People, Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development: The Link between Cairo and Rio

  • 19 April 2012

UNITED NATIONS, New York — In her first public address as UNFPA's New Deputy Executive Director (Management), Ms. Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen emphasized that sustainable development strategies must take account of people -- their numbers, age and location, as well as their living conditions, ambitions and opportunities.

In her briefing for Member States, she asked for their support in ensuring that of the links between population dynamics and sustainable development be part of future international and national development strategies and policies, including the upcoming Commission on Sustainable Development, commonly known as Rio+20. The implementation of the Programme of Action of the 1994 Conference on Population and Development (also known as the Cairo Consensus), which guides UNFPA, is also under review.

Ms. Albrectsen argued that the outcome document from Rio+20 should clearly recognize the importance of population dynamics, universal access to sexual and reproductive health the needs and rights of young people. “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,” she said.

She also noted that the importance of sexual and reproductive health was also emphasized 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.”

Ms. Albrectsen’s fellow panellists included 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 is leading UNFPA’s work on sustainable development.

The dual challenge to improve the wellbeing of a large and growing population, on the one side, and the ensure the sustainable use of natural resources, on the other, calls for a two-pronged policy response, Mr Herrmann said. It demands sustainable patterns of production and consumption – which is the hallmark of the green economy – but also policies to address population dynamics. Contrary to common perceptions, we can address population dynamics, and we can address population dynamics through human-centred and rights-based policies, he said.

“Whether the world population will grow to over 9 billion by mid-century and stabilize at around 10 billion by the end of the century, or whether it will grow to well over 10 billion by mid-century and to about 16 billion by the end of the century depends on today’s policies,” said Mr. Herrman, adding that the difference between these two population projections of the United Nations is half a child per woman, on average.

But “demography is not destiny” he added, and stressed that “countries can address population dynamics through rights-based policies by encouraging sexual and reproductive health and rights, education, empowerment and participation; and they can address demographic challenges by systematically using population data and projections to inform rural, urban and national development strategies and policies.”

Mr. Pant called upon Member States to involve young people in the decisions related to sustainable development, “because it affects their lives today and has implications for their futures. In addition to their intellectual contribution and their ability to mobilize support, they bring unique perspectives that need to be taken into account.

"With youth leading technological advances, innovation and socio-political transformations, they have demonstrated their potentials. It’s high time; governments include youth as part of their delegations in international meetings and genuinely involve them in the discussions shaping their future," he said.


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