In the context of the meeting in Nairobi, which commemorates the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo (ICPD+25), I would like to share the Russian perspective and experience on the issue of population and development that we see as an important part of the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Russia has consistently supported the full implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action as a general framework for international and national efforts in the field of population and development. And the key to successful implementation is development in all its forms.
Only the eradication of poverty, universal access to health and education, creation of livelihoods and opportunities for human development and overall economic growth will make it possible to achieve the goals. The empowerment of women and true equality of the sexes is an integral part of these efforts.
The specificities and economic circumstances of each country must be duly taken into account. It is well known that the one-size-fits-all approach rarely leads to success; every country has to find its own nationally shaped solutions that would better respond to its needs.
In our development assistance measures to contribute to global achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, in partnership with the UN development system, we seek to integrate health and gender considerations in every project that we fund. For instance, we are considering establishing within the Russia-UNDP Trust Fund for Sustainable Development a multimillion-dollar window for women’s development to expand their economic opportunities and create sustainable livelihoods for them.
My country has a long tradition of addressing the issues at the centre of the ICPD agenda. The Soviet Union (now defunct) was among the first countries to recognise and implement equal rights for women (including political, economic and voting rights), introduce universal free medical service, education up to university level and the right to old age or disability pensions.
Over the past two decades, life expectancy in Russia has increased by eight years to 73.7 years (78.5 for women and 68.5 for men). Infant mortality rate has reduced by more than 3.5 times (4.7 per 1,000 live births) and maternal mortality fallen by five times. The goal is to push life expectancy up to 78 years by 2024 and further to 80 by 2030.
This has been achieved through the implementation of a comprehensive health policy that comprises universal coverage of all citizens by free preventive medical examinations at least once a year and creation of a network of high-tech medical centres.
RIGHT TO ABORTION
In 2018, the state health budget was 2.6 per cent of the GDP (2.6 trillion roubles, or Sh4.2 trillion). This year, it is 2.9 trillion roubles (Sh4.7 trillion) or 2.7 per cent of the GDP. In the 2020 budget, expenditure will be increased by 50 per cent from 2019.
There is a three-level system of specialised medical care for all women and newborns before and during pregnancy, childbirth and the post-partum period with 44,000 obstetrician-gynaecologists (5.7 specialists per 10,000 women).
Russia was the first country to legalise abortion in 1920. Every Russian woman has the right to decide to have abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, but, because of strong support to women and children, the abortions in 2000-2019 decreased by two-thirds.
This is complemented by a strong social policy, which, in essence, represents investment in human development. In 2007-2018, more than nine million women benefited from the Maternal Capital programme, under which every women who gave birth to or adopted a second or consecutive child was entitled to a special financial assistance of Sh435,000.
Every mother enjoys the right to paid maternity leave and guaranteed return to work to the previous workplace. Every citizen is entitled to state old-age or disability pensions with 44 million Russian men and women receiving monthly pensions. Full secondary education is free and obligatory with the total number of students in higher education 4.3 million.
The unemployment rate in Russia is 4.9 per cent, one of the lowest. Women’s share in the population of Russia is 54 per cent. In the labour market (by sector), it is: Education 82 per cent, health (79), civil service (72), finance and insurance (69) and culture, sports and entertainment 66 per cent.
I hope the Russian experience will be useful in the discussions around the population and development challenges.
Mr Maksimychev is the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Kenya.