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Philip Barton's speech at Population Summit 2015, Islamabad

British High Commissioner, Philip Barton, today addressed the panel regarding International Partners’ Perspectives on Population and Development.

High Commissioner's speech on population summit 2015

High Commissioner’s speech during panel discussion:

'’Thank you inviting me to join this panel. I am very conscious there is a lot more expertise on the panel than I have. I take a simple approach: look for the positive. That is true in this field as much as any other. So good policies, based on rights and sensitive to gender, can address and harness population dynamics and turn a potential demographic time bomb into a demographic dividend. This is the challenge in Pakistan.

Securing this dividend of accelerated economic progress will depend on Pakistan’s policies and actions, including investment in education and training, better health care and support for increased employment opportunities.

The population growth being experienced by Pakistan is, in part, an outcome of Pakistan’s development. It is similar to the experience through which many developed countries have already passed.

Population growth is complex, but in Pakistan it is largely a result of improvements in mortality rates and continuing high fertility rates.

Better health care, cleaner water and sanitation, and better education and nutrition mean that thousands of children have lived who would otherwise have died. This is a sign of Pakistan’s development and should be welcomed.

The unmet need for family planning, however, is still high: 20% of women in Pakistan who want to avoid or delay pregnancy are not using family planning. This has health and economic consequences for the women and families concerned. It also contributes to population growth. It presents a challenge for Pakistan to provide health care, education, jobs and housing, particularly in the urban areas, for its growing population.

With the provision of family planning services – allowing choice over family size and spacing between births – and with the expansion of education and job opportunities, particularly for girls and women, Pakistan could take advantage of the demographic dividend.

More people with good levels of education and skills will bring more wealth to families, communities and ultimately the country.

The UK is committed to helping Pakistan make this positive step, and make best use of its workforce and resources. Pakistan is one of the biggest recipients of UK overseas development assistance. With our particular focus on education and improved health services, including family planning, we can play a role in supporting this ambition.

In 2012, the UK and the Gates Foundation organised the London Summit on Family Planning to galvanise international action. The UK committed to double its global efforts, a commitment renewed by the current British Government in the recent 2015 elections.

The UK is firmly committed to the FP2020 global partnership; and to supporting countries to improve access to voluntary family planning services, which increase not remove choice.

We stand ready to help the Government of Pakistan to deliver the commitments made today and at the 2012 Summit.

DFID already runs two major such projects in Pakistan.

  • Firstly, our Delivering Reproductive Health Results programme improves access to family planning services through the private sector. Since 2012, this has benefited over 600,000 women who have previously not used or stopped using family planning. This programme will run until 2016, when we hope to put in place a successor programme.

  • And secondly, our Provincial Health and Nutrition Programme supports the governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to deliver improved health services. This includes family planning services in health facilities as well as outreach support through Lady Health Workers.

We are also working with the Government of Pakistan on the causes of rapid population growth.

Poverty; lack of women’s empowerment; poor access to education for girls, poor access to contraceptive information, services and supplies; cultural norms; child survival rates; urbanisation; and economic prospects all have an impact on population growth.

Family planning is one of the best investments for improving the health of women, girls and children across the country; and for achieving other development goals.

It is a shared priority for the Governments of Pakistan and the UK. DFID has been supporting both the public and private sector provision of family planning services in Pakistan for many years. We are currently working on our plans for the next five years, through to 2020. But we are clear that family planning and addressing the challenges of population growth will play a significant part in our future portfolio.

Published 5 November 2015