Dáil Éireann - Volume 532 - 20 March, 2001
Written Answers. - Population Control.
Mr. P. Carey Mr. P. Carey
176. Mr. P. Carey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the concern expressed by many Irish people at the continued funding of the UNFPA in view of China's population control policies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8348/01]
Mr. Lawlor Mr. Lawlor
179. Mr. Lawlor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will review the decision by the Government to allocate funding to the UNFPA in the light of the serious concerns regarding the actions of that agency, particularly in relation to its involvement in population control programmes in China (details supplied). [7495/01]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): I propose to take Questions Nos. 176 and 179 together.
The UNFPA's programme in China has projects in 32 poor counties. It was requested by the Chinese Government and approved by the 36 member state UNFPA executive board. The programme adheres strictly to the voluntary, human rights-based approach to reproductive health and family planning stipulated by the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development and unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The abolition of quotas and targets in the 32 counties was a condition of UNFPA assistance. Funds were released only after the UNFPA field office received official written communication from  provincial-local authorities that quotas and targets had been removed from participating counties. It has been agreed with the Chinese Government that the project will follow all UNFPA procedures for monitoring and evaluation. In addition, the Government has agreed that the project counties will be open to monitoring visits by foreigners and that county officials would be available to talk to foreign delegations.
The projects supported by the UNFPA in those counties will provide quality, client-oriented services for Chinese women and men on a voluntary, informed-consent basis in reproductive health: family planning, maternal health, including assisted deliveries, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV-AIDS.
The fund has given repeated assurances that it does not support China's one child policy and is confident that the UNFPA programme in China will show conclusively the effectiveness of complete freedom of reproductive choice. Experience worldwide shows that the best way to influence population growth is through a human rights approach that focuses on providing high quality services to meet individual needs and desires.
The assumption sometimes made is that UNFPA, because of its co-operation with Government authorities, implicitly endorses the coercive aspects of policies pursued by those authorities. The Department of Foreign Affairs can find no evidence to support this argument.
In December 1997, Ireland's ambassador to China participated in a field trip organised by the UNFPA to view its programmes in China. He was completely satisfied that the UNFPA was not in any way supporting China's one child policy. Following the trip, the ambassador noted that the long-term objective informing the UNFPA programme is to encourage China's family planning system to adopt a more enlightened client-driven focus by demonstrating the efficacy of a client-oriented qualitative approach operating within the 30 counties selected by the agency.
Ireland has just completed a three year term on the executive board of the UNFPA. Through its membership of the board, Ireland was able to participate directly in detailed donor discussions on UNFPA's programmes and be in a position to closely monitor the UNFPA's performance. We assumed our position on foot of the regular rotation of donor representatives. During our tenure on the board, Ireland participated actively in policy debate concerning the present and future orientations of the agency.
The Department has a sufficient body of information available to it from this and other sources on which to form a positive assessment of the UNFPA's operations. On the basis of that information, and in the light of specific and repeated assurances from the UNFPA, I am satisfied that its operations are conducted in full accordance with its mandate.
Dáil Éireann 532 Written Answers. Population Control.