Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad laid the foundation-stone of Partners in Population and Development (PPD) Secretariat Building in Dhaka on Monday.
Azad is currently on an official tour to Bangladesh capital Dhaka in connection with the International Conference on "Evidence for Action: South-South Collaboration for ICPD beyond 2014" organized jointly by PPD and Bangladesh and also for attending PPD governance meetings.
The following is the text of his speech at the foundation-stone laying ceremony of PPD Secretariat Building in Dhaka:
"It is a moment of great joy and pride for us to be here in Dhaka for the foundation stone laying ceremony of PPD Secretariat in Dhaka.
At the outset I want to express my heart-felt thanks to the Her Excellency, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh for taking time out for this ceremony.
I would like to congratulate Your Excellency for astute statesmanship and accomplishments in leading Bangladesh towards steady growth, continued progress and prosperity.
The impressive socio-economic growth of Bangladesh, achieved in the backdrop of the global financial downturn has been observed and admired globally.
We acknowledge the generosity of Your Excellency and the Government of Bangladesh for hosting the Secretariat of the Member States of Partners in Population and Development (PPD) in Dhaka, and also for allocating land for constructing the Secretariat Building.
PPD has had the privilege of being hosted in Dhaka and is now getting its own permanent home and rightfully so.
Bangladesh is one of the 10 founding members of PPD. It has since 1996 not only been hosting the Secretariat but has also created a conducive environment for seamless functioning of the Secretariat.
Bangladesh honored its commitment for providing land for building the permanent PPD Secretariat and provided 64 decimals of land to PPD Secretariat in 2010.
As the Chair of PPD Board, on my and on behalf of all Board Members of PPD, I wish to express my gratitude to the Government as well as the people of Bangladesh for all the support provided to PPD not only in the organization of this year's annual events but since the time the Secretariat was established.
Our sincere and heart-felt thanks are also due to His Excellency, Prof. RuhalHaque for his continuous and untiring support to PPD.
Prof RuhalHaque has been a leader and mentor par excellence, guiding and steering the organization to become a strident voice of the south.
As you may be aware, PPD was created in Cairo in 1994, where during the landmark International Conference on Population and Development, ten developing countries united to establish Partners in Population and Development; a unique inter-governmental organization to facilitate the implementation of the ICPD Program of Action in developing countries through South - South Cooperation.
PPD currently serves over 57pc of the world population and is a permanent observer to the United Nations.
Its membership has grown from 10 founding members in 1994 to 25 member countries in 2012 across the global south.
Apart from the Secretariat in Dhaka, Bangladesh, PPD has an Africa Regional Office in Kampala, Uganda and a Programme Office in China.
In order to represent PPD in the United Nations, PPD maintains a Liaison Office to the UN in New York headed by the PPD Permanent Observer to the United Nations.
I am happy to inform you that over the years, PPD has built a credible reputation for advocacy, policy dialogues and for being a change agent in developing countries.
You would be happy to know that Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Nepal, the Philippines, Brazil, Timor L'este and Afghanistan have also expressed their desire to be member of PPD.
Bangladesh has been at the forefront of promoting south-south cooperation which has been recognized globally.
I would also like to take this opportunity to present my compliments and heartiest congratulation to Honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh on being presented with the "UN South-South Award 2011" for outstanding contributions for implementation of the health-related Millennium Development Goals.
My felicitations also to Bangladesh on reducing child mortality and its remarkable march towards achieving the MDG 4, for which the 65th General Assembly of United Nations has awarded Her Excellency, the Prime Minister.
I am happy that Bangladesh has taken appropriate steps for empowering women and their equal participation in development activities in the country.
To expedite the process of their empowerment, girls are getting free education up to higher secondary school under the new Education Policy.
The government has also extended maternity leave to six months from four months, so that mothers can take best care of their new-born babies.
These steps are reflected in rapid progress made in terms of health outcomes.
For instance the Contraceptive Prevalence Rate for married women in Bangladesh has increased from 8 pc in 1975 to 61.2 pc in 2011, which is remarkable increase of more than sevenfold.
Maternal Mortality has also declined from 322 per 1,00,000 live births in 2001 to 194 per 1,00,000 live births in 2010; a 40pc decline in nine years.
I am certain that with this kind of progress Bangladesh will achieve its targets for maternal mortality.
I am confident that if we work in tandem with others and are willing to learn from best practices and experiences, then better health outcomes and sustainable development are indeed achievable for all of us.
Before I conclude, I would like to express the hope that PPD acts to be that catalyst which can push the population and maternal health movement forward and be the most strident advocate of global south.
In the end, I once again thank the Government of Bangladesh and, Hon'ble Prime Minister, in particular, for graciously hosting PPD's annual events and extending warm hospitality to all PPD member country delegations and other guests."
Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina and other dignitaries were also present on this occasion.
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