POPULATION CONFERENCE

Russia: Development is key to addressing population challenges

Russia has consistently supported the full implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action as a general framework for international and national efforts.

In Summary

• The empowerment of women and true equality of the sexes is an integral part of these efforts.

• Russia seeks to integrate health and gender considerations practically in every project it funds.

An unidentified street in Nigeria
An unidentified street in Nigeria
Image: REUTERS
Russian Federation Ambassador to Kenya Dmitry Maksimychev
Russian Federation Ambassador to Kenya Dmitry Maksimychev
Image: Courtesy

In the context of the meeting in Nairobi to commemorate 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. The way we see it, the key to the successful implementation of the ICPD Programme 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 of Cairo.

The empowerment of women and true equality of the sexes is an integral part of these efforts. And, of course, the specificities and economic circumstances of each country must be duly taken into account because it is well known that the one-size-fits-all approach rarely leads to success, and 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 the global achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, in the partnership with the UN development system, we seek to integrate health and gender considerations practically in every project that we fund.

Presently, we are considering establishing within the Russia-UNDP Trust Fund for Sustainable Development a new multimillion-dollar window for women’s development. This additional money will be used to expand women’s economic opportunities and create sustainable livelihoods for them in the countries that need our support.

Nationally, my country has a long tradition of successfully addressing the problems that are at the centre of the Cairo Programme of Action. The Soviet Union was one of the first countries of the world to recognise and implement equal rights for women (including political, economic and voting rights), to introduce universal free medical service and education up to university level, as well as the right to old-age or disability pensions.

At present, we are developing and building on these achievements.

Over the last two decades, life expectancy in Russia has increased by eight years and reached 73.7 years (78.5 for women and 68.5 for men). During the same period, the infant mortality rate has been reduced by more than 3.5 times (4.7 per one thousand live births), while maternal mortality has been reduced by five times. The goal is to push life expectancy up to 78 years by 2024 and further to 80 by 2030.

These results have 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.

In 2018, the state health budget amounted to 2.6 per cent of the GDP or 2.6 trillion roubles (the equivalent of Sh4.2 trillion), and in 2019, 2.9 trillion roubles (Sh4.7 trillion) or 2.7 per cent of the GDP. In 2020, budget expenditures will be increased by 50 per cent in comparison with 2019.

A three-level system of specialised medical care has been introduced for all women and newborns before and during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. The total number of obstetrician-gynaecologists in Russia is approximately 44,000 (5.7 specialists per 10,000 women).

In 1920, Russia became the first country in the world to legalise abortions. Every Russian woman has the right to decide to have an abortion up to 12 weeks of the pregnancy. But, because of strong support to women and children, the number of abortions in 2000-19 decreased by two thirds.

This is complemented by a strong social policy, which, in its essence, represents an investment in human development. In 2007-18, more than nine million women benefitted from the programme “Maternal Capital” under which every woman who gave birth to or adopted a second or consecutive child is entitled to special financial assistance equivalent to Sh435,000.

Every mother in Russia enjoys the right to paid maternity leave and guaranteed return to work to the previous workplace to successfully combine employment with family responsibilities.

Every citizen of Russia is entitled to state old age or disability pensions. Forty-four million Russian men and women receive monthly pensions. Full secondary education is free and obligatory. The total number of higher education students is 4.3 million.

The level of unemployment in Russia is 4.9 per cent, one of the lowest in the world. Women’s share in the population of Russia is 54 per cent, and women’s share in the Russian labour market is (by sector): 82 per cent in education, 79 per cent in health, 72 per cent in civil service, 69 per cent in finance and insurance, 66 per cent in culture, sports and entertainment.

I hope that the Russian experience will be useful in the discussions around the population and development challenges.

Dmitry Maksimychev is the Russian Federation Ambassador to Kenya