|This July 11th marks the UN’s 31st World Population Day. PIC is joining an initiative of Having Kids, a US non-profit organization that advocates for the rights of future children, in urging UN Secretary-General António Guterres to recommend smaller families as a vital step in attaining the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Eight other organizations including Population Matters (UK), World Population Balance (US) and Sustainable Population Australia are also signatories to the message that there can be no sustainable development without a sustainable population.
In addition to sending Mr. Guterres an open letter, Having Kids, along with two other organizations, Population Matters and One Protest, will be hosting a protest at the United Nations Plaza in New York City, where government representatives from across the world will be meeting to discuss the UN’s SDGs. They will call on the UN Secretary General to issue a public statement in support of smaller families, and for the UN to work towards an international agreement on population.
WHY ALL THIS ACTIVITY?
Despite an overall slowing of the rate of global growth in human numbers, we are increasing our population by about 1.5 million people each week, and have added 2.5 billion people to the planet since World Population Day was founded in 1989. The UN’s latest projections to 2100 show a sharp difference between all of Asia, Europe, and the Americas, where the median projection suggests an increase from 6.4 billion today to 6.5 billion by 2100 – a rise of just 2% – and Africa, whose population is on track to rise from 1.34 billion to 4.28 billion.
Calling attention to overpopulation by marking an annual World Population Day will not translate into significant progress in reversing population growth if governments of rapidly growing countries fail to enact policies that prioritize reproductive health and women’s empowerment and enable all people access to comprehensive reproductive health care including voluntary family planning, safe pregnancy and childbirth services.
These were the goals of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) or Cairo Conference, but today hundreds of millions of women are still not using modern contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies, there is still a high prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) in many countries, and the ICPD’s target of reducing preventable maternal deaths falls too short. Unless more is done to meet the ICPD goals, World Population Day will simply mark a global overpopulation crisis but do little to solve it.
Meanwhile affordable, safe access to family planning will continue the trend of lowered birthrates in developed economies, where the “carbon legacy” of just one child can produce 20 times more greenhouse gas than a person will save by driving a high-mileage car, recycling, using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs, and engaging in other environmentally aware behaviours.
There are only eleven years until the international community hopes to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, yet more than 800 million people could be added to the global population in that time.
Our message to the UN on July 11th is that there can be no sustainable development without sustainable population. Smaller families mean a smaller footprint.