People Are the Heart of Sustainable Development

19 April 2012
Author: UNFPA


Dear colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen

I would like to warmly welcome you to this meeting on behalf of the Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

We have organized this briefing to seek your support to ensure that the Rio+20 Summit will conclude with a credible and sustainable development agenda. UNFPA beliefs that such agenda must contain the following vital issues: a) a clear recognition of the link between population dynamics and sustainable development; b) efforts to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and c) a commitment to address the needs of young people. These issues should also play a key role in the sustainable development goals which are currently under discussion.

With me on the podium, I have a number of distinguished experts and scholars, who are working on the linkages between population and sustainable development. They will elaborate on why the road to Rio goes through Cairo. My fellow panellists include Ms. Suzana Cavenaghi, Professor at Brazil’s National School of Statistics and staff of the Brazilian Bureau of Census; Mr. Babu Ram Pant, a Youth and Human Rights Activist based in Nepal, but also a former youth fellow of UNFPA; and Mr. Michael Herrmann, a Senior Adviser with UNFPA who focuses on population and economic development and is substantively leading UNFPA’s work on sustainable development.
Over the past year, UNFPA has intensively collaborated with sister agencies, civil society organizations, the academic community and the private sector to develop a shared understanding of the linkages between population and sustainable development as we are moving towards the Rio+20 summit. You will find a few examples of the results of these collaborations in hard copy in front of you.
The 1992 Rio declaration recognized the importance of population dynamics for sustainable development. This was further accentuated in the 1994 Cairo Programme of Action on Population and Development, also known as the ICPD. Preamble 1.9 of the ICPD agenda notes that:
I quote: "The population and development objectives and actions of the present Programme of Action will collectively address the critical challenges and interrelationships between population and sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development ."

The ICPD Programme of Action provides a helpful tool on how to integrate and address population issues in the context of Rio+20.

People are the central concern of sustainable development and efforts to promote more sustainable development pathways must take account of people – their numbers, location and age structures, as well as their living conditions, ambitions and opportunities.

World population has now surpassed the 7 billion mark, and will continue to grow by billions more. Efforts to further improve the quality of life of such a large and growing population, while ensuring the sustainable use of essential and finite natural resources is today’s greatest challenge. However, we can address this dual challenge. To do so, the Rio Declaration of 1992 (Principle 8) called for a two pronged approach: 1) a shift towards more sustainable consumption and production – which is the hallmark of the green economy – and 2) appropriate demographic policies.

National and International policies could influence population dynamics by realizing universal access to sexual and reproductive health and family planning and investing in the education and the empowerment of women and youth as set out in the ICPD Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals.

Such measures will improve the quality of life by reducing infant, child and maternal mortality and help arrest the spread of communicable diseases. Meeting unmet needs for family planning; reducing fertility and slowing population growth could create the conditions for a truly sustainable environment.

The importance of sexual and reproductive health was also emphasizes in the report of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability entitled “Resilient people, resilient planet: a future worth choosing”, which recommended that countries should “Ensure universal access to quality and affordable family-planning and other sexual and reproductive rights and health services”.

We look upon your support to address the developmental implications of population dynamics, and to encourage the consideration of population dynamics in future international and national development strategies and policies. UNFPA looks forward to continue our cooperation with member states and key stakeholders to ensure a credible sustainable development agenda

With these introductory words, allow me to now introduce the panellists in the order in which they will be presenting.

The first speaker is Michael Herrmann who will outline why population matters for sustainable development, and will focus in particular on challenges and opportunities in the least developed countries.

The second speaker of today’s session is Ms. Suzana Cavenaghi who will speak on the importance of women’s choice and empowerment.

The final speaker is Mr. Babu Ram Pant who will provide a youth perspective on sustainable development.

Thank you.