PSN and PSDA give evidence at UK parliamentary hearings ‘Population Dynamics in the Post-2015 World’

March 12, 2015


PSN’s Coordinator, Karen Newman, and Policy and Advocacy Manager, Sarah Fisher, gave a presentation this week at the UK Houses of Parliament, providing evidence on the linkages between population dynamics, reproductive health and sustainable development.


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Credit: Peter Morgan via Flickr

Looking to the future

“Population dynamics set the scale and scope of the development challenges we face” was the top line message from PSN and the Population and Sustainable Development Alliance (PSDA) at the parliamentary hearings held by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Population, Development and Reproductive health.

In light of the upcoming announcement of a Post-2015 international development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals in September this year, the hearings are being held to collect evidence, recommendations and policy suggestions on population dynamics in the Post-2015 world.

Following the joint submission by PSN and the PSDA in December 2014, PSN (also representing PSDA) was invited to give oral evidence, in the form of a presentation and questions, to a panel consisting of MPs, peers and APPG staff.

PSN joined the Royal Society and the International Institute for Environment and Development to give evidence at the session which took place at the House of Commons on Monday.

Making the links

Karen gave a summary of the joint submission which advocated the importance of a focus on population dynamics and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the Post-2015 framework and explored the links between these issues with a particular focus on urbanisation, migration, climate change and conflict.

Case studies were presented from the written evidence of integrated Population Health Environment (PHE) Programmes by PSDA members Blue Ventures and LEAD SEA. Community-based projects by these organisations in Madagascar and Malawi, respectively, illustrate the inter-relationships between population growth, migration, unmet need for reproductive health services, climate change vulnerability and other sustainable development issues, and offer models for addressing these issues more holistically and effectively.

Key recommendations made to the panel for the UK government to champion included:

  • Encouragement of nuanced and sensitive dialogue on population and SRHR issues, including recognition of the moral imperative to address unsustainable and inequitable consumption patterns
  • Promotion of integrated PHE approaches
  • Use of demographic data for future development planning, including investments in research and capacity building for better data collection and use
  • Ensuring that migrants and other vulnerable groups have full access to health services
  • Taking into consideration the implications of population trends for demand for and access to SRHR services.

“Young people are the most likely to be attracted to urban areas for work and education etc., however they are the least likely to be provided with appropriate SRHR services”, explained Karen, “it is imperative young people’s needs are met and planned for”.

Pressing questions for Post-2015

Presentations for the civil society presenters were followed by a number of questions from the APPG panel which included Sir Richard Ottaway MP, Baroness Jenny Tonge, Baroness Anne Jenkin and Mette Kjaerby and Benjamin Hunter of the APPG staff.

There was great interest in the exact linkages between population growth and climate change, and the relationship between economic development, urbanisation and climate change.

With reference to population and climate change linkages, PSN highlighted the important distinction between climate change mitigation and adaptation.

PSN also noted that the relationship between population growth and climate change is complex, not in the least due to vast differences in per capita consumption rates between the world’s wealthiest and poorest countries and groups. However, the role that population growth and unmet need for family planning services play in exacerbating vulnerability to climate change in the world’s poorest countries is more straight forward and must not be underestimated.

Karen referred to a research paper by PSN which analysed reports prepared by the least-developed countries outlining localised vulnerabilities to climate change and priorities for action. Ninety-three per cent of the reports identify population growth and high population density as factors that make climate impacts harder, including through pressure on water and land availability, deforestation and soil degradation.

On urbanisation and climate change linkages, “Urban populations do not necessarily have a higher carbon footprint” explained Sarah, “rural populations in some developed countries for example are more likely to drive rather than take public transport, which highlights the importance of effective urban planning to take advantage of potential opportunities associated with economies of scale.”

There was agreement from all the civil society panellists that new development paradigms are needed, both in relation to effective and sustainable urban planning and overall development models that go beyond GDP to include alternative measures of development and well-being and de-couple economic growth including those relating to the environment. It was noted that whilst a great deal of technological innovations and solutions are available to make necessary changes, often it is a lack of political will and other factors that undermine progress.

The APPG is set to release a report in the coming months based on the submissions received and evidence provided in the hearings.

Read PSN and PSDA’s joint submission