The United Nations is highlighting the important role that population trends play in promoting sustainable development, during the annual Commission on Population and Development, which began at UN Headquarters in New York on Monday.
This year’s Commission is also an opportunity to take stock and review progress made since the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which took place 25 years ago in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. The 1994 event resulted in a Programme of Action, based on the idea that investing in individual human rights, capabilities and dignity, is the foundation of all sustainable development.
The Programme was described by the UN as “revolutionary”, because it succeeded in bringing together diverse views on human rights, population, sexual and reproductive health, gender equality and sustainable development, in the search for a global consensus.
This year’s Commission will examine the many gains that have been made in implementing the Programme of Action, but also the gaps and shortfalls in achieving its goals and objectives: these must be addressed, says the UN, if we are to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN’s plan of action for bringing about a better and more sustainable future for all.
Speaking on behalf of Liu Zhemin, Under Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, and head of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, drew attention to the four demographic “mega-trends” that are shaping the world in fundamental ways: population growth, population ageing, international migration and urbanization.
The two latter trends, international migration and urbanization, “affect the spatial distribution of population,” she said, “and are linked in various and complex ways to the process of sustainable development. While it is right to celebrate achievements, we must also prepare for a world that is larger, older, more mobile and more urbanized than ever before.”
In her address, Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), credited “national strategies and leadership, United Nations agencies, civil society, communities and our partners,” for their role in bringing about the progress made since the International Conference on Population and Development.
“The vision and values of the ICPD, that development must be people-centred, and attention paid to strengthening equal access to health, education and human dignity for all persons, anticipated the vision and values of the 2030 Agenda, our common blueprint for peace and prosperity, for people and the planet now and in years to come.”
UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, speaking on behalf of Secretary-General António Guterres, warned that efforts on some Sustainable Development Goals are not keeping pace with population growth, citing targets on poverty in the least developed countries, child marriage, and people living in urban slums.
“While the percentage of affected persons may be declining,” she said, “their number is still rising. It is time for the world to show greater ambition and urgency around SDG implementation that is fully aligned with the Cairo Programme of Action.”