Reproductive rights are a win-win, says PCCA to the Rio20 2nd Intesessional

December 16, 2011


The Population and Climate Change Alliance (PCCA) has an article in the stakeholder magazine Outreach, published at the Rio+20 2nd intersessional meeting taking place 15-16 December, calling for a key focus on population and reproductive rights on the Rio+20 agenda.

Stakeholder Forum


Rio+20 2nd Intesessional

The second Intersessional Rio+20 Meeting is taking place at the UN this week, with discussion taking place between governments and stakeholders on the content, format and structure of the Rio+20 outcome document, in preparation for the drafting of the first negotiation text.

In an article featured in the edition of Outreach magazine produced for day two of the intersessional meeting, PSN's Sarah Fisher draws on the key arguments and recommendations of the PCCA’s submission to the Rio+20 zero draft, arguing that a focus on population dynamics and reproductive health is a "win-win approach for women and sustainability".

Advancing Reproductive rights: a win-win approach

Population dynamics and particularly world population growth were identified by the 1992 Earth Summit as pivotal to environmental sustainability, and Agenda 21 responded by setting out the urgent need to increase access to reproductive health programmes. These issues are now more critical than ever, yet since the first Rio conference they have commanded little attention as part of the sustainable development agenda.

Responding to this situation, the article shared the key points of the PCCA’s zero draft submission, highlighting that investment in voluntary reproductive health services would achieve universal reproductive health and increased access to services facilitating reproductive choice, at the same time as easing population pressures and contributing to environmental sustainability. Addressing the unmet need for family planning also offers the opportunity to advance other aspects of the neglected social pillar of sustainable development, contributing to health, poverty alleviation, gender equality and other important factors for sustainable development and a green and fair economy.

Focusing on this approach, the PCCA's zero draft submission sets out a number of recommendations for Rio+20 outcomes, arguing that;

"Recognizing the links between population dynamics and sustainable development, governments should ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health, including family planning, empowerment of women, and investment in education, particularly of disadvantaged children and youth, and girls and young women, with programmes that respect and protect human rights."

About Outreach

Outreach is a multi-stakeholder publication on climate change and sustainable development produced by Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future.

Outreach has been produced at various international meetings on the environment, the most recent being the COP17 Climate Change Summit, and the Rio+20 2nd Intersessional Meeting taking place this week.

Acting as a conduit for the multifarious opinions of stakeholders, Outreach aims to empower stakeholders and provide space for debates and discourses on topics being negotiated at intergovernmental meetings. Published as a daily edition, Outreach provides a vehicle for the voices of regional and local governments, women, indigenous peoples, trade unions, industry, youth and NGOs. Outreach is distributed daily as a hard copy magazine to attendees and as a daily html email to a range of list servers to reach stakeholders not in attendance.

Read the article: Advancing reproductive rights: a win-win for women and sustainability. The Outreach magazine is available online.

Climate talks end with late deal, but it wont prevent catastrophic change

December 11, 2011


UN climate talks have closed with an agreement that the chair said had saved tomorrow, today but environmental groups warn that the deal wont be enough to prevent catastrophic levels of climate change of above 2C.


Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

New deal at the last hour

The European Union will place its current emission-cutting pledges inside the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol, a key demand of developing countries.

Talks on a new legal deal covering all countries will begin next year and end by 2015, coming into effect by 2020.

Management of a fund for climate aid to poor countries has also been agreed, though how to raise the money has not.

Talks ran nearly 36 hours beyond their scheduled close, with many delegates saying the host government lacked urgency and strategy.

Nevertheless, there was applause in the main conference hall when South Africa's International Relations Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, brought down the long-awaited final gavel.

"We came here with plan A, and we have concluded this meeting with plan A to save one planet for the future of our children and our grandchildren to come," she said.

"We have made history."

The conclusion was delayed by a dispute between the EU and India over the precise wording of the "roadmap" for a new global deal.

India did not want a specification that it must be legally binding.
Eventually, a Brazilian diplomat came up with the formulation that the deal must have "legal force", which proved acceptable.

The roadmap proposal originated with the EU, the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis) and the Least Developed Countries bloc (LDCs).

They argued that only a new legal agreement eventually covering emissions from all countries - particularly fast-growing major emitters such as China - could keep the rise in global average temperatures since pre-industrial times below 2C (3.6F), the internationally-agreed threshold.

"If there is no legal instrument by which we can make countries responsible for their actions, then we are relegating countries to the fancies of beautiful words," said Karl Hood, Grenada's Foreign Minister, speaking for Aosis.

"While they develop, we die; and why should we accept this?"

Impassioned arguments

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, president of the talks: "No one can walk out of this room and say we don't care about climate change"

Delegates from the Basic group - Brazil, South Africa, India and China - criticised what they saw as a tight timetable and excessive legality.
"I stand firm on my position of equity," said an impassioned Jayanthi Natarajan, India's environment minister.

"This is not about India, it is about the entire world."

India believes in maintaining the current stark division where only countries labelled "developed" have to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

Western nations, she said, have not cut their own emissions as they had pledged; so why should poorer countries have to do it for them?
Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese delegation, agreed.

Apparently trembling with rage, he berated the developed countries: "We are doing things you are not doing... we want to see your real actions".

However, Bangladesh and some other developing countries weighed in on the side of Aosis, saying a new legally-binding deal was needed.

Aosis and the LDCs agree that rich countries need to do more.

But they also accept analyses concluding that fast-developing countries such as China will need to cut their emissions several years in the future if governments are to meet their goal of keeping the rise in global average temperature since pre-industrial times below 2C.

Once the roadmap blockage had been cleared, everything else followed quickly.

There were some surreal moment of confusion, but few objections, except from members of the Latin American Alba group, who said the developed world was not living up to its promises.

Green fund

A management framework was adopted for the Green Climate Fund, which will eventually gather and disburse finance amounting to $100bn (£64bn) per year to help poor countries develop cleanly and adapt to climate impacts.

There has also been significant progress on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD).

Environment groups were divided in their reaction, with some finding it a significant step forward and others saying it had done nothing to change the course of climate change.

Many studies indicate that current pledges on reducing emissions are taking the Earth towards a temperature rise of double the 2C target.

Michael Jacobs, visiting professor at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London, said the agreement could bring real changes.

"The agreement here has not in itself taken us off the 4C path we are on," he said.

"But by forcing countries for the first time to admit that their current policies are inadequate and must be strengthened by 2015, it has snatched 2C from the jaws of impossibility.

"At the same time it has re-established the principle that climate change should be tackled through international law, not national, voluntarism."

This article, published by BBC, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

Women most at risk from climate disasters, says UN report

December 6, 2011


Women, particularly those living in mountain regions in developing countries, are facing disproportionately high risks to their livelihoods and health from climate change, as well as associated risks such as human trafficking, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 


Credit: UNEP

Women at the frontline of climate change

Investing in low carbon, resource efficient green technologies, water harvesting and fuel wood alternatives can strengthen climate change adaptation and improve women's livelihoods, says the report, Women at the frontline of climate change: gender risks and hopes, released at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP17) in Durban, South Africa.

Impacts of climate change, such as droughts, floods and mud slides are affecting a growing number of people worldwide. From 1999-2008, floods affected almost one billion people in Asia, 28 million in the Americas, 22 million in Africa and four million in Europe.

In parts of Asia and Africa, where the majority of the agricultural workforce are female, the impacts of such disasters have a major impact on women's income, food security and health. Women are responsible for about 6 per cent of household food production in Asia and 75 per cent in Africa.

"Women often play a stronger role than men in the management of ecosystem services and food security. Hence, sustainable adaptation must focus on gender and the role of women if it is to become successful", said UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner.

"Women's voices, responsibilities and knowledge on the environment and the challenges they face will need to be made a central part of Governments' adaptive responses to a rapidly changing climate." he added.

According to the report, women in communities vulnerable to climate change are often more likely than men to lose their lives during natural disasters, due to poor access to coping strategies such as basic lifesaving skills or cultural factors that restrict the mobility of women.

Human trafficking & climate disasters

The reports also highlights how organized human trafficking, especially that of women, is emerging as a potentially serious risk associated with climate-related disasters; as floods or landslides disrupt social safety nets, leaving more women isolated and vulnerable.

In Nepal, estimates based on emerging data from anti- trafficking organizations, such as Maiti Nepal, suggest that trafficking may have increased from an estimated 3,000-5,000 people (mostly women, as well as children and youth of both sexes between the ages of 7 and 21) in the 1990s to current levels of 12,000-20,000 per year. Approximately 30 percent of these end up in forced labour and 70 per cent are exploited in the sex industry.

The data suggests that human trafficking increases by around 20 to30 per cent during disasters. The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) has also warned that climate disasters may increase the exposure of women to trafficking as families are disrupted and livelihoods are lost.
Role of women in boosting food security and strengthening adaptation
Research by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that providing women, who make up around 40 to 50 per cent of the work force in agriculture, with the same access as men to productive resources and technologies could increase yields on farms managed by women by between 20 and 30 per cent.

This could substantially improve food security by raising agricultural output in developing countries by up to 4 per cent.

However, several dynamics make adaptation more difficult for some women due to a lack of access to formal education, poverty, discrimination in food distribution, food insecurity, limited access to resources, exclusion from policy-and decision-making institutions and processes and other forms of social marginalization.

The UNEP report focuses in particular on women in Asia's mountain regions. With more than half of South Asia's cereal production taking place downstream from the Hindu Kush Himalaya, the impacts of climate change, such as droughts or flooding, on food security and livelihoods are keenly felt, especially by women, in this region and beyond.

Advancing gender equity is critical for mitigation

Due to the key roles women play in agriculture, forest economies, biodiversity and other sectors, particularly in developing countries, designing adaptation programmes with a strong focus on gender equity is vital for successful climate change mitigation.

This is among several recommendations put forward in the UNEP report, including greater investments in green, labour-saving technologies such as irrigation systems or water harvesting, which can improve the quality of life and increase the productivity of female farm workers, while also benefiting the environment, through replacing fuel wood often collected by women with cleaner fuel alternatives, for example.

Women at the frontline of climate change: gender risks and hopes can be accessed via the UNEP website.

This article, published by UNEP, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

Family planning effective but unpopular climate change solution, says Mary Robinson

December 5, 2011

SOURCE: Alertnet / Laurie Goering

DURBAN, South Africa (AlertNet) - As the worlds population races past 7 billion, curbing population growth is crucial to slowing the climate-changing emissions people cause, scientists say.


Credit: MRFCJ

Population: another climate change hurdle

But getting UN climate negotiators to even mention the controversial issue is nearly as difficult as getting them to agree a long-delayed new global climate treaty.

"Those very words - population control - are like a red bulb going off," noted Mary Robinson, former Irish president and now a campaigner on human rights, climate justice and women's issues.

But with studies suggesting that 215 million women around the world want - but cannot get - effective contraception, making sure birth control methods are available to those who want them could be one of the cheapest, fastest and most effective ways of addressing climate change, experts said at the UN climate conference in Durban.

"A lot of this is about reframing the issue for men," said Roger-Mark De Souza, vice president of research for Population Action International (PAI), a US-based organisation that advocates for access to contraception. "Studies show that when you compare family planning with other mitigation efforts, you get a greater return on investment."

"People recoil when you raise the population issue, but this is about increasing resilience. This is what women want, and it is an effective strategy," said the Trinidad-born de Souza.

Population and climate change 'hotspots'

PAI has identified 26 population and climate "hotspots" around the world - places particularly vulnerable to climate impacts, where the rate of population growth is also high.

Nearly all the countries - India, Pakistan, Bolivia, much of West Africa and East Africa - also turn out to have a "high unmet need for family planning". Turning that around "could help to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience in the face of climate change impacts", de Souza’s organization noted.

But getting access to birth control taken seriously as a form of climate adaptation and mitigation is proving challenging. Of 41 National Adaptation Programmes of Action put together by the world’s least-developed countries to address climate change, 37 acknowledge population issues as key, but only one proposes to do anything about it - and that proposal did not receive funding, de Souza said.

A range of interventions are needed

One of the problems is that successfully lowering birth rates - particularly in the countries with the highest growth - needs to happen alongside a range of other interventions, said Dr. Helen Rees, a reproductive health expert at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

In societies where there are no social safety nets and no grants to help the elderly, many families continue to rely on children as a form of security. And in countries where families cannot trust their children will survive to adulthood - because of health risks, insecurity or other vulnerabilities - they tend to have more children as an insurance measure.

Education is also crucial, for men as well women, since men often play a deciding role in whether a couple use birth control.

To effectively bring down birth rates, "we have to ensure all these other elements are in place", Rees said.

Getting population issues onto the agenda at the UN climate talks faces a range of hurdles: political queasiness, cultural issues and, especially, intense competition with a dizzying range of other climate-related concerns all vying for time and funding.

But Robinson thinks they will get there eventually.

"Because it's sensitive, it will take some time," she said. But "if we were to solve this problem we would not only help these women… we would also do great work for the climate".

This article, published by the AlertNet, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance. Thanks to the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice (MRFCJ) for permission to use the photo.

Population and the Millennium Development Goals: the missing link

December 5, 2011


With the deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) fast-approaching, a new article from PSN looks at the difference a focus on population could make to achievement of the MDGs.

Credit: UN Photo/Oddbjorn Monsen


Looking to 2015

While the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have provided a significant mobilising force for efforts to address world poverty, if they had included a focus on population issues, the goals would be easier and less costly to achieve. This is the argument made by a new article from PSN, seeking to increase awareness of the wide-ranging benefits and cost-saving effects of family planning, as the international community begins to consider what a post-2015 development agenda might look like and consist of.

Population: a missing but crucial link

With population receiving no mention in the MDG Framework, the article highlights that now "population is more significant than ever." At the start of the millennium the world population was 6.1 billion. By 2015 it is expected to reach 7.3 billion and exceed 10 billion by the end of the century. The vast majority of growth taking place in the developing nations which are already struggling to meet their citizens' basic needs. Be it food or security, conflict and instability, or environmental degradation, population is a "significant yet missing link between so many pressing development priorities."

Reproductive rights: a 'win-win' approach

The silence on population issues must be addressed by the post-2015 development framework, and the article calls for rights-based reproductive health approaches to be embraced as part of wider development priorities that are threatened by population increase, including poverty alleviation, climate change and sustainable development. This offers a 'win-win' approach: achieving universal reproductive health while reducing the cost and difficulties of achieving other development goals.

The article by PSN's Sarah Fisher and Karen Newman was published in the Freedom from Want, a quarterly magazine published by the ASEAN Regional Centre of Excellence on the MDGs, of the Asian Institute for Technology , Thailand.

Read the article: The magazine is available online, with PSN's article beginning on page 18.

World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, warns report

November 9, 2011

SOURCE: The Guardian

If the worlds high-carbon energy infrastructure is not rapidly changed, we will lose for ever the chance to avoid dangerous climate change, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).


Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

A stark warning

The world is likely to build so many new fossil-fuelled power stations, energy-guzzling factories and inefficient buildings in the next five years that it will become impossible to hold global warming to safe levels, and the last chance of combating dangerous climate change will be "lost for ever", according to the most thorough analysis yet of world energy infrastructure.

Anything built from now on that produces carbon will continue to do so for decades to come, and this "lock-in" effect will be the single factor most likely to produce irreversible climate change, the world's foremost authority on energy economics has found. If this infrastructure is not rapidly changed within the next five years, the results are likely to be disastrous.

"The door is closing," Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA), told the Guardian. "I am very worried – if we don't change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever.

Time is running out

Every month now counts: if the world is to stay below 2C of warming, which scientists regard as the limit of safety, then emissions must be held to no more than 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; the level is currently around 390ppm. But the world's existing infrastructure is already producing 80% of that "carbon budget", according to a new analysis by the IEA, published on Wednesday. This gives an ever-narrowing gap in which to reform the global economy on to a low-carbon footing.

If current trends continue, and we go on building high-carbon energy generation, then by 2015 at least 90% of the available "carbon budget" will be swallowed up by our energy and industrial infrastructure. By 2017, there will be no room for manoeuvre at all – the whole of the "carbon budget" will be spoken for, according to the IEA's calculations.

An international agreement is urgently needed

Birol's warning comes at a crucial moment in international negotiations on climate change, as governments gear up for the next fortnight of talks in Durban, South Africa, from late November. "If we do not have an international agreement, whose effect is put in place by 2017, then the door to [holding temperatures to 2C of warming] will be closed forever," said Birol.

But governments around the world are preparing to postpone yet again a speedy conclusion to the negotiations. Originally, the aim was to agree a successor to the 1997 Kyoto protocol, the only binding international agreement on emissions, after its current provisions expire in 2012. But after years of setbacks, an increasing number of countries – including the UK, Japan and Russia – now favour postponing the talks for several years.

Both Russia and Japan have spoken in recent weeks of aiming for an agreement in 2018 or 2020, and the UK has supported this move. Greg Barker, the UK's climate change minister, told a meeting: "We need China, the US especially, the rest of the Basic countries [Brazil, South Africa, India and China] to agree. If we can get this by 2015 we could have an agreement ready to click in by 2020."

Birol said this would clearly be too late. "I think it's very important to have a sense of urgency – our analysis shows [what happens] if you do not change investment patterns, which can only happen as a result of an international agreement."

Nor is this a problem of the developing world, as some commentators have sought to frame it. In the UK, Europe and the US, there are multiple plans for new fossil-fuelled power stations that would contribute significantly to global emissions over the coming decades.

Emissions continue to rise

The Guardian revealed in May an IEA analysis finding emissions had risen by a record amount in 2010 despite the worst recession for 80 years. Last year, a record 30.6 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuel, a rise of 1.6Gt on the previous year. At the time, Birol told the Guardian that constraining global warming to moderate levels would be "only a nice utopia" unless drastic action was taken.

Today's research adds to that finding, by showing in detail how current choices on building new energy and industrial infrastructure are likely to commit the world to much higher emissions for the next few decades, blowing apart hopes of containing the problem to manageable levels.

The IEA's data is regarded as the gold standard in emissions and energy, and it is widely regarded as one of the most conservative in outlook – making today's warning all the more stark.

The central problem is that most of the industrial infrastructure already in existence around the world – the fossil-fuelled power stations, the emissions-spewing factories, the inefficient transport and buildings – are already contributing to the current high level of emissions, and will continue to do so for decades to come. Carbon dioxide, once released into the atmosphere, stays there and continues to have a warming effect for about a century, and industrial infrastructure is built to have a useful life of several decades at least.

Yet, despite intensifying warnings from scientists over the past two decades, the new infrastructure even now being built is constructed along the same lines as the old, which means that there is a "lock-in" effect – high-carbon infrastructure built today or in the next five years will contribute as much to the stock of emissions in the atmosphere as previous generations.

This "lock-in" effect is the single most important factor increasing the danger of runaway climate change, according to the IEA in its annual World Energy Outlook, published on Wednesday.

You can read the full article, published by the Guardian, on the Guardian website.

Population and climate change in a world of 7 billion

November 7, 2011


To mark the occasion of a world of 7 billion, PSN, today the APPG on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, and the UCL Institute for Global Health held a reception in the UK Houses of Parliament, launching two publications on population dynamics, reproductive health and climate change.

Credit: PSN

A 7 billion world event

On 31 October the world population reached 7 billion, according to UN estimates. PSN and colleagues marked this occasion with a reception in the House of Commons, seeking to increase awareness of the significance of population dynamics and reproductive health and rights to the challenges the world faces in responding to climate change.

Population and Climate Change in a World of 7 Billion was hosted by Baroness Jenny Tonge Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, with PSN and University College London Institute for Global Health (UCL). The event was attended by over 80 people, including parliamentarians, academics, policy makers and climate change and reproductive health activists.

Speaking at the event were:

  • Baroness Jenny Tonge, APPG Chair
  • Ms. Julia Bunting, Team Leader of the AIDS and Reproductive Health Team, Department for International Development (DFID)
  • Ms. Karen Newman, Co-ordinator, Population and Sustainability Network
  • Prof. Anthony Costello, Co-Director, UCL Institute for Global Health

Launch of two reports



The event launched the following publications:

  • PSN's Report of the International Policy Symposium on Population Dynamics, Reproductive Health and Rights and Climate Change
  • The UCL & Leverhulme Trust Population Footprints Symposium Report

PSN's publication is the report and advocacy toolkit of an International Policy Symposium and Ministerial Dialogue held in March 2010 in London, on the links between population dynamics, reproductive health and climate change.

UCL's publication is the report and policy briefing of a major UCL & Leverhulme Trust Population Footprints Symposium on population dynamics and global carrying capacity, held in London in May 2011. PSN's Sarah Fisher authored the report.

Key messages

Baroness Tonge introduced the speakers and drew attention to a key, shared message from the report: that it is time to move on from the simplistic 'either/or' debate about whether population or consumption are important. She argued that both population and consumption issues are important, and therefore political leadership is needed to ensure the effective intervention necessary to address both these factors in an integrated manner.

Ms. Julia Bunting highlighted "the need to get population and reproductive health into the mainstream." Pointing to the significance of population and women’s reproductive rights and choices to a wide-range of development, environment and economic issues, she emphasized the importance of wider engagement on these issues. For example, with environmentalists and economists, with which the population and reproductive health field shares common ground due to the interactions between population, reproductive health and rights and development issues. Ms. Bunting congratulated PSN and UCL for helping to progress this shared agenda.


Reflecting on the sensitivities and complexities associated with linking population and climate change issues, PSN's Karen Newman pointed out that while some believe the link is too controversial to discuss, developing countries themselves are identifying the ways in which unsustainable population growth is exacerbating their vulnerability to climate change, and are asking for help in responding to these challenges. She argued therefore that; "we must emphasize that you can care about population and care about human rights." In a world where every child coming has the right to be fed and to be healthy, she concluded that at the same time as focusing on that there is also a critical need to find a way of increasing investment in family planning programmes that respect and protect human rights.

Professor Anthony Costello took the opportunity to make a call to politicians for creative thinking on these critical issues. In relation to reproductive health, he highlighted that there is insufficient funding for family planning and maternal and newborn health programmes, which must receive greater focus and be integrated with wider health programmes as part of overseas development assistance. On the issue of climate change, he warned of the "dangerous mismatch between science and public policy" in terms of the level of climate change which it has been agreed by scientists that we must not go beyond, and what is actually going to happen. Given the catastrophic implications of a rise of over 2 degrees Celsius, including for food security and population migration, new solutions and renewed attention is needed, he argued.

Baroness Tonge concluded the speeches by thanking the Leverhulme Trust for their generous sponsorship of the event.

Read the report: The International Policy Symposium on the links between Population Dynamics, Reproductive Health and Rights and Climate Change.

Read the summary report: International Policy Symposium on the links between Population Dynamics, Reproductive Health and Rights and Climate Change.

The UCL Population Footprints Report and a Population Footprints Policy Briefing are available on the Population Footprints website where you can also watch a Population Footprints video.

PSN takes part in an International Symposium on Population, Climate Change and Sustainable Development

November 3, 2011

SOURCE: Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office & PSN

PSNs Karen Newman spoke this week at important conference in South Africa, bringing together parliamentarians, NGOs and civil society to promote a rights-based approach in responding to the links between population, climate change and sustainable development.

Credit: IRIN

An International Symposium

The symposium, International Conference on Population Dynamics, Climate Change and Sustainable Development: Towards a Rights-Based Approach, took place 1 - 2 November in Pretoria, South Africa, held by Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office (PPD ARO) in collaboration with the Government of the Republic of South Africa.

Participating in the conference were ministers, parliamentarians, high government officials from 30 developing countries, representatives of the UN and other international organizations, NGO's, Civil Society, experts on demography and climate change, and other important stakeholders engaged in the relevant fields.


The conference objectives were to:

  • Sensitize policymakers on the salient and emerging issues of concern related to family planning, reproductive health, population and development
  • Improve understanding of the linkages between population dynamics, climate hange and sustainable development in the context of achieving ICPD goals and MDGs
  • Share knowledge on successful and innovative practices and programs in developing countries on climate change mitigation and adaptation agenda for sustainable development
  • Encourage better integration of climate change into family planning/reproductive health policies and strategies


The Symposium consisted of the following sessions:

  1. Population Dynamics and Human Rights: The Implications of Climate Change
  2. Population, Environment and Development as framework for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation
  3. Adolescents, Youths, Women and Displaced Population: Prospects for Sustainable Development
  4. Knowledge Sharing: Integrating Family Planning, Reproductive Health and Rights and Climate Change: South-South Cooperation for Sustainable Development
  5. Adoption of the Pretoria Declaration and Road Map

Promoting action with a right-based approach

A major outcome of the meeting was the adoption of a "Declaration" by ministers and policy makers from 30 developing countries on integrating climate change into family planning/reproductive health, population dynamics policies and strategies and ensuring that these are translated into actions in developing countries.

The conference was expected to help governments of developing countries to formulate policies taking into account demographic trends and dynamics that include the rates of population growth, fertility and mortality, and the age and spatial distribution of the population, including migration and urbanisation and their linkages to climate change.

The symposium sought to ensure that the initiative focuses on all of these factors for mitigating and adapting climate change, so that the ICPD remains the centerpiece of population and development policies.

PSN’s Karen Newman presented at the first session of the conference, on the topic of human rights, population dynamics and the implications of climate change.

Further information about the symposium is available on the conference website.

PCCA calls for a focus on population and reproductive rights at Rio20

November 2, 2011


PSN and the Population and Climate Change Alliance (PCCA) has submitted an input to the Rio+20 zero draft endorsed by over 30 organisations, calling for renewed-attention to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights as part of sustainable development approaches.


Rio+20: opportunities for advancing reproductive rights

In June next year world leaders will be meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) 'Rio+20', the twenty-year follow-up to the 1992 'Rio Earth Summit'. The objective of the conference is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess progress in implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges.

In preparation for the summit, the UN recently invited stakeholders to provide input and contributions to a zero draft of the outcome document for the summit.

The Population and Climate Change Alliance (PCCA) submitted a response to this consultation, focusing on the linkages between population dynamics and sustainable development. The contribution argues that advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is essential for achieving sustainable development, and seeks to bring to the attention of the summit the substantial opportunities that exist to advance a wide-range of sustainable development goals, by meeting the need for sexual and reproductive health programmes that respect and protect human rights.

Key messages and recommendations

In the submission the PCCA sets out the following key messages and recommendations for Rio+20 outcomes:

  • Global population dynamics can and must be addressed in ways that respect and protect human rights.
  • Human health and well-being, including SRHR, are central components of sustainable development.
  • Integrated population, health and environment approaches have synergistic effects.
  • Population dynamics, including population growth, density, urbanisation, migration and ageing, must be integrated into development strategies and environmental planning, with systematic use of population data and projections.
  • Rights-based sexual and reproductive health programmes, including family planning services, should be recognized as essential components of new global initiatives to increase resources for sustainable development and adaptation to climate change.
  • Rights-based sexual and reproductive health programmes, including family planning services, should be recognized as legitimate components of national climate change adaptation programmes and funding mechanisms, to increase the resilience of the communities most vulnerable to climate change.
  • Renewed commitment and greater investment is necessary to achieve the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals.
  • Recognizing the links between population dynamics and sustainable development, governments should ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health, including family planning, empowerment of women, and investment in education, particularly of disadvantaged children and youth, and girls and young women, with programmes that respect and protect human rights.

About the PCCA

The Population and Climate Change Alliance (PCCA) is a network of non-profit organisations that works together on population and climate change issues through a loose umbrella coalition. PCCA strives to advance SRHR through active awareness-raising and advocacy work on the linkages between population and climate change, and believes that increasing (universal) access to voluntary family planning can make a significant contribution to climate change both in adaptation and mitigation strategies and programmes.

Population and Sustainability Network is the Secretariat of the PCCA.

Far-reaching support for the submission

The PCCA was delighted that over 30 organisations from across the world, including PCCA members and others, signed-on to our Rio+20 submission.

The PCCA includes the following organisations:

The following additional organisations were signatories to the submission:

  • Action for Global Health
  • AIDOS - The Italian Association for Women in Development
  • Association of Youth Organizations Nepal (AYON)
  • BioRegional
  • Blue Ventures
  • Change Mob, Brazil
  • Community Health Africa Trust (CHAT), Kenya
  • DSW (Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung)
  • Ecopop, Switzerland
  • Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK)
  • French Family Planning Movement
  • Institute for Global Health, University College London (IGH, UCL)
  • Interact Worldwide
  • Partners in Population and Development, African Regional Office (PPD ARO)
  • Pathfinder International
  • Population Matters
  • Portuguese Family Planning Association (APF)
  • RFSU - The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education
  • Rutgers WPF
  • Sex og Politikk – The Norwegian Association for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
  • Shirkat Gah- Women’s Resource Centre, Pakistan
  • The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA)
  • The Sustainable World Initiative
  • Väestöliitto – Family Federation of Finland
  • Women's Center, Georgia

The PCCA is grateful to these organisations for their support for our submission and will continue to monitor developments relating to the summit, and to work to ensure that sufficient attention is awarded at the summit to the significance of population dynamics and reproductive health and rights.

Read the submission

You can read the PCCA's Rio+20 submission on the UNCSD website

A PSN reproductive health reality check: population and climate change

October 27, 2011


PSN has contributed an article on the links between population, reproductive rights and climate change to popular US website Reproductive Health Reality Check.

Credit: RH Reality Check

7 Billion People

To coincide with the world population reaching 7 billion this month, RH Reality Check is running a 7 Billion People series, examining the causes and consequences of population and environmental change from various perspectives and the policies and actions needed to both avoid and mitigate the inevitable impacts of these changes.

At a time when there is great media attention to population and sustainability issues, the article offers a great way of sharing key PSN advocacy messages; via a website with an extremely broad audience with some 500,000 unique readers a month, including Congresspersons and other media outlets to the sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy community.

Advancing climate resilience and reproductive rights

The article by PSN’s Sarah Fisher and Karen Newman explores the many critical links between population, sexual and reproductive health and rights and climate change.

While acknowledging that these links are complex and sensitive, the article argues that their significance is all too important to ignore. Instead, a focus on population dynamics offers opportunities to advance both climate resilience and reproductive rights: by increasing access to reproductive health services that respect and protect rights, at the same time as reducing the vulnerability of the countries which have contributed the least to climate change.

Read the article

People, Population, and Climate Change: Opportunities for Advancing Climate Resilience and Reproductive Rights is available to read on the RH Reality website.

Check out the other articles in the 7 Billion People series are available here.