I am honored to speak on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
The five Nordic countries join their voices in this statement to stress a key message: the internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs, cannot be achieved without broader enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
We are convinced:
• that healthy women with the freedom to participate fully in the society is a prerequisite for any country to achieve its full potential for sustainable economic and social development,
• that the ability of women to control their own fertility and their access to reproductive health services is necessary to significantly reduce maternal and child mortality rates,
• that access for young men and women to contraceptives, comprehensive sex education and confidential reproductive health services is crucial in reducing adolescent birth rates,
• that sexual and reproductive health education and access to reproductive health services are the best guarantees for the prevention of HIV/AIDS,
• that every person’s access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is fundamental for achieving gender equality.
But we have a long way to go. It is estimated:
• that 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in absolute poverty are women and girls,
• that two thirds of the world’s work is carried out by women and girls, for less than 5% of total income,
• that each year there are over 500 000 maternal deaths – one woman dying every minute from complications during pregnancy or childbirth - and more than 90% of those deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,
• that one-quarter to one-half of girls in developing countries become mothers before age 18,
• that 60% of HIV-positive adults in Sub-Saharan Africa are women, and 75% of newly-infected youth are girls and young women age 15-24.
Therefore, the Nordic countries have put sexual and reproductive health and rights at the center of our international development cooperation. We encourage all partners to do the same, and we expect the United Nations to be a leader in these efforts.
We welcome that the General Assembly has included universal access to reproductive health by 2015 as a target in the MDGs. This target is a clear signal to all of us to step up our support to programs promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights.
(Check against delivery)