UN adopts decision promoting gender balance in climate change negotiations

December 21, 2012

SOURCE: Outreach Magazine Stakeholder Forum

Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland, has written an article reflecting on lessons from the recent UN climate change summit that adopted a decision to strengthen women's representation and participation in climate change negotiations. 


Credit: UN Photo/Ky Chung 

Lessons from a 'Gender COP' by Mary Robinson

COP18 was set against the backdrop of Hurricane Sandy and Typhoon Bopha. It was hoped these examples of the devastating impacts of climate change would provide the impetus for bold action.

There were some important landmarks reached in Doha – a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol was established and the work of the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) negotiation stream was concluded, both of which will allow more negotiating time to focus on progressing the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) and delivering a new climate agreement in 2015.

Many will nevertheless be disappointed that more was not achieved. It is, however, worth noting and celebrating what Ms. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, has referred to as the "Doha Miracle", a new decision on improving gender balance and the participation of women in the UNFCCC process.

The new decision was the culmination of a year’s work initiated by the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice (MRFCJ) at COP17. In Durban last year, MRFCJ circulated a briefing note on 36/CP.7, a decision from 2001 that calls for improving the participation of women in the representation of Parties in the UNFCCC. However, a very obvious gender imbalance still exists in various UNFCCC bodies, with women’s representation as low as 10% in some instances.

Following on from COP17, and working with various supportive parties, most notably the Government of Finland, members of the Troika+ of Women Leaders on Gender and Climate Change and UN Women, work got underway to strengthen decision 36/CP.7 and put gender firmly on the agenda at COP18.

After much discussion in Doha, a new decision was agreed that will strengthen women’s representation and participation in COP proceedings, an important step towards achieving gender equality.

The decision will have far reaching consequences for the participation of women in the UNFCCC and more fundamentally on how the UNFCCC conducts its business into the future. There is no doubt that the empowerment of women will have a long-term positive impact on both the decisions being taken and the process by which they are reached. The significance of this decision is clear, governments need to have more women in their delegations, more women in key negotiating roles and more women members on the bodies of the Convention.

Gender is on the UNFCCC agenda

Focus will now turn to implementing the decision. In addition to inviting Parties to adopt a goal of gender balance in bodies and institutions and to strive for gender balance in their delegations, the decision adds gender and climate change as a standing item on the agenda of sessions of the COP. It also calls for the Secretariat to organise a workshop on gender balance in the UNFCCC process, gender-sensitive climate policy and capacity building activities at COP19 in Warsaw next year. One thing is certain – Gender is now firmly on the Agenda of the UNFCCC.

It's no secret that reaching any agreement in the UNFCCC is often a protracted and slow process. There are important lessons to be learned from the manner in which this decision was reached.

Firstly, the normal divisions that exist between various negotiating groups dissolved temporarily. Following the statement by the EU in the main plenary session, there was a groundswell of support from parties including Grenada, Chile, Swaziland on behalf of the Africa Group, USA, Mexico on behalf of the Environmental Integrity Group, Vanuatu, India, Indonesia, Senegal, Bangladesh, Gambia, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan and Brazil.

Secondly, there was a spirit of cooperation and trust between Parties in negotiating a final text, with a full realisation that if nothing was agreed at COP18, the opportunity may not present itself again. The urgency meant that Parties focused on finding areas of common ground.

Surely this must be the model that is used into the future, where the intransigence of self-interest is replaced by a united ambition to provide fair and just solutions to the impacts of climate change, Large steps are required if the 2015 goal of reaching a new agreement is to become a reality. Negotiators need to be freed to do more than studiously negotiate their way through policy briefs, agenda items, and roundtable discussions. Parties need to take bold and decisive action that will make real and lasting change to the lives of those most affected by the extreme changes in weather patterns that climate changes brings.

This article by Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice, published by Outreach magazine, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

PSDA contributes to population dynamics in the post-2015 agenda consultation

December 10, 2012


The Population and Sustainable Development Alliance (PSDA) has responded to several online discussions taking place as part of the thematic consultation on population dynamics in the post-2015 agenda. 


Credit: UN Photo/Kibae Park

Thematic consultations are under way

With 2015 - the target year for achievement of the millennium development goals – drawing nearer, the international community is increasingly focusing on what the post-2014 development agenda will look like.

Global thematic consultation are taking place on The World We Want 2015 website on eleven different themes, one of which is Population Dynamics in the post-2015 agenda, including a focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The Population Dynamics consultation is co-convened by UN-DESA, UNFPA, UN-HABITAT and IOM in partnership with the Government of Switzerland.

Important questions for post-2015

To date, the following four discussions have taken place as part of the population dynamics thematic consultation, each of which PSDA has contributed to:

  • Why and how should population dynamics be integrated into the post-2015 UN development agenda?
  • Is it possible to develop a common framework for integrating different population dynamics into the post-2015 development agenda?
  • Should we consider expanding targets with respect to individual population issues to include such issues as high fertility, demographic bonus, ageing, urbanization, or migration? What would be the disadvantage of broadening the set of targets?
  • How can we ensure a human-rights based and gender-responsive approach to addressing population dynamics?

PSDA advocates a two-pronged approach

In our response PSDA argued that population dynamics and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are critical, cross-cutting issues for sustainable development and the post-2015 development agenda. A focus on these issues in ways that respect and protect rights is critical and has the potential to drive progress towards a range of development priorities, including poverty alleviation, equity, health, education, food and water security, gender equality, climate change and environmental sustainability, and to reduce the costs of achieving associated development goals.

We advocated a two-pronged approach for integration of population dynamics into the post-2015 development agenda:

  1. Population dynamics, including changing population structures and distributions should be considered as cross-cutting, enabling factors for post-2015 development goals.
  2.  Focus on access to reproductive health and protection of reproductive rights.

We recommended that this approach be advanced by:

  • Development strategies taking into account population dynamics (including growth, migration, urbanisation and age structure) trends and projections, with integration of demographic data into planning and monitoring.
  • Prioritisation of achieving universal access to reproductive health, including access to family planning services delivered as part of comprehensive reproductive health services that respect and protect human rights.
  • Promotion of integrated Population Health Environment (PHE) approaches that address the interactions between people, health and the environment by combining reproductive health provision with conservation, livelihood and other community-based development initiatives. 
  • A strong focus on the advancement of women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Ensuring a human-rights based and gender sensitive approach

The PSDA expressed concern that targets relating to demographic issues such as high fertility, population size, ageing, urbanization and migration could have unintended, negative consequences, potentially leading to violations of human rights, including reproductive rights and freedoms.

We emphasized that population dynamics can, and absolutely must, be addressed in ways that respect and protect rights, including through the use of population data as part of development planning and monitoring, and through prioritising achievement of universal access to reproductive health.

To ensure a gender-responsive approach we called for a strong focus on the advancement of women’s empowerment and gender equality, including gender mainstreaming into all of the goals, including data collection that is disaggregated by sex, and gender sensitive targets and indicators if that approach is maintained.

Read PSDA's contributions

PSDA's responses to the population dynamics thematic consultation questions are available to download below.

PSDA's responses draw on messages and recommendations from the PSN briefing note Population dynamics and sexual and reproductive health and rights: Critical cross-cutting issues for the post-2015 development agenda.

PSDA seminar looks towards 2015 and the sustainable development goals

December 3, 2012


Last week the PCCA, now known as the Population and Sustainable Development Alliance (PSDA), held a seminar examining possibilities for integrating focus on population dynamics and sexual and reproductive health and rights into the Sustainable Development Goals and post-2015 international development agenda.


PSDA Logo 2 COLOUR border 250

Credit: PSDA

Looking towards 2015

Building on the alliance's work to ensure a focus on population dynamics and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) at this year's Rio+20 sustainable development summit, the seminar brought together over twenty representatives from a range of international civil society organisations.

The seminar Looking towards 2015; getting RHR and population dynamics integrated into the SDGs and post-2015 agenda was held in Copenhagen on 29 November, hosted by the Danish Family Planning Association.

The purpose of the meeting was to update SRHR advocates on developments in and after the Rio+20 meeting and how these will influence the post 2015 agenda and provide a space for joint reflection on how to maximise our influence on the Sustainable Development Goals, which governments at Rio+20 committed to develop.

Programme for the day

After a welcome and introduction by founding members of the alliance Tania Dethlefsen of DFPA and Karen Newman of PSN, an interactive panel discussion was held with the alliance’s Southern partners.

Negash Teklu of PHE Ethiopia Consortium, Joan Castro of Path Foundation Philippines and Vik Mohan of Blue Ventures Madagascar shared their experiences of integrating population dynamics, SRHR and sustainable development in Ethiopia, the Philippines and Madagascar, providing an inspiring start to the day with practical examples of how Population, Health and Enviroment approaches work on the ground.

In the next session alliance member Doris Mopoumou of IPPF WHR provided an overview of population dynamics, SRHR and gender equality in the Rio+20 outcome document, followed by a presentation by Maja Mortensen of the Danish UN Mission sharing updates and perspectives on the SDGs from the Danish government's perspective.

In the afternoon, Michael Hermann of UNFPA gave an update on the UNFPA thematic consultation on population dynamics in the post-2015 agenda, providing opportunities for participants to ask questions and input. Sascha Gabizon of WECF then shared perspectives from the Rio+20 Women’s Major Group on advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment through the Rio+20 and post-2015 processes.

In the final session alliance members Mette Kirstine Schmidt of DFPA, Roger-Mark De Souza of PAI and Sarah Fisher of PSN presented the alliance's ideas for ways of linking population dynamics and SRHR to some of the likely SDG themes and goals, facilitating wider discussion and strategising by participants.

PCCA becomes PSDA

The following day alliance members convened for an internal strategy meeting for members of the alliance, to help position and strengthen the alliance to continue to influence the emerging post-2015 international development agenda.

As part of that work, the decision was taken by members to rename the alliance the Population and Sustainable Development Alliance (PSDA).  We believe this name better reflects our more recent focus and will serve us well for our advocacy to promote a strong focus on SRHR and population dynamics in post-2015 development framework.

There was strong consensus at the seminar about both the opportunities to address population and SRHR issues in the SDG and post-2015 processes, and the challenges of doing so.

With both processes moving very quickly and somewhat sporadically, greater participation and collaboration by the SRHR community will be vital if we are to succeed in securing the focus on population dynamics and SRHR that is so necessary for the achievement of sustainable development.

Additional family planning investments would save developing countries over $11 billion a year, says UN

November 14, 2012


Access to family planning is an essential human right that unlocks unprecedented rewards for economic development, says a new UNFPA report focusing on family planning, human rights and development.


Credit: UNFPA

Addressing unmet need makes economic sense

Making voluntary family planning available to everyone in developing countries would reduce costs for maternal and newborn health care by US$ 11.3 billion annually, according to The State of World Population 2012published today by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. The report highlights that:

  • 222 million women in developing countries have an unmet need for family planning
  • Additional US$ 4.1 billion in funding is needed to address current needs and those of the growing youth population

Increased access to family planning has proven to be a sound economic investment. One third of the growth of Asian “tiger” economies is attributed to a demographic shift in which the number of income-generating adults became higher than those who depended on them for support. This shift, says the report, was a consequence of family planning and brought increased productivity, leading to economic development in the region.

One recent study predicts that if the fertility rate fell by just one child per woman in Nigeria in the next 20 years, the country’s economy would grow by at least US$ 30 billion.

Family planning advances many development goals 

And the benefits are not just economic. The report finds that the costs of ignoring the right to family planning include poverty, exclusion, poor health and gender inequality. Failing to meet the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents and young people in Malawi, for example, contributed to high rates of unintended pregnancy and HIV. In the United States, the report showed that teenage motherhood reduces a girl’s chances of obtaining a high school diploma by up to 10 per cent.

Family planning delivers immeasurable rewards to women, families, and communities around the world. By enabling individuals to choose the number and spacing of their children, family planning has allowed women, and their children, to live healthier, longer lives. Looking ahead, if an additional 120 million obtained access to family planning, the report estimates 3 million fewer babies would die in their first year of life.

"Family planning has a positive multiplier effect on development," said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. "Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women’s increased labour-force participation boosts nations' economies."

Financing of family planning is vastly inadequate

The State of World Population 2012 says that governments, civil society, health providers and communities have the responsibility to protect the right to family planning for women across the spectrum, including those who are young or unmarried.

Nevertheless, the report finds that financial resources for family planning have declined and contraceptive use has remained mostly steady. In 2010, donor countries fell US$ 500 million short of their expected contribution to sexual and reproductive health services in developing countries. Contraceptive prevalence has increased globally by just 0.1 per cent per year over the last few years.

However, there are signs of progress. Last July, at the London Summit on Family Planning, donor countries and foundations together pledged US$ 2.6 billion to make family planning available to 120 million women in developing countries with unmet needs by 2020. Developing countries themselves also pledged to increase support.

But, according to the report, an additional US$ 4.1 billion is necessary each year to meet the unmet need for family planning of all 222 million women who would use family planning but currently lack access to it. This investment would save lives by preventing unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions.

Access to family planning is a human right

Money, however, is just one part of the solution. To ensure that every person’s right to family planning is realized, the report also calls on governments and leaders to:

  • Take or reinforce a rights-based approach to family planning
  • Secure an emphasis on family planning in the global sustainable development agenda that will follow the Millennium Development Goals in 2015
  • Ensure equality by focusing on specific excluded groups
  • Raise the funds to invest fully in family planning.

"Family planning is not a privilege, but a right. Yet, too many women - and men - are denied this human right," said Dr. Osotimehin." The pledge we made in July in London to increase access to family planning will improve the lives of millions and will each year help avert 200,000 maternal deaths. As we approach the target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, I call on all leaders to build on this momentum, close the funding gap, and make voluntary family planning a development priority."

Read the report

The full report The State of World Population 2012 By Choice, Not By Chance: Family Planning, Human Rights and Development is available from the UNFPA website.

This press release from UNFPA has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

PSN briefing paper calls for post-2105 focus on population and reproductive rights

November 2, 2012

In advance of the meetings in London this week of the High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 development agenda, PSN has produced a briefing note setting out key recommendations for the new development framework.


Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The High-Level Panel meets in London

This week London has been host to a series of meetings by the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. As part of the panel’s visit to London, on Friday a series of engagement events were held offering civil society the opportunity to influence the panel's work, culminating in a 'Civil Society Dialogue' event attended by PSN’s Sarah Fisher.

A recording of the dialogue event is available to view online and further information about consultation opportunities to influence the post-2015 agenda is available on the website The World We Want 2015.

Population and reproductive health: critical issues for post-2015

PSN’s briefing highlights the critical and cross-cutting nature of population and sexual and reproductive health and rights issues for the post-2015 development agenda, and shares key recommendations for how the emerging framework should focus on these issues in ways that respect and protect human rights. Doing so has the potential to drive progress towards a range of development priorities the briefing argues, as well as to reduce the cost of achieving associated goals.

The briefing note provides an overview of the benefits that consideration of population dynamics and advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights will bring for:

  • Health, human rights and equity
  • Education
  • Economic prosperity and poverty alleviation
  • Gender equality and women’s empowerment
  • Environmental sustainability and climate change
  • Food, water and energy

PSN’s recommendations for post-2015

The following recommendations from PSN are set out in full in the briefing note:

  • The post-2015 development framework should address social inequalities and the drivers of poverty, placing inequalities and human rights at the heart of the agenda with a focus on the most marginalised groups in support of programmes which respect and protect rights.
  • Achievement of universal access to reproductive health and the advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment must be prioritised, including access to voluntary family planning services, with the full implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the Beijing Platform of Action.
  • There must be a focus on population dynamics in ways that respect and protect human rights, including through the advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • The ICPD+14, Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women and Rio+20 processes must be integrated with the post-2015 framework.
  • Gender equity and equality should be mainstreamed into all of the goals.

Read the briefing note: Population dynamics and sexual and reproductive health and rights: Critical cross-cutting issues for the post-2015 development agenda.

The forgotten girls: By 2020 there will be 50m child brides under the age of 15

October 7, 2012

SOURCE: The Independent

This weeks international Day of the Girl offers governments, the UN, and charities an opportunity to address a shocking - and growing - trend. 


Credit: UN Photo/Shehzad Noorani

New international Day of the Girl seeks to increase awareness

When 12-year-old Nargis was woken up, one morning in Bangladesh, by two women she did not know, she was confused. She did not understand when they told her she would be marrying their brother in just a few weeks, or that she would be leaving her parents' home. When she became a mother two years later, losing her son after only 16 days, the pangs of fear were familiar. Now, with a frail child to bring up, she is much more resolute: "I don't think girls should marry before they're 18 years old."

Today, days before the first internationally recognised Day of the Girl, experts warn that child marriage is, without exception, the biggest challenge to girls' development. The number of girls married before the age of 15 is expected to double over the next decade, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has warned. By 2020, there will be around 50 million wives under the age of 15. This will pass 100 million by 2030, if current trends continue.

Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the UNFPA, said the "shocking" projections were being released to call the world's attention to the scale of the problem. "We are dealing with the largest generation of young people the world has ever known," he told The Independent on Sunday. "This is the marrying off of children who don't even understand what it is to be married or to be an adult. Girls are being robbed of their childhood. They have babies before they are ready, and we see intergenerational poverty. We need to stop this vicious cycle."

Married children face multiple disadvantages

Across the developing world around one third of girls get married before 18, according to Unicef. Around 10 per cent, like Nargis, will not have even have turned 15. Marie Staunton, chief executive of the children's charity Plan UK, called child brides the "most forgotten of all the invisible girls". Married children are generally isolated, she warned, at greater risk of violence, abuse and exploitation, and more likely to drop out of education.

Nargis, who once dreamed of being a teacher, left school after the wedding, which her parents arranged. She moved in with her 15-year-old husband, to cook and clean for him and his family. Eight years later, she still lives there, with her only child, who is undernourished, because she is unable to provide the amount of breast milk that he needs. Her story is not dissimilar to the more than 10 million girls who are married off each year; her father was poor and hoped a wedding would provide security for his child.

"It was very sudden when my parents announced I was to get married. I cried, but I was eventually forced to marry. There was no way to say no," Nargis said. "On my wedding day, I didn't know what to do. Once my grandmother and sister had gone, I had to go and live with my husband. I didn't know him. That night I felt strange, and very scared.

"After the marriage, it felt like mental torture. I was silent, but my health started to break down. I gave birth to a son when I was 14 years old, but he died. Now I have a child who is a year and eight months. When I was getting married, I had five close friends. Two are still in school, but three are married. I never see them now. When I was in school and with my friends, I was very happy; I really want to go back."

Regional trends in child marriage

Bangladesh has one of the world's highest rates of child marriage - with almost one in three children marrying before they turn 15 - but the issue is a global one. Child brides are most common in South Asia, where 46 per cent get married before the age of 18, in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the figure is 37 per cent, and in Latin America and the Caribbean (29 per cent). The highest rates in Europe are found in Georgia and Turkey, where 17 per cent and 14 per cent of girls, respectively, marry before they turn 18.

In 2010 more than 700 girls younger than 10 were married in Iran, the number increasing by more than a third in a year.

For Francesca Moneti, Unicef's senior child protection specialist, child marriage is an "extreme survival mechanism" that can increase when there is an emergency, such as a food crisis. She said there was anecdotal evidence that families in Niger had turned to child marriage in larger numbers this year as one of a number of "survival strategies".

Poverty, education and health risks

She added that child marriage can contribute to a "chronic situation of malnutrition" when young, undernourished children give birth to babies that are born with low weight, creating "nutritional insufficiencies across generations". Heena, a 16-year-old girl from a family of farmers, in Nepal, was forced into a marriage last year with a man 10 years older than her, and is about to give birth. She says that when she discovered she was to wed, she cried for a year.

"Married life is very hard work. I wake early at 5.30 every morning. I have to fetch water, prepare meals, sweep, go to the farm with my mother-in-law and wash all the clothes. We live in a mud house with small areas of land to farm," she added. "I am really scared for my future. I have no way to earn a living and I am going to be raising a child in this poverty. There is no hospital nearby. I am worried about giving birth to this baby safely, but I have no choice."

She has reason to worry. Pregnancy is the biggest killer of teenage girls in the developing world, causing 50,000 deaths in the 15-19 age group each year. Girls aged between 10 and 14 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy than women aged between 20 and 24.

While politicians, charities and community workers stress that legislation is essential for reversing the upward trend in child marriage - more than 100 countries have established 18 or older as the legal minimum age for girls to marry without consent - they stress that "quality education" is one of the best ways to keep children from becoming brides. More than a third of girls in some of the most impoverished parts of the world drop out of education at the end of primary school, says a new report by Plan, Because I Am a Girl, to be released this week. Globally, only 74 per cent of girls between the ages of 11 and 15 are in school, compared with 83 per cent of boys.

The international development minister, Lynne Featherstone, said the coalition was "stepping up our support to provide education opportunities to up to a million of the world's poorest girls through the Girls Education Programme. Even a year of schooling can vastly reduce the chances of a teenage girl ending up in an early marriage."

Further information 

The full article, with further case studies is available on The Independent website.

Read the report Marrying too Young, released by UNFPA on International Day of the Girl.

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

PSN responds to international development committee inquiry into post-2015 development agenda

October 5, 2012


PSN has responded to an inquiry by the UK parliamentary International Development Committee (IDC), calling for increased focus on the neglected issues and perspectives of gender, sexual and reproductive health and rights and population dynamics within the emerging post-2015 development agenda.

Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

Looking to 2015 and beyond

With the target year for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals fast approaching, the International Development Committee recently held an inquiry on the Post-2015 Development Goals.

The consultation sought input on the effectiveness of the MDG framework and lessons learnt, how the Sustainable Development Goals established following Rio+20 should relate to the development goals being considered by the Post-2015 High-Level Panel, and other pressing issues, such as the the coverage of future goals and the process for their establishment.

PSN's calls for the future development agenda

Key elements for the future development agenda highlighted in PSN’s submission include:

  • Ensuring sufficient focus on the social pillar of sustainable development;
  • Addressing neglected issues and perspectives, such as gender equality and health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and population dynamics within a human rights-based approach;
  • Avoiding a narrow focus on development that is predicated on a model that presupposes the sustainability of continuous economic growth;
  • Addressing social inequalities and the drivers of poverty, placing inequalities and rights at the heart of the approach with a focus on the most marginalized groups;
  • Mainstreaming gender equity and equality into all goals and data collection disaggregated by sex and population dynamics;
  • Focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights and the importance of an overall goal on health, and population dynamics, including population growth, migration, urbanisation, etc;
  • Development of the framework with a broad and inclusive process of consultation with full stakeholder engagement.

Population dynamics are integral to the agenda

On the issue of population dynamics, our submission endorsed the UNDESA and UNFPA approach outlined in the Population Dynamics Thematic Think Piece (pdf) produced for the UN System Task Team on the post-2015 Development Agenda.

The UNDESA and UNFPA approach states that;

"Population issues should be an integral part of the post-2015 development agenda from a two-pronged perspective: a) evolving population dynamics, including changing population structures and distributions, as they have tremendous bearing on macro social and economic development processes and outcomes, and b) access to reproductive health and protection of reproductive rights as they represent a critical challenge for achieving a dignifying human development and well-being for all.

While the first set of issues i.e., population dynamics and changing demographic structures can be construed largely as cross-cutting, enabling factors for post-2015 development goals, the second set of issues i.e., access to quality reproductive health services and protection of reproductive rights should be included in and monitored through clear development goal and target frameworks."

Read the consultation

Population of over-60-year-olds to reach one billion within the decade

October 1, 2012


The number of older persons is growing faster than any other age group, says a new report, released today on International Day of Older Persons by UNFPA and HelpAge International. 




The report Ageing in the Twenty-first Century: A Celebration and a Challenge calls for urgent action by governments to address the needs of the 'greying generation'. It underlines that while the trend of ageing societies is a cause for celebration, it also presents huge challenges as it requires completely new approaches to health care, retirement, living arrangements and intergenerational relations.

In 2000, for the first time in history, there were more people over 60 than children below 5. By 2050, the older generation will be larger than the under-15 population. In just 10 years, the number of older persons will surpass 1 billion people—an increase of close to 200 million people over the decade. Today two out of three people aged 60 or over live in developing countries. By 2050, this will rise to nearly four in five.

If not addressed promptly, the consequences of these issues are likely to take unprepared countries by surprise. In many developing countries with large populations of young people, for example, the challenge is that governments have not put policies and practices in place to support their current older populations or made enough preparations for 2050.

More to be done to fulfil potential of ageing world

Speaking at the report’s launch in Tokyo, UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, said: "People everywhere must age with dignity and security, enjoying life through the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms."

"Longer life expectancy," he added, "was a goal of the Cairo International Conference on Population Development in 1994. More action needs to be taken to achieve this for all people; new poverty goals must not exclude older people."

Important progress has been made by many countries in adopting new policies, strategies, plans and laws on ageing, according to the report. For example, over 100 countries in the last decade have put in place non-contributory social pensions in recognition of old age poverty. But much more needs to be done to fulfil the potential of our ageing world.

Addressing discrimination and realizing rights

Forty-seven per cent of older men and nearly 24 per cent of older women participate in the labour force. Yet, despite the contributions that a socially and economically active, secure and healthy ageing population can give to society, the report also notes that many older persons all over the world face continued discrimination, abuse and violence. The report calls for governments, civil society and the general public to work together to end these destructive practices and to invest in older people.

The report also includes the stories of 1,300 older men and women who participated in group discussions in 36 countries around the world. Their first-hand accounts and testimonies add the perspectives of the older population supporting efforts for better understanding and immediate action to meet their needs.

We must prepare for population ageing

Richard Blewitt, Chief Executive Officer of HelpAge International, said: "We must commit to ending the widespread mismanagement of ageing. Concrete, cost effective advances will come from ensuring age investment begins at birth - fully recognizing the vast majority of people will live into old age. Global and national action plans are needed to create a pathway to transform the explosive number of people over 60 to become growth drivers and value creators. By revolutionizing our approach and investing in people as they age we can build stronger, wealthier societies. Social protection and age friendly health care are essential to extend the independence of healthy older people and prevent impoverishment in old age."

"These actions," added Mr. Blewitt, "should be based on a long-term vision, and supported by a strong political commitment and a secured budget."

"Ageing is a lifelong process that does not start at age 60. Today's young people will be part of the 2 billion-strong population of older persons in 2050," said Dr. Osotimehin. "This report shows that, with actions taken now, we can all benefit from the longevity dividend– increasingly in the developing world - now and in the future."

Read the report

The full report Ageing in the Twenty-first Century: A Celebration and a Challenge is available on the UNFPA website.

This press release by UNFPA, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

PSN Fact Sheet on benefits of investment in family planning

September 25, 2012


PSN has published a fact sheet outlining the rationale for increased investment in voluntary family planning programmes that respect and protect rights, updated with the latest data on unmet need for modern contraception and the benefits and cost-saving effects that addressing this unmet need would bring.

Credit: UN Photo


Family planning: the unmet need

There are an estimated 222 million women in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy but are not using an effective form of contraception. At the same time as driving unsustainable rates of population growth, this vast unmet need for contraception is undermining women's health and rights and exacerbating a number of other pressing development issues.

Investment in voluntary family planning programmes: Benefits and cost-saving effects brings together key data on population and reproductive rights to highlight why investment in family planning programmes is a highly cost-effective development intervention.

The fact sheet presents key statistics on the following links and issues:

  1. The unmet need for family planning
  2. Links between high rates of population growth and lack of access to family planning
  3. Health benefits of fulfilling the need of family planning
  4. Wider benefits of investment in family planning and cost-saving effects
  5. Inadequacy of current funding for family planning

Family planning: good value and good sense

Despite the far-reaching impacts and cost-saving effects of family planning, there is insufficient international support and funding for family planning programme.

Since the mid-to-late 1990s, donor assistance dedicated specifically to family planning has decreased dramatically in absolute terms, while demand has of course has increased during this time.

Drawing on data from the Guttmacher Insitute, the document outlines the estimated shortfall in funding for family planning, and sets out the number of maternal and child deaths and the number of unplanned pregnancies that would be averted if this funding shortfall were addressed.

The importance of investment in family planning and reproductive health programmes for wider development programmes is illustrated by the following quote by Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary General, December 2003 -

"The Millennium Development Goals, particularly the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, cannot be achieved if questions of population and reproductive health are not squarely addressed. And that means stronger efforts to promote women's rights, and greater investment in education and health, including reproductive health and family planning."

Read the fact sheet: Investment in voluntary family planning programmes: Benefits and cost-saving effects 

Rapid urban expansion threatens biodiversity

September 17, 2012

SOURCE: Yale School of Forestry & Biodiversity

A brief window of opportunity exists to shape the development of cities globally before a boom in infrastructure construction transforms urban land cover, according to a new study forecasting urban expansion to 2010 and impacts on biodiversity.


Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS via Flickr

Unprecedented urban expansion

Researchers at Yale, Texas A&M and Boston University predict that by 2030 urban areas will expand by more than 463,000 square miles, or 1.2 million square kilometers. That is equal to 20,000 American football fields becoming urban every day for the first three decades of this century.

The growth in urban areas will coincide with the construction of roads and buildings, water and sanitation facilities, and energy and transport systems that will transform land cover and cities globally. Recent estimates suggest that between US$ 25 trillion and US$ 30 trillion will be spent on infrastructure worldwide by 2030, with US$ 100 billion a year in China alone.

"Given the long life and near irreversibility of infrastructure investments, it will be critical for current urbanisation-related policies to consider their lasting impacts," said Karen Seto, lead author of the study and associate professor in the urban environment at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. "We have a huge opportunity to shape how cities develop and their environmental impacts."

Mapping areas of high growth

Nearly half of the increase in high-probability- defined as greater than 75 percent- urban expansion is forecasted to occur in Asia, with China and India absorbing 55 percent of the regional total. In China, urban expansion is expected to create a 1,100-mile coastal urban corridor from Hangzhou to Shenyang. In India, urban expansion will be clustered around seven state capital cities, with large areas of low-probability growth forecasted for the Himalaya region where many small villages and towns currently exist.

Africa's urban land cover will grow the fastest, at 590 percent above the 2000 level of 16,000 square miles. Urban expansion will be concentrated in that continent’s five regions: the Nile River in Egypt; the coast of West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea; the northern shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Uganda and extending into Rwanda and Burundi; the Kano region in northern Nigeria; and greater Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

"Urban expansion is concentrated in only a few areas where there are large cities and industry," said Seto. "From the northern shore of Lake Victoria down to Rwanda is also a major hotspot of urban expansion."

In North America, where 78 percent of the total population lives in urban areas, urban land cover will nearly double by 96,000 square miles by 2030. The study also forecasts that 48 of the 221 countries in the study will experience negligible amounts of urban expansion.

Biodiversity impacts will be global

The researchers examined historical patterns of urban population growth and expansion, and used forecasts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on gross domestic product and projections by the United Nations on urban population growth for their analysis.

Urban expansion will have significant impacts on biodiversity hotspots around the world. "We need to rethink conservation policies and what it means to be a sustainable city," said Burak Güneralp, the study's second author and research assistant professor at Texas A&M University. "It's not all about carbon footprint, which is what mayors and planners typically think about now, but we need to consider how urban expansion will have implications for other, non-human species and the value of these species for present and future generations."

Moreover, urban expansion will encroach on or destroy habitats for 139 amphibian species, 41 mammalian species and 25 bird species that are either on the Critically Endangered or Endangered Lists of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In addition, based on independent space-borne GLAS LiDAR measurements, the researchers estimate the aboveground, biomass carbon losses associated with land-clearing from new urban areas in the pan-tropics to be 5 percent of the tropical deforestation and land-use-change emissions.

"Urbanisation is often considered a local issue, however our analysis shows that the direct impacts of future urban expansion on global biodiversity hotspots and carbon pools are significant," said Seto. “The world will experience an unprecedented era of urban expansion and city-building over the next few decades. The associated environmental and social challenges will be enormous, but so are the opportunities."

Find out more

Read the article Global Forecasts of Urban Expansion to 2030 and Direct Impacts on Biodiversity and Carbon Pools online.

This article, published by Yale School of Forestry & Biodiversity, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance. The commentary about PSN’s population and biodiversity briefing has been added by PSN.