Calling Attention to Population Dynamics and Young People in Least Developed Countries

13 May 2011
Author: UNFPA

Statement of UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin at the IV LDC Conference in Istanbul, delivered by Ms. Safiye Cagar, Director of Information and External Relations Division, UNFPA

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

If you were born before 1967, then you have witnessed the world population double.

As our population hits 7 billion in October this year, every person should be able to enjoy human rights and human dignity, and have the opportunity to make the most of his or her potential.

The choices and opportunities enjoyed by individuals—affect demographic change and prospects for development.

It is my pleasure to address the Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries on behalf of Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, the Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

Mr. Chairman,

Since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, countries have registered substantial progress.

Millions of lives have been saved.

More mothers, infants and children are surviving, and people are living longer.

More young people and girls are going to school.

And laws and policies are now in place to protect reproductive rights and the rights of women.

However, we still have a long way to go and daunting development challenges persist in the least developed countries.

With just 15 per cent of the world’s people, the LDCs sustain 40 per cent of global population growth and have the highest rates of birth and death and unmet need for family planning.

While many countries are becoming stronger, large gap remain between the richest and the poorest. Those that continue to be left behind include:

  • Young people, especially adolescent girls;
  • women in rural areas;
  • those with little education; and
  • those from the poorest households.

To unleash greater progress, there is an urgent need to promote equity and reach those who are vulnerable.

Mr. Chairman,

UNFPA is particularly concerned about the vulnerability of young people.

In our world today, there are an estimated 1.8 billion young people who are between the ages of 10 to 24.

They constitute more than a quarter of the world's population, and the large majority of young people, just below 90 per cent, live in developing countries.

Today 6 in 10 people in the LDCs are below the age of 25, the parents of the next generation.

They are growing up in a fast-changing world and they are a powerful force for development if they enjoy choices and opportunity.

Under the leadership of our Executive Director, UNFPA will give young people the attention they deserve.

We will listen to and support the effective participation of young people.

We will push for greater investments in young people, especially adolescent girls.

We will advocate greater investment in education, including sexuality education, and health and employment.

We will provide support to countries for a comprehensive package of reproductive health services, integrated into the primary healthcare system.

And we will prioritize meeting unmet need for voluntary family planning.

Mr. Chairman,

Evidence shows that investing in young people, reproductive health and gender equality can speed up economic growth and improve countries’ prospects for sustainable development.

These investments support a transition from high to low rates of fertility and mortality, resulting in a large working population with fewer dependents to support. If jobs are created, and sound economic policies introduced, countries enjoy a one-time demographic bonus.

This bonus is responsible for one-third of the economic growth of Southeast Asian countries between 1960 and 1990 when they reduced poverty dramatically.

Mr. Chairman,

As we look to the future, one thing is clear: Investing in the health and rights of women and young people is not an expenditure. It is an investment in a nation’s productive capacity and prosperity.

It is an investment in our collective future.

I thank you.

Population : 84.3 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 88%
Girls 86%

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