News

Don't Forget Population at Johannesburg Summit, Says UNFPA Executive Director

29 January 2002
Author: UNFPA

The implications of rapid population growth for development and the environment will be far-reaching, Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), has warned in New York.

Ms. Obaid, speaking on a panel of agency heads during the second preparatory meeting for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) at UN Headquarters on 29 January, said, "today, population growth is a matter for the poorest countries, but it affects the world, and demands a global response".

In the next 50 years, the combined population of the least developed countries is expected to triple, from 658 million to 1.8 billion, she said. The poorest countries make direct demands on natural resources for survival and "if they have no other choices, the damage to the environment will be profound and permanent."

The combination of poverty, population pressures and environmental degradation in the rural areas drives migration to cities and across national borders, she added.

On HIV/AIDS, she said that access to reproductive health information and services in the next decade will determine whether the pandemic can be stopped. The damage already done by AIDS threatens development in some of the poorest countries. "All countries need to act with a united resolve if the damage is to be contained and the tide of infection turned back," she continued.

"In the absence of a cure or a vaccine," continued Ms. Obaid, "only responsible sexual behaviour among both women and men can prevent the spread of infection."

She noted that there are an estimated 120 million couples who would use family planning services, if they had access to them and said, "As a matter of human rights and as a basis for their other choices, women need ready access to the full range of reproductive health information and services, including voluntary family planning."

Ms. Obaid said that poverty and gender inequality are incompatible with sustainable development, adding that when women are empowered-through economic opportunity, health care and education-the benefits went far beyond the individual. "Families, communities and nations are better off. Population growth slows, economic growth is stronger, and countries have more capacity, as well as more room to make choices which favour sustainability."

The World Summit On Sustainable Development (WSSD) will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September.

Contact Information:

Obi Emekekwue
Tel.: +1 (212) 297-5043
Email: emekekwue@unfpa.org

South Africa
Population : 58.1 mil
Fertility rate
2.4
Maternal Mortality Ratio
138
Contraceptives prevalence rate
57
Population aged 10-24
27%
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 86%
Girls 84%