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St. Lucia Takes Stock of Population & Development Issues after a Decade

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Contact: John Emmanuel

Thursday, May 15, 2003 - After almost a decade since the staging of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Egypt, back in 1994, over one hundred and seventy (170) participating countries around the world have begun taking stock of what has been achieved via their national agendas to date. St. Lucia began its introspection on Wednesday, May 14, 2003 with assistance of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The one-day exercise, held at the Indies Conference Centre in Rodney Bay, is the first in a series of consultations grouping the various stakeholders and sought to examine the existing data on population and development issues gathered over the years. Addressing participants, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Transformation Ezra Jn. Baptiste noted that, “the area of population and development is of concern to all of us because we must recognize and admit that there is a seamless interrelationship between population and development.”

In other words, said Jn. Bapriste, “population affects development and development affects population. Therefore the question we need to ask and answer is to what extent have population factors and issues been incorporated into the planning process.” Data collected over the ten year period will assist the UNFPA in bettering tailoring its assistance to countries willing to implement the plan of action developed at the Cairo Conference. Such assistance could come not only in the form of technical but financial aid as well.

UNFPA Deputy Representative who serves as consultant and facilitator to the exercise Casper Peek said “the questions we will be looking at for example are those of migration. How many people leave the country, how many enter. Therefore we start asking the questions, what happens when people leave, skilled people at that, like nurses, teachers etc. Does that mean that in five years time you have no nurses to provide medical services, no teachers to teach or instead of thirty students in a classroom you many be forced to have forth and fifty?” Peek explained that answers to such questions must be provided by countries if there are to seriously tackle population and development issues in years to come.

He went on, “we are also asking, if the returning migrants come back as has been the trend in many other countries of the region, persons who are now in their sixties who may have left the country thirty years ago, what does that mean in terms of the social services needed in the country to care for such ones. The issue of large populations of seniors is posing serious challenges to many developed countries right now and small developing states will soon face the vary same issue. Therefore now is the time to put procedures in place to address what we see as a major and explosive issue, one that will prove to be costly to small state in the long run.”

Government officials say they view the data collection and comparison exercise as one of the strategies in the pursuit of a clearer vision for social transformation on the island.

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