Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

230410 - UN: Fifty-Sixth Commission on Population and Development: General Debate


10 April 2023

Statement by H.E. The Hon Mitch Fifield, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Australian Mission to the United Nations

Australia is really pleased to participate at this, the Fifty-Sixth Session of the Commission on Population and Development.

Australia remains firmly committed to the full implementation of the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the outcomes of its reviews, and to implementing our commitments from the Nairobi Summit.  This is key to human rights, and essential to achieving our global commitments to education, health and inclusive, sustainable development.  

We are holding this meeting at a time when the world has reached over 8 billion people, 60 per cent of them young people – our largest ever youth cohort. The special theme of the fifty-sixth session on ‘population, education and sustainable development’ is very relevant in this context. It signals that education is at the heart of human development and critical to promoting gender equality, social inclusion, diversity and respect for human rights.

We know that education is linked to improved health and social outcomes and that keeping girls in school is one of the most effective ways of contributing to the elimination of harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage, as well as sexual and gender-based violence.

Australia is committed to promoting quality education and lifelong learning for all, including marginalised groups and populations in vulnerable situations. We welcome the Secretary-General’s Report and its focus on the role of education in providing young people with the information they need to make decisions, including on matters affecting their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Too many young people still do not have access to comprehensive sexuality education. It is needed to enable young people to make informed decisions about their own lives and bodies, helping prevent sexual and gender-based violence, including harmful practices. It is also a key component of a broader sexual and reproductive health and rights package that can help prevent early and unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Women and girls have the right to be fully and equally part of prosperous, productive and healthy societies. The Australian Government has committed to 80% of our aid budget contributing to gender equality outcomes.  This includes programs that focus on improving women’s and girls’ access to education and health services, including sexual and reproductive health and rights.

We must continue to prioritise quality and inclusive education and the advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all. The continued roll back of sexual and reproductive health and rights puts at risk the safety, health and economic prospects of women and girls, which in turn constrains the growth and development potential of countries.  This is not in our shared interests for a stable and prosperous world.  It is critical that we all work together to protect, promote and fulfil human rights and achieve the 2030 Agenda. 

Chair, we express our sincere appreciation to you, and to the Commission on Population and Development for the leadership of the Commission at this critical time, and we encourage all member states to support a credible, consensus-based outcome, that upholds the integrity of the Commission and its mandate.