Development will help fix population challenges

Friday, November 15th, 2019 07:17 |

 By Dmitry Maksimychev      

In the context of the just-ended meeting in Nairobi to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD+25), I would like to share the Russian perspective and experience on the issue of population and development, an important part of the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Russia has consistently supported the full implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action as a general framework for international and national efforts in the field of population and development. The way we see it, the key to successful implementation of the ICPD Programme is development in all its forms. 

Only full eradication of poverty, universal access to health and education, creation of livelihoods and opportunities for human development and overall economic growth will make it possible to achieve the goals of Cairo. The empowerment of women and true equality of the sexes is an integral part of these efforts. Of course, the specificities and economic circumstances of each country must be duly taken into account because it is well known that the one-size-fits-all approach rarely leads to success. Every country has to find its own customised solutions that better responds to its needs.

In our development assistance measures to contribute to achievement of the SDGs, in partnership with the UN development system, we seek to integrate health and gender considerations practically in each project that we fund. Presently, we are considering establishing within the Russia-UNDP Trust Fund for Sustainable Development, a new multi-million-dollar window for women’s development. The additional money will be used to expand women’s economic opportunities and create sustainable livelihoods for them in countries that need support.

Nationally, Russia has a long tradition of successfully addressing the problems at the centre of the Cairo Programme of Action. The Soviet Union was one of the first countries to recognise and implement equal rights for women (including political, economic and voting rights), to introduce universal free medical service and education up to university level, as well as the right to old-age or disability pensions.

Currently,  we are developing and building on these achievements.

Over the last two decades, life expectancy in Russia has increased by eight years and reached 73.7 years. During same period, infant mortality rate has been reduced by more than 3.5 times while maternal mortality has been reduced by five times. The goal is to push life expectancy up to 78 years by 2024 and to 80 by 2030.

These results have been achieved through the implementation of a comprehensive health policy that comprises universal coverage of all citizens by free preventive medical examinations at least once a year and creation of a network of high-tech medical centres. In 2018, the state health budget amounted to 2.6 per cent of the GDP or 2.6 trillion Russian ruble (equivalent of Sh4.2 trillion). This year, it has increased to  2.9 trillion rubles (Sh4.7 trillion).

There is a three-level system of specialised medical care introduced for all women and newborns before and during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. 

In 1920, Russia became the first country in the world to legalise abortion. Every Russian woman has the right to decide to have abortion up to 12 weeks of the pregnancy. But, because of strong support to women and children, the number of abortions  from 2000 to 2019 decreased by two thirds.

This is complemented by a strong social policy, which, in its essence, represents investment in human development. In 2007-2018, more than nine million women benefitted from the programme “Maternal Capital” under which every woman who gave birth to or adopted a second or consecutive child is entitled to financial assistance equivalent to Sh435,000. 

The level of unemployment in Russia is 4.9 per cent, one of the lowest in the world. 

I hope the Russian experience will be useful in the discussions around the population and development challenges.

—The writer is the Russian ambassador to Kenya

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