Statement by Mr. Sultan Aziz

Director, Asia and Pacific division, UNFPA, New York

On the Occasion of the Official Inauguration of

The Establishment Committee of the Asian Population Association

Delivered at Amir Kabir Hall, University of Tehran

December 1, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to address your esteemed forum today. I wish I were with you, in person, to celebrate this special event of the establishment of the Asia Population Association. Unfortunately, I could not do so due to prior commitments and conflicting priorities.

Since 2004, I have been engaged in discussions with some of you and other colleagues, on the establishment of the Association, and I am delighted that it has materialized. This would not have been possible without your commitment and endeavour. I take this opportunity to congratulate you all on this outstanding achievement.

As you are aware, Asia provides tremendous opportunities for advancing population issues within the region and around the globe. Asia is home to around 60% of world population and has provided testing ground for diversity of emerging population issues, such as ageing, migration, refugees, pre-natal sex selection, environment and natural disasters. The countries of the region vary in terms of the stage of demographic transition that they are going through. Progress in addressing population issues and achieving ICPD Goals and MDGs has been uneven. Some countries have made strong headway in the population field, while other still lag behind. A number of countries have developed comparative advantages in specific population disciplines, such as Iran in family planning, Indonesia in information, Education and Communication for reproductive health, Bangladesh in poverty alleviation through micro-credit projects and Thailand in HIV/AIDS. There is also a large number of population research and training centers and large base of demographers and population scientists in the region.

Against the backdrop, the Asian Population Association, which brings together professions and institutions, constitutes a knowledge base. The association provides an excellent platform for research, networking and sharing knowledge, experiences and best practices to advance the agenda of ICPD and MDGs.

I realize that you have a challenging agenda of developing the constitution of the association and discussing membership and electing members of the Council of the Association. However, I am confident that you will utilize this forum in Tehran to discuss and set the substantive agenda of the Association and the way forward.

I strongly believe in the potential of the Association and what it can offer as repository of innovative ideas, problem solving and best practices and a platform for disseminating knowledge and influencing policy trends in the region and beyond. The association is expected to mobilize its experts and institutions to develop innovative and strategic approaches to address emerging population issues and accelerate the achievement of ICPD and MDGs. This would require establishing a population research agenda for the region; supporting research and documentation of best practices; facilitating access to research findings; and examining the applicability of innovative approaches in various settings.

Over the years, we have realized that evidence is instrumental in persuading policy makers and planners of innovations. The Association and its experts have the daunting task of engaging in evidence-based advocacy and policy dialogue with various stakeholders to promote the adoption of sound policies and innovative ideas and practices. Interacting with other associations and regional and inter-regional institutions would be instrumental in reaching broader consensus on and support the implementation of such innovations.

As you are aware, UNFPA plays a pivotal role in supporting national, regional and inter-regional population institutions, such as the African Population Association, the Asian Forum for Parliamentarians on Population and Development, and IUSSP, to name a few. The approved plan to strengthen the regional structures of UNFPA will enable the organization to contribute even more effectively to supporting regional institutions. We, at UNFPA, are looking forward to working closely with your esteemed Association in its endeavour to advance the ICPD and MDGs agenda in Asia and the world at large.

Once again, I congratulate you on the establishment of the Asian Population Association and wish you success.