Remarks by Amb. Ajit Kumar at Briefing for Member Countries on the 13th Inter-Ministerial Conference of Partners in Population and Development - 15.02.2017

Permanent Mission of India


Remarks by H.E. Mr. Ajit Kumar, Ambassador & Permanent Representative of India to UN office and other International Organziations in Geneva at Briefing for Member Countries on the 13th Inter-Ministerial Conference of Partners in Population and Development – 15.02.2017

Topic -  (Innovative policies and programmes in Population and development issues, including Sexual Reproductive health.)

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset allow me to put on record our sincere appreciation for Ambassador Coly Seck for taking this initiative in organising this timely briefing as a follow up to the Inter-Ministerial Conference of Partners in Population and Development (PPD), which deliberated on the Challenges and solutions on Reproductive Health, Population and Development issues in Dakar last year. If I am not wrong, this is perhaps the first briefing of PPD in Geneva for diplomatic mission. If this is so then it is a welcome addition to the number of briefings we have here in Palais de Nations and it should become a regular feature. 

As we know, in Senegal a document - Dakar Call of action was adopted by the 26 partner countries of the PPD. The aim of this document is to singularly focus on improving reproductive health and family planning services, reduce maternal and child mortality, and increase the voice of the Global South.  India firmly believes that South-South Cooperation has the potential to be an effective collaboration mechanism and has become even more pertinent in the post SDGs era.

The issues of population and development which were  discussed at the Inter-Ministerial Conference require our concerted efforts, including at the level of Permanent Missions based in Geneva. While the dialogue has revolved around reproductive health, ageing and demographic dividend, migration is emerging as one of the most pressing humanitarian issue, today.

The Dakar Call for Action is indeed a step forward in building our collective and natural expression of intent in promoting South-South cooperation. It is therefore important that we propose to mobilize health diplomacy towards these issues in Geneva. 

In terms of innovative policies and programs in population and development issues, I believe evidence from India is very relevant as well as topical in the current context. 

India has the largest annual birth cohort of 26 million babies in the world spanning through a wide array of geographical, climatic and socio-cultural conditions. We also have the additional challenge of dealing with significant sub-national disparities.

On the one hand 27.5% of our population is in the age group of 15-29 years while on the other the number of elderly persons is expected to be 20% of the projected population by 2020. 

The Government of India (GoI) currently invests more than 14 billion US Dollars per annum through a wide range of programmes of different Ministries through Targeted and Non Targeted Programmes. 

As far as targeted programmes are concerned, the focus is on  higher education, skill development, healthcare etc. and non-targeted programmes deal with issues such as food subsidies, employment. 

Let me enumerate some of the programmes for clarity - In last few years government of India has launched - Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (National Adolescent Health Programme), Make in India, Digital India, Skill India (PM Kaushal Vikas Yojna), Start up India, Stand up India. The common thread linking these programmes is the young India, the youth.

Similarly, the concerns of the elderly are being addressed on a priority basis. For example, the National Program for Health Care of Elderly (NPHCE) - providing Community-based primary health care and dedicated facilities for the elderly, strengthening geriatric health services as well as Integrated Program for Older Persons (IPOP) and providing financial assistance for old age homes are a few of the noteworthy initiatives. 

The issue of population and development lies at the crux of all dialogue on public health. India recognizes the challenges posed by  the unmet needs in the arena of contraception, maternal and child health, women’s status, employment and literacy, India aims to accord them the highest priority. Equity and Quality are the cornerstones of our strategy.

Let me give you an example, our new strategic approach emphasizes continuum of care and integrated action. Reproductive health has now been anointed as a major pillar of our Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health Strategy. RMNCH+A strategy as it is commonly known - is aimed to improve survival and health of women and children with special focus on delaying the first birth and spacing between births. 

India has already developed indigenous capacity, in public and private sector, to manufacture the entire range of reproductive health commodities, many of which are now being exported. 

We have specifically costed plans not just at the national level but also at the regional and district levels with substantially scaled up investments in lesser developed districts. The government has also launched “Mission Parivar Vikas” - Mission for Family Development. It is a programme on mission mode in select high fertility districts to improve access to contraceptives. 

India is committed to mobilizing its own domestic resources without dependence on external aid. We are making massive and strategic investments in the National Health Mission which is the largest public health program in the world. Over 30 billion dollars have already been invested under this mission to strengthen health systems and rejuvenate reproductive and child health agenda.

As a result of these measures, India has shown an impressive decline of more than 70% in maternal mortality from 1990 level to 2010 against the global average of 44% during the same period. Similarly, Infant Mortality too has shown a decline of 55% against a global decline of 49%. 

Building on the phenomenal progress of this safe motherhood scheme, we have added another major intervention to eliminate out-of-pocket expenses for both pregnant women and sick neonates which we have now expanded to sick infants also. 

Large scale creation of physical infrastructure including state of the art Maternal and Child Health wings, major augmentation of human resources at all levels, free drugs and diagnostics, mobile medical units to take health services to remotest areas and mainstreaming of Indian systems of medicine are among key achievements under the National Health Mission.

All these interventions have been made possible by a positive political atmosphere. Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi is a strong champions for the cause of Maternal, Children and Adolescents’ Health. 

The investments in reproductive health go beyond information, supplies and services. Society needs to recognize the irrefutable link between poverty and capabilities. Good health enhances their capabilities to participate productively in social and economic spheres. They also invariably lead to the socio-economic empowerment of women. Education, Health and skilling are the three most important instruments to empower our women. We all have to work harder to empower our populations especially women and girls.

Internationally India’s engagement with Africa in the Health Care is worth taking cognisance of. Government of India has taken a number of  initiatives such as Focus Africa, Team-9 Initiative and Pan-African e-Network Project with significant investment in Public Health. The telemedicine initiative has enabled a number of super-specialty hospitals in India to be connected with doctors based in Africa and partnering in building capacity in Africa through continuing medical education (CME) credits. 

Another good example is the Triangular cooperation where India and US, are working together to promote global progress and achieve shared development goals around the world. In 2016, USAID launched the Global Linkages project to facilitate the transfer and adoption of 20 Indian innovations and best practices in family planning, child, and maternal health care to select African and Asian countries.  

Each country can learn from the experiences of other countries as to how they address various Population and development issues. More South-South cooperation and mutual understanding would help us to build a better world, free from diseases, social strife and poverty.

I take this opportunity to compliment PPD’s efforts in strengthening population and health diplomacy in the era of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  and assure that the delegation of India will closely work with the Missions based in Geneva towards implementation of the Dakar Plan of Action.

With these words, I thank you for the opportunity for conveying my thoughts.



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