The United Nations Fund for Population Activities — UNFPA — provides assistance in the field of population, including family planning and awareness and education programmes, in response to requests from developing countries. UNFPA is financed from contributions by Governments and private donors.
Ireland has provided funding support to UNFPA since 1993. Prior to then, Ireland was the only EU member state not to have contributed to UNFPA. Given the growing importance of the population issue at international level, it was felt by the Government at that time that a contribution to UNFPA represented an appropriate response to the challenges posed by population growth, particularly in developing countries. Since then Ireland has provided a total of £400,000 in support of UNFPA's work in developing countries and a further £250,000 is being provided in 1996.
UNFPA is committed by its mandates to the principle of voluntarism in its programmes of assistance throughout the world. It condemns the use of coercion in any form or manner in any population programme.
I am aware of Chinese family policy, which envisages families in urban areas having no more than one child and those in rural areas no more than two children. I am under no illusions but that there are cases of forceful pressure on women to have abortions but I understand this is contrary to Chinese law.
We sought and received assurances from UNFPA, most recently in January 1996, that in providing support for family planning activities in China it has carefully monitored its programmes to ensure full adherence to universally accepted standards of human rights. UNFPA has emphasised that its family planning activities, both in China and elsewhere, are grounded on the principles of freedom of choice and informed consent. It has categorically stated that it does not support China's one-child policy and is opposed to targets and quotas to enforce such a policy.
UNFPA also states that it has maintained a constant dialogue with the Chinese authorities about abuses of human rights in its population programme. It has also formulated special projects specifically designed to point out the practical advantages of a purely voluntary programme.
I share the Deputy's concern and that of the international community about the allegations of human rights abuses in respect of China's population programme. However, I am satisfied on the basis of the UNFPA's statement and assurances that its projects in China have been conducted in full accordance with its mandates and principles.