UN Population Head's War Warning

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Posted by Tony from ? ( on Thursday, October 10, 2002 at 3:35PM :

Published on Wednesday, October 9, 2002 by the BBC
UN Population Head's War Warning
by Alex Kirby

The head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr Thoraya
Obaid, says war on Iraq would be catastrophic.

She said a recent warning that a conflict would "open the gates of hell" was
absolutely right.

Dr Obaid said the only way to fight terrorism was to tackle the causes of
injustice. She said the US decision to withhold funding from UNFPA would
worsen the HIV/Aids crisis.

Dr Obaid was speaking in a BBC News Online
interview after taking part in a two-day meeting in
Canterbury, UK, of the World Faiths Development
Dialogue (WFDD).

The meeting, chaired by the Archbishop of
Canterbury, Dr George Carey, and the World Bank
president, James Wolfensohn, involved participants
from many religions, including Muslims, Jews,
Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus and Bahais.

Hope to the hopeless

Dr Obaid, UNFPA's executive director, was born in Baghdad, but is a
Saudi citizen.

She told BBC News Online: "Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League,
said last month that war against Iraq would 'open the gates of hell' in the
Middle East, with instability across the region. "He was right. Nobody
wants war, and I pray that this one will be averted, because if it breaks out it
will destroy people, lives and futures.

"To fight terrorism you have to fight the root causes of injustice - poverty,
disease, joblessness. Nobody can live without hope.

"If by 2015 we can realise the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to
halve global poverty, then we'll be turning our faces against injustice."

Punished by association

Earlier this year the US announced that it was withholding $34m in funding
for UNFPA, because, it claimed, the agency was helping China to enforce
a one-child policy and encouraging abortions among Chinese women.

Dr Obaid told BBC News Online: "That's 12% of our total funding. It really is
a crisis for us.

"We have nothing to do with abortion at all. So our other programmes are
now going to suffer because of an issue we don't even touch.

"What the US decision will do is increase maternal mortality and worsen
the HIV/Aids crisis.

"We're still hoping to find a way around it, and we're talking to the State
Department in Washington. But so far we haven't succeeded."

Crossing the faith boundaries

Dr Obaid said the Canterbury meeting had been "a very harmonious and
elevating experience. I felt both spiritually and intellectually elevated by it."

She said: "In many communities, 50-60% of health and education services
are provided by faith-based organisations, so there's great potential there.

"Life-and-death issues sometimes force change upon you - look at what
the Christian churches are doing in Africa about HIV/Aids."

The Canterbury agenda devoted one session to discussing how to tackle
HIV/Aids, which the agenda described as "the critical development
challenge in today's world".

Copyright 2002 BBC



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