UN's Ad Melkert on World Population Day

Speech by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Ad Melkert, on the World Population Day.

Today is a welcome occasion to highlight the new stage that Iraq has embarked upon after so many years of suffering and devastation. It is the stage of substituting the confrontation of the past for cooperation towards a joint future. It is the stage where quality of life will be the yardstick after long years when primarily survival mattered. It is the stage also of counting the people that make up Iraq: counting the numbers as much as counting the aspirations. In order to deliver services accordingly the one cannot be without the other.

On World Population Day it is important to be collectively aware that by October this year our planet’s population will reach 7 billion. It could be a baby in Iraq, let’s call her Soesan. However we may be faced with the conundrum that we will not know which number Soesan represents as part of the people of Iraq. For we know that there is an urgency to have the right numbers in place. It is highly doubtful whether the 29.6 million figure of 2007 is representative for the country or, in its breakdown, for the provinces. Yet the country needs to know and to act in order to know. Addressing the aspirations and needs of all Iraqi people, particularly the great majority of young people, in education, health care, housing, and employment requires basic knowledge of who is where. In order for a government to be able to effectively plan and provide for its citizens a census is a critical requirement. The information gathered enables civil authorities to understand the number of children who will have to be educated and how many schools will be needed to provide that education, how many women and men will need access to health care, or how many need housing. The entire social security portfolio relies on this information and without it governments simply are unable to adequately provide the people’s needs.

UNFPA the United Nations Population Fund plays a leading role in the implementation of national census exercises world wide. UNFPA launched 2010 the Global Special Initiative on Census to ensure that no developing country fails to carry out a Population and Housing Census either due to financial constraints or lack of technical capacity. In the Arab region the focus is on strengthening the capacity of national regional institutions providing support to cooperation initiatives and networks on emerging population issues, knowledge sharing and support for policy-related research and planning.

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