Fifteen years since Cairo...five remaining

September 3, 2009


September 2009 sees the 15 year progress review of implementation of the Programme of Action, produced at the 1994 landmark UN International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).


Credit: Tom Weller/UNFPA

Third review of progress held in Berlin

This year, the third progress review of implementating of the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA) takes place. To commemorate this landmark, theGlobal Partners in Action: NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development Invest in Health, Rights and the Future is being held in Berlin 2-4 September, co-hosted bythe  UNFPA and the Government of Germany.

Other NGO events are also taking place in 2009, including the 5th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproducitve and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSHR) to be held in Beijing, China from 17-20 October 2009.

The ICPD conference was critical in so far as it demonstrated an unprecedented commitment on behalf of governments to human rights including in regard to sexuality.

The PoA clearly defines the concepts of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRH), including universal access to related services and commodities. It also addresses concerns such as universal access to education, with special attention to closing the gender gap in primary and secondary education, universal access to primary health care, reduction in infant, child and maternal morbidity and mortality, and increased life expectancy. It includes recommendations on gender equality and the empowerment of women, the family, sustainable development, the environment, including climate change and migration.

The PoA established a historic global paradigm shift from a"population control" development approach to one that is people-centered and rights based.

Five years left for ICPD and the MDGs

There are five years to go for both the ICPD and the Millennium Development Goals, 2015 will mark the end of the period for these two action frameworks. While progress has been made in some important areas, now is the time to renew efforts to achieve their targets and goals in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

UK Government Chief Scientist warns of perfect storm from global population growth

August 25, 2009


John Beddington, the UK governments Chief Scientific Advisor, has added his voice to a chorus of recent high profile warnings about the impact of population growth linked with climate change.


Credit: UN Photo/Fred Noy

Predictions for the coming decades

As the world's population grows, competition for food, water and energy will increase. Food prices will rise, more people will go hungry, and migrants will flee the worst-affected regions.

That's the simple idea at the heart of the warning from John Beddington, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, of a possible crisis in 2030.

Specifically, he points to research indicating that by 2030 "a whole series of events come together:"

The world's population will rise from 6bn to 8bn (33%)

  • Demand for food will increase by 50%
  • Demand for water will increase by 30%
  • Demand for energy will increase by 50%

He foresees each problem combining to create a "perfect storm" in which the whole is bigger, and more serious, than the sum of its parts.

Population growth threatens food, water and energy shortages

"Can we cope with the demands in the future on water? Can we provide enough energy? Can we do it, all that, while mitigating and adapting to climate change? And can we do all that in 21 years' time?" he asked the SDUK 09 conference in London, in March.

Some of the problems reinforce each other, in obvious ways. For example, intensive agriculture swallows up large amounts of water and energy.

But Professor Beddington also points to other complicating factors and worrying possibilities.

There is a risk that climate change will have drastic effects on food production - for example by killing off the coral reefs (which about 1bn people depend on as a source of protein) or by either weakening or strengthening monsoon rains.

Also, some scientists are predicting that the Arctic will be ice-free by 2030, he points out, which could accelerate global warming by reducing the amount of the sun's energy that is reflected back out of the atmosphere.

Not only is the world's population predicted to grow (until the middle of the century, at least) but more people are moving to live in cities, Professor Beddington points out. The growth of cities will accelerate the depletion of water resources, which in turn may drive more country dwellers to leave the land.

As people become wealthier in some parts of the world, such as China and India, their diets are changing. They are consuming more meat and dairy products, which take more energy to produce than traditional vegetable diets. Like city dwellers, prosperous people also use more energy to maintain their lifestyle.

The more land is devoted to growing biofuels, in response to climate change, the less can be used for growing food.

China begins moves away from one-child policy

July 27, 2009

SOURCE: Irish Times

Fears of an ageing population means that Chinas biggest city and financial hub, Shanghai, is now highlighting exceptions to the One Child Policy that allow couples to have two children - although only particular kinds of people can apply.



Credit: Xiao Bao

Signs of a policy change

Couples who were both only children, which includes most of the city's newly-weds, are allowed two children. Also, couples are allowed to have two if both partners have PhDs, or are disabled, or come from a rural area, or in some cases if their first child is a girl. There are also exceptions for when a widow or widower, or a divorcee, marries someone childless.

However, not enough families are taking advantage of these rules, especially in wealthy Shanghai. Family planning authorities are going on the offensive to encourage more procreation.

The localised move to reverse the One Child Policy three decades after it was imposed counts as a minor adjustment, however. The policy remains in place in most parts of the country.

The main focus of the One Child Policy has been on the countryside, where farmers traditionally liked to have large families, especially ones with lots of sons.

Middle-class Chinese in the cities, like the middle classes all over the world, have fewer children by choice.

Concerns over ageing

In 2004, Shanghai got rid of a rule that required a gap of at least four years between the births of first and second children.

"Shanghai has about three million people aged 60 or older, 21.6 per cent of the population," said Xie Lingli, head of the city's Family Planning Commission.

"We advocate eligible couples to have two kids because it can help reduce the proportion of ageing people and alleviate a workforce shortage in the future," said Mr Xie.

Under the One Child Policy, imposed in 1979 to stem population growth already running dangerously high in the world's most populous nation, most families were limited to one child.

The spectre of an ageing population hangs heavy over Shanghai, where the proportion of working adults to retirees is high and poses a major burden in the future. By 2050, China will have more than 438 million people over 60, with more than 100 million of them 80 and above.

China will have just 1.6 working-age adults to support every person aged 60 and above, compared with 7.7 in 1975. Government forecasters expect China's population to peak at around 1.5 billion in 2032.

PSN launches update of APPG Return of the Population Factor Report

July 15, 2009


Yesterday at the UK Houses of Commons, PSN co-hosted the launch of an update of the 2009 Return of the Population Growth Factor report of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Population, Development and Reproductive Health. 

Credit: PSN


Continued relevance and urgency

The event, co-hosted by the APPG on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, PSN and Marie Stopes International, drew members of the House and the Lords, press representatives, NGO and other representatives of civil society to mark the release of the update of the 2007 report The Return of the Population Growth Factor: its Impact on the MDGs.

The update undertaken by PSN and the APPG consists of an updated summary report, and new and updated charts from the original full report. These show continued and significant under-spend on global family planning services, underlining the on-going relevance and urgency of the 2007 findings that; "the current rates of population growth will make the MDGs difficult or impossible to achieve."

The event proceedings

Christine McCafferty MP, Chair of the APPG chaired the event. Richard Ottaway MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Hearings which led to the 2007 report, and Professor Anthony Costello, Director of the UCL Global Health Institute and Chair of the recent Lancet commission on climate change and health delivered compelling key-note speeches.

Costello drew on his own experience of working with maternal and newborn health across South Asia and many parts of Africa, and spoke of the staggering benefits that quality voluntary family planning services can offer to individuals, families and communities. Additionally, he drew the audience's attention to the situation in some of the northern states of India that are experiencing very rapid population growth.

Costello painted a picture that illustrated the enormous challenges that lay ahead for administration and service delivery in States where it is likely that the population will quadruple in size by 2050.

Family planning expenditure per capita has declined by 50% since the mid-1990s, despite the rising need. Baroness Jenny Tonge, during the lively question and answer session, urged political leaders to turn their attention to this global situation since it would be possible to reverse the downward trend with the necessary political will. 

The original 2007 report

The original Report was published in 2007 by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health.

The report collated the findings of the series of hearings at Westminster examining the impact of population growth on the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. Initially proposed by PSN to the APPG, these hearings received written evidence from some 50 bodies across the world, including UNFPA, World Bank, World Health Organisation, governments and NGOs. PSN served on the Steering Group and submitted both written and oral evidence to the APPG for the original report.

The findings of the report show unequivocally that unless population growth is effectively addressed, especially in a range of poorer countries in sub Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia, the MDGs will be difficult or impossible to achieve.

Further information about the launch of the original report in 2007 is available in PSN’s 2007 newsletter. 

PSN at Manchester International Festival

July 5, 2009


PSN has made a presentation on advancing voluntary family planning as part of a Guardian-sponsored event on solutions to climate change at Manchester International Festival.


Credit: UN Photo


Investing in family planning: a strategy for reducing climate change vulnerability

Back in May Manchester International Film Festival and The Guardian invited scientists, engineers, campaigners and members of the public to submit their climate-saving ideas. 

PSN was among the 20 invited to present to the public and the panel and contribute to The Manchester Report on climate change solutions in July 2009. PSN's recommendation for universal access to voluntary family planning subsequently was chosen as one of the top ten strategies for responding to climate change. 

Chairing the panel was Lord Bingham, formely Lord Chief Justice, Dan Reicher, head of energy and climate change at Google, author Chris Goodall and campaigner Briony Worthington.

Population left out in the cold?

PSN's Louise Carver delivered a presentation called Climate Change and Global Warming: Population Left Out in the Cold?, which illustrated the way in which population growth will contribute to green house gas emissions and inhibit adaptation in the world's poorest countries.

Louise also described to the panel how access to family planning in developing countries is at an all time low, while demand is simulatanously increasing and how this access to family planning will dictate whether we reach a medium or higher population pathway in 2050. 

Read the presentation

The Manchester Report

The Manchester Report was published at the end of Festival drawn from the panel's reactions and selection of the top ten solutions. 

The report will be made available to the world online but will also be printed and distributed to policymakers in advance of the critical Copenhagen summit in December. Recipients will include British MPs, American members of Congress and policymakers in India, China and other regions; business leaders, think tanks and many others.

400,000 copies of the report was also distributed to Guardian readers in a special supplement in July.

The report is available on the Guardian website.