PSN joins NGOs to place population on global sustainability agenda

December 14, 2010


Population and Sustainability Networks Karen Newman delivered a presentation today at a UNFPA meeting on population, sustainable development and climate change.

Credit: 2006 Felix Masi/Voiceless Children, Courtesy of Photoshare

Preparing for Rio+20

The two-day meeting beginning today at the UNFPA headquarters in New York brings together representatives from 20 non-governmental organizations and UNFPA staff to build partnerships to advocate for the inclusion of population issues into the agendas of upcoming international environmental events, especially 'Rio+20', a 20-year follow-up conference to the 1992 'Earth Summit'.

Rio+20 will aim to secure renewed political commitment to sustainable development, to assess progress towards internationally agreed goals on sustainable development, and to address new and emerging challenges. The Summit will also focus on two specific themes: a new "green economy" and its relationship to poverty eradication and sustainable development, and an institutional framework for sustainable development.

The purpose of today's working meeting is to create an effective platform to link population dynamics, including gender and climate change, and sustainable development within the agenda of Rio+20 agenda, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 14-16 May 2012.

Ensuring population and reproductive health is on the agenda

Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, "as the world prepares to extend and expand the principles and pillars of sustainable development, it is essential that UNFPA bring its core mandate issues to bear on a new agreement," said UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, speaking at the start of the NGO gathering.

Ms. Obaid announced that UNFPA will launch an initiative at Rio+20 to apply gender, reproductive health and population dynamics to sustainable development by harnessing data from the 2010 round of censuses, together with other population data. "National-level capacity building for data analysis and use in policy-making will be at the centre of this initiative," Ms. Obaid said.

Ms. Obaid said that the transition to the green economy requires greater understanding of the relationship among population dynamics and sustainable development. Taking these dynamics into account "will help to focus the sustainable development agenda on planning for the composition, distribution and movement of the population in the long term, which in turn shape areas vital to the green economy, such as food security, employment and occupational structure, health, social protection, agricultural production and environmental vulnerability," Ms. Obaid said.

PSN and the Population and Climate Change Alliance

In the area of climate change, UNFPA in 2008 brought together a group of non-governmental organizations specializing in sexual and reproductive health that agreed on the importance of linking population issues to the global environmental debate. These organizations later formed the Population Climate Change Alliance (PCCA), of which Population and Sustainability Network is now the Secretariat.

PSN's Karen Newman delivered a presentation at the meeting entitled Experiences in linking population, gender and climate change, during which she gave an introduction to the PCCA. The presentation also shared the key outcomes of the International Policy Symposium on Population Dynamics and Climate co-hosted by PSN in March 2010.

As outlined by a Uganda Minister at the symposium, it is the poorest countries that are hardest hit by climate change, yet they have contributed the least to it and have the least capacity to adapt. Linked to this issue, Karen explained that many of the least developed countries impacted by climate change have identified population growth as a factor that is increasing their vulnerability to climate change. For this reason, one of the policies that the PCCA is advocating is for funding to be made available to these countries to increase access to voluntary family planning, to support climate change adaptation.

The PCCA is currently looking to broaden its membership, with the view to have maximum influence at both the International Climate Change Conference in Durban in 2011, and Rio+20 in 2012.

PSN's full presentation at the UNFPA meeting is available here.

Meeting recommendations shared with new UNFPA Executive Director

Following the meeting, participants collectively sent a welcome letter to the new UNFPA Executive Director Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, congratulating him on the post. The letter shared with him some ideas and recommendations from the meeting,  on issues that he may wish to prioritise as he takes up his UNFPA leadership responsibilities.