentially averting an estimated nine million unintended pregnancies and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of women and newborns. Unfortunately, an estimated shortfall of about $1.2 billion over the next five years could jeopardize our ability to help countries reach additional women and girls with modern contraception and will make it difficult even to maintain existing funding of family services.
Let me give a statistic. Today we estimate that 225 million women in union want family planning and they're not getting it. In union, that is, they are married, so they need family planning. They're not getting it. That number, 225 million, is huge. When you look at it, you look at cost per capita. It's so small, less than $25 per capita. What we are looking for per capita is small and I would like to think in these hallowed chambers you believe that the life of a woman is worth more than $25. We're using this to give you a sense of where the needs are.
By resuming the support of this program, which Canada did yesterday, making contraceptive commodity security a reality for women and girls around the world, we're very glad. The amount might be small, but I think it's a mega step forward in terms of the commitment of Canada. Canada has always supported our contraceptive commodity security. This will improve lives and save lives. It will also positively impact across generations, ending poverty and helping boost economies.
Let me share with you a couple of stories. I think it will put things into perspective when we talk about real lives.
I'll tell you the story of Aisha. She was 12 when her parents took her out of school to help with the family farm. She was married when she was 14 and had a child a year later. This is a story that we hear almost every day for those of us who go out in the field. For many girls the story continues predictably: more children, fewer opportunities, poorer health for her—the mother—and her children. What you find in a circumstance like this is that she'll probably end up with six or seven children. They have children almost every year. If she survives, she's in chronic poor health; if she doesn't survive her children are orphans. This doesn't have to be. We can reverse that, and we can help girls like Aisha.
Aisha was one of the lucky ones. When she had a baby, she brought her baby to a health clinic for immunization, and when she got there she received information about family planning. The options they offered were supported by the UNFPA family planning site in our community. She went there and she received information on family planning, and she was able to have a breathing space for herself so that she could look after her baby and recover her health.
She now educates girls and women in her community about the options and has been able to go back to school and continue her education. We also assist some of these girls in going back to school so that they can pick up skills. As long as they have skills, they are able to do things for themselves. This is how we help to build stronger, more resilient families, communities, and countries, one Aisha at a time.
A big part of the work we do is in humanitarian assistance. Nearly 60 million people have been uprooted by conflict, the largest number since the end of the Second World War.
Sexual and reproductive health care and protection from sexual and gender-based violence are critical for women everywhere, but especially for those who are fleeing war zones or are in war zones. Women don't stop having babies when a conflict breaks out or a disaster strikes. Women don't stop having their regular monthly periods because of disaster. Many of them give birth on the run without even the most basic items for a clean and safe delivery. Natural disasters and conflicts can wipe out medical facilities, and the ensuing chaos can heighten women's exposure to violence. In conflicts women are more exposed to violence than in ordinary circumstances. So, it's a whole continuum of violence, lack of services, illness, and death.
I believe each of you has a copy of the report, “The State of the World Population 2015”. It calls on governments and aid groups everywhere to move women's sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights from the back seat to the front seat of the world's humanitarian agenda. We selected this because we believe that it's something we need to bring to the forefront.
In Istanbul in May there's going to be the World Humanitarian Summit. We needed to do this so that everybody would be conscious of where women's issues are within our framework. The statistics are important. Three in five maternal deaths occur in humanitarian and fragile contexts, three in five. More women die from maternal mortality in crisis than in peace time. Every day 507 women and adolescent girls die during pregnancy and childbirth in crises and conflicts. More than 100 million people need humanitarian assistance this year. Around 26 million of them are women and girl adolescents of child-bearing age.
Two weeks ago, we marked the birth of the 5,000th baby, a healthy girl named Rima at the UNFPA-supported clinic at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. These are Syrian refugees who have come to Jordan. We have offered services there since 2013. We were able to take the 5,000th delivery there. What's significant for us is that since we opened in 2013, no woman has died and no child has died. All 5,000 children have lived and all the women have lived. This is a source of pride for us at UNFPA as a humanitarian agency. I'm not going to get into the politics of it, because this is something we should all find in Syria itself, but suffice to say we're saving lives.
Rima and her two-year-old sister, that is the newborn and her sister, were born in the Zaatari camp, which is also where their parents were married. I don't know if you know that each camp.... You don't want to start a camp because a camp lasts 19 years before you can round it off. People don't want to go home because they're afraid of what's going on at home, so the new normal in many parts of the world is a camp. We need to continue to provide assistance so that we can ensure that people can lead a good life.
Last year alone we provided reproductive health equipment, medicine, and supplies that served 35 million women and adolescent girls in crisis-affected countries. In 2014, we provided contraceptives and family planning supplies targeting nearly 21 million women, men, and adolescents in humanitarian settings from Syria to Yemen to South Sudan. I have to thank the Government of Canada for giving us $50 million over the next five years to actually provide midwifery services in South Sudan so that we can save the lives of women there. That was announced yesterday.
We're working to ensure safe births and safety from fear and sexual violence. With humanitarian needs increasing, and women and girls' vulnerabilities in these situations disproportionately high, I'd like to urge Canada to support UNFPA in scaling up this life-saving work.
Let me end by thanking the government and people of Canada for their long-standing political and financial support to UNFPA, particularly in the areas I've mentioned: adolescents, family planning, and the issues around disaster-risk reduction. With your help we're going to ensure that more girls like Aisha are able to stay in school and out of wedlock, and can avoid motherhood in childhood. And we can ensure that more women will deliver safely wherever they may be and that more babies like Rima will be born healthy even under the most difficult circumstances.
Honourable members, there are 59 million girls who will cross the threshold of adolescence this year. When you look at what we promised as the international community for the sustainable development goals, we have the opportunity to provide the best possible circumstances and ambience for them to grow and be the best that they can be. With your support, we can ensure that they grow up healthy and safe, empowered, educated, and employed. When you do so, they'll transform the world. I know we can fulfill their dreams and their aspirations, and I believe that together we can build a just, inclusive, sustainable world.
Thank you for listening.
Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin:
Thank you very much.
Let me say this. The way we work the fund is one country at a time, understanding the context within the country itself and also understanding communities within countries, because not every country is homogeneous and indeed, Canada is not. To an extent, being able to understand what the levers are within a community, particularly in terms of family planning is what enables us to penetrate and to offer services. I can tell you that we've scored very significant successes in many parts of the world just by being able to get down to communities and understanding and working with communities.
When you look at a country like Indonesia, it's the largest Muslim community in the world. It has a 50% to 60% contraceptive rate. That's good. We need to do better, but we've done well there. When you look at countries like Tunisia and Algeria, we've done well, because they're Muslims, but they have accepted it. We had success in Egypt until the fundamentalists came, but we also made progress.
I don't think it's a question of religion or whatever. I think it's our understanding of it and our ability to sit and work with people.
One of the things that I believe is also important and which the last questioner asked was on political support, political will, and leadership. Once you have the political will and leadership, things move better than you expect.
I was talking to one diplomat from Bangladesh last week. Bangladesh is one of the poor countries in the world. It has reduced the number of children per woman from 6.2 to 2.5—family planning—and it's a Muslim country, a totally Muslim country. Bangladesh has about four million women in the workforce now, so education is there. Things are moving.
I think it's just our ability to understand the context and also work with systems on the ground, government being in the lead. I think we can make a difference.
In my country, and I say this, there is a difference. If you look outside of Nigeria, progress is being made. If you look at some parts of Niger, progress is being made. About two or three weeks ago, we had a teleconference with religious leaders from northern Nigeria. They said that they were prepared to work with us on family planning. I think it is an understanding.
One of the things that I think is there that we still have to work with and that I totally see is an ability to work with young people, because even parents in modern economies don't like to talk to their children about contraception. In a sense that's the basis we need to work with, but work with them we have to, because when you look at the demographic of those who die from unsafe abortions, 40% to 50% of them are young people who are not married. We need to save them from themselves and we need to also reach them with services.
Ms. Tamara Guttman (Director General, Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development):
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you so much everyone for having us here today.
I am truly honoured, especially so on International Women's Day. It is a real pleasure. Thank you.
I welcome the opportunity to address the committee on behalf of Global Affairs Canada on the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security. As the chair has mentioned, I'm very pleased to be joined by my colleague Julie Shouldice, the director general of social development at Global Affairs, as well as Tony Anderson, who is our senior adviser on this issue.
The implementation of the WPS agenda by the government is very much a partnership effort among Global Affairs, the Department of National Defence, and the RCMP, as well as, of course, our important civil society partners and those in the international arena. I understand that the committee will hear from representatives of National Defence and the RCMP at a later date on their program activities, which we hope will provide a more comprehensive picture of all the work the government is doing.
I'm going to offer a few initial comments guided by the topics that the committee submitted to us, and then we will be very pleased to respond to questions.
The international WPS agenda is defined by United Nations Security resolution 1325, adopted in the year 2000, and seven subsequent resolutions. The WPS agenda recognizes that women and girls face challenges in situations of armed conflict and other emergencies. Women and men often experience conflict and other emergency situations in very different ways. Further, women and girls very often suffer inordinately because of their culturally assigned gender roles.
Sexual violence is often perpetrated on them, including as a tactic of war and terror, as we unfortunately continue to see in the Middle East and Africa. The abuse of the human rights of women and girls is exacerbated in conflict and emergencies, including elevated levels of child, early and forced marriage.
Women may experience discrimination or violence that limits their access to humanitarian assistance. In particular, survivors of sexual violence may have difficulty in accessing necessary medical, socio-economic and psychological services.
In conflict-affected and fragile societies, women frequently do not have opportunities for meaningful roles, in particular on peace and security matters, where they could be active agents to prevent and resolve the conflicts that affect their lives and well-being.
The solutions proposed by the Security Council resolutions on WPS are compelling and quite simple in concept:
First, ensure that women and men are given equal opportunities, even if this means that different treatment must be used to achieve those ends.
Second, empower women to participate meaningfully in the economic, political, and social lives of their communities and countries, including on issues of peace and security.
Third, fully respect the rights of women and girls.
Fourth, prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence by assisting women and girls with reintegration into their communities, by giving them access to justice, and by holding perpetrators to account.
Finally, apply gender-based analysis to all conflict prevention and resolution, and post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation activities, to develop solutions that are more likely to lead to sustainable peace and prosperity.
Gender equality, respect for human rights, justice, and the empowerment of women and girls, as well as men and boys, are core Canadian values and ones for which we are globally recognized. Canada is well placed to take a leadership role in international efforts to promote and implement the WPS agenda, and we do. We have a long record of support for this agenda, beginning with drafting Resolution 1325, which was passed in the year 2000, when we were a member of the Security Council.
Let me list a few examples of what we are doing now to take a leadership role in the UN.
Canada initiated and continues to chair in New York the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, where we play a coordinating role among interested member states, civil society, and the Security Council on these matters.
We also chair the working subcommittee of the General Assembly committee 34 on UN peacekeeping, where we coordinate the agenda, including for WPS issues, and take strong national positions, including in support of zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers.
Canada leads in the drafting of the annual resolution of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on the elimination of all violence against women, which includes language on violence against women and girls in the context of conflict and emergency situations.
We provide financial assistance for the work of UN women and to the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms. Zainab Bangura. Members may recall that we invited Ms. Bangura to address the anti-ISIL coalition conference that took place in Quebec City last July, where she gave compelling testimony on the results of her recently completed mission to study sexual violence in conflict in the Middle East.
I will also quickly mention that Canada leads efforts to eliminate child, early, and forced marriage, CEFM, which is exacerbated in conflict, emergency, and displacement situations. Since October 2013, we have committed over $80 million in programming to end CEFM.
The challenges in implementing this agenda in conflict, post-conflict and other emergency situations are enduring. Some are all too obvious, including the horrendous abuse of women and girls at the hands of war lords and terrorist groups such as ISIL and Boko Haram.
Often, social and cultural norms in weak and fragile states discriminate against women and deny them access to services, resources and justice, and such practices are often embedded in national law. These factors can combine to deny women agency in peace and reconciliation processes.
Discrimination and lack of access are often even worse for women of certain groups, such as indigenous or rural women. In addition, national security forces themselves can be perpetrators of sexual violence and this can create a culture of impunity for such offences.
Canada does have a range of tools and programs that we use to address these issues in situations of concern. The stabilization and reconstruction task force, or START, in Global Affairs Canada, which I head up, develops Canadian WPS policy and coordinates our diplomatic efforts to promote this agenda. We also run the global peace and security fund and support the work of various organizations focused on addressing the impact of sexual and gender-based violence. For example, in ISIL-affected areas in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, we have funded a range of projects to provide support to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and to aid in investigations of related crimes.
We are also, for example, improving camp security for internally displaced persons and refugees, especially women and girls in northern Iraq. We are working to empower women as active participants in peace processes, and we are very pleased to be able to support the recently launched UN-led peace negotiations for Syria by providing expert female advisers to assist the Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee.
We also facilitate the deployment of Canadian police officers from across Canada to United Nations and other peace operations through the Canadian police arrangement. I am pleased to note that currently, 25% of Canadian police deployed through the CPA are female, which surpasses the UN target of 20%.
Since 2014, Canadian police have helped to deliver training to women police peacekeeping candidates in a range of developing countries in Africa. We also deploy to international peace operations in women, peace, and security related roles. For example, right now there is a Canadian female police officer serving as a gender adviser in Ukraine on their police reform.
In Haiti, Canadian police have been delivering training alongside Norway to improve the Haitian national police's capacity to investigate cases related to sexual and gender-based violence.
Let me briefly mention that Canadian humanitarian assistance includes the provision of protection and assistance specific to the needs of women and girls in emergency situations, such as those affected by the crises in Syria and Iraq. Canadian development assistance also addresses gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in fragile and conflict-affected states.
Canada works with experienced partners in countries such as Haiti, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo to address the impacts of conflict on women and girls, to prevent and respond to sexual violence and to strengthen the capacity of women to participate in political and peace-building processes.
Canada is working with the United Nations to strengthen its response to sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers. We encourage greater transparency in the handling of cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, and urge all troop and police contributors to uphold their obligations to investigate misconduct. We have warmly welcomed the very recent appointment of Ms. Jane Holl Lute as the UN special coordinator on SEA, sexual exploitation and abuse.
This problem affects the whole of the international community, and that includes Canada, unfortunately. This committee may have noted the UN report released last week on special measures for protection from SEA in which two Canadian cases are listed. We have an obligation to insist that peacekeepers, including our own, are held to account for their actions.
Finally, the principal framework that guides our WPS activities is the Canadian national action plan for women, peace and security. The plan calls for public annual implementation progress reports. Three such reports have been tabled in Parliament, and the fourth is in preparation. These are all publicly available on the Global Affairs website.
We are very pleased today that ministers Dion, Bibeau, and Freeland announced in their joint statement for International Women's Day that the Canadian national action plan is going to be renewed. We will begin work immediately with our full range of partners both inside and outside of government to update the C-NAP to reflect both the world and the Canada of 2016. We will get these consultations under way, including civil society, and of course, Parliament.
There remains much more work to be done, but I will end my statement there and allow time for questions.
Thank you very much for your attention.