Press Releases

    POP/798
    5 April 2001

    POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION BRIEFED
    ON SECRETARIAT’S WORK IN POPULATION FIELD,
    UPCOMING UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCES

    NEW YORK, 4 April (UN Headquarters) -- The Commission on Population and Development was briefed this afternoon on the work of the Secretariat in the field of population, including the status of preparations for upcoming United Nations conferences, as it continued its thirty-fourth session and its focus on population, environment and development.

    Bertil Lindblad, Senior Liaison Officer, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Liaison Office in New York, told the Commission that, given the urgency of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the General Assembly last year decided to convene a special session on HIV/AIDS, to be held from 25 to 27 June. The expected outcome of the event was a "declaration of commitment" covering such areas as effective leadership and coordination, alleviating the social and economic impact of the epidemic and ensuring the availability of care and support.

    The UNAIDS, he said, had used some of the best practices from the Millennium Summit in preparing for the special session. Therefore, the session would have four interactive round tables on the following themes: HIV/AIDS prevention and care; HIV/AIDS and human rights; the social and economic impact of the epidemic; and international funding and cooperation to address the challenges of the epidemic. While there was not enough time to hold preparatory meetings, the Assembly was conducting informal "informals" in order to prepare for the session.

    Ralph Chipman, Acting Chief of the Socio-Economic Policies, Finance and Technology Branch, Division for Sustainable Development, focused his remarks on the World Summit for Sustainable Development, expected to take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002. [The Summit will be the 10-year review of the implementation of Agenda 21 -- the Programme of Action adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro.]

    The Summit, he said, would promote a multi-stakeholder approach for sustainable development, which included ways to improve the use of national resources and cooperative activities between governments, private sector actors and civil society. He hoped the Summit would rebuild confidence in sustainable development as a fundamental strategy for integrating economic, social and environmental strategies and leading to long-term development.

    The Commission, a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, is charged with studying and advising the Council on population changes and their effect on economic and social conditions. Following the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994), it began meeting annually, beginning in 1996, to assess implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action.

    Also this afternoon, the Commission concluded its consideration of national experiences in population matters with statements by the representatives of Ireland, South Africa, Pakistan and the Republic of Korea. In addition, the representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) made a statement.

    During its consideration of programme implementation and future programme of work of the Secretariat in the field of population, the Commission also heard from Joseph Chamie, Director of the Population Division; Hania Zlotnik, Chief of the Population Estimates and Projections Section; Dorota Gierycz, Chief of the Gender Analysis Section of the Division for the Advancement of Women; and John Langmore, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development.

    Following their presentations, comments were made and questions raised by the representatives of the United States, Russian Federation, France and India.

    The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 5 April, to finish hearing from the United Nations regional commissions.

    Background

    The thirty-fourth session of the Commission on Population and Development met this afternoon to continue its discussion of national experiences. It was also expected to consider programme implementation and the future programme of work of the Secretariat in the field of population. The session has been focusing on the link between population, environment and development. (For background, see Press Release POP/792 issued on 30 March.)

    Statements

    BERTIL EGERÖ (Sweden) noted that, unfortunately, yesterday during his presentation at the panel discussion, he had mistakenly stated that the Aral Sea was in Russia, when in fact it was in Kazakhstan. He apologized for the error.

    National Experiences

    JOHN JACKSON (Ireland) said that, having been one of the least densely populated countries in Europe with a long history of population decline as the result of sustained migration outflow, Ireland had in the past 10 years reversed that pattern and substantially altered its demographic profile. Demand for housing and urban growth, together with necessary investment in infrastructure, had put sustained pressure on the environment. All of that had happened in a short time and had been accompanied by rapid economic development and significant social change.

    He said that de-linking economic growth from environmental damage was a major challenge facing all countries, particularly Ireland due to its exceptional economic growth. The country’s economic surge was happening at a time when European Union and other international environmental controls were becoming more rigorous. The combination of strong growth, coupled with more stringent environmental targets, greatly magnified the challenge now facing public authorities and the country’s strategic economic sectors. Economic prosperity could provide the financial resources that were needed to make inroads into many of the problems.

    However, that alone would not be enough, he added. Present day environmental pressures derived from many sources, including modern lifestyles. A sustained long-term programme of environmental awareness-raising and education was needed.

    JACK VAN ZUYDAM (South Africa) said the HIV/AIDS pandemic had dramatically affected his country’s poverty eradication strategies. Subsequently, it had not been able to respond successfully to such factors as globalization, migration and environmental degradation. Despite all this, there were signs that the Government’s current programmes, which possibly held the key to long-term sustainable development and growth in the country, would be crucial to mitigating many of those negative impacts. He added that some of the strategic interventions to curb the effects of the HIV/AIDS virus included the creation of improved prevention programmes, and broad intersectoral coordination and capacity-building to ensure the cost-effective use of resources to treat those living with the disease.

    He went on to highlight several other areas which the South African Government or regional actors had identified as needing particular attention. He also noted several positive steps taken to address the country’s population, environment and development issues. Overall, social development departments had become equal partners with economic departments in order to minimize the social impact of economic restructuring. Also, leaders of all sectors had been made aware of the connections between related phenomena, such as the rise of HIV/AIDS and the effects the virus would subsequently have on the country’s workforce. He added that the impact of the virus on population growth and size had made it difficult to project population estimates for the future.

    He said that population pressure on the environment had been gauged mainly by the impact of population growth and poverty. However, the Government had recently introduced policies that aimed to ensure environmental sustainability through comprehensive and integrated strategies, which addressed population as well as production and consumption patterns. That approach represented an essential first step in efforts to integrate population dynamics into environmental planning and management initiatives.

    He noted that many of the burning social issues that impacted the country’s population called for regional responses. A narrow national focus could not appropriately address such issues as crime or forced migration from conflicts. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) was one forum where regional strategies could be coordinated and reviewed to identify major concerns during policy negotiations between countries.

    Mr. KHAWAJA (Pakistan) said that his country, with a population of 142 million, was one of the most populous nations, having one of the highest population growth rates in Asia and among developing countries. The Government, knowing that development goals would not be realized unless the rapid population growth was effectively controlled, was seeking to control population growth by bringing down the fertility rate, while further reducing mortality rates for infants, children and mothers, improving child health care and promoting gender equity. The immediate goal was to reduce the annual population growth rate to 1.9 per cent by 2003.

    Rapid population growth in Pakistan had led to environmental degradation, he continued. Some of its natural resources, such as forests, water supply and land, were already undergoing severe stress. One third of the population now resided in urban areas. Economic development had also aggravated many urban environmental problems including pollution. It had been very difficult to provide the investment required for maintaining and expanding the necessary urban infrastructure to meet the rapid population increase. Pakistan’s National Conservation Strategy had been formulated to enable sustained policies for lower population growth, thus reducing pressure on the environment and allowing for meaningful economic development.

    CHOI HONG-SEOK (Republic of Korea) said that rapid economic development, along with industrialization, urbanization and a growing population, had aggravated environmental deterioration in the Republic of Korea. Institutional reform was undertaken in 1980 in response to the growing need for design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, related to the environment in an integrated manner. In 1996, Environment Vision 21 was set up as a long-term plan for environmental preservation. The plan adopted environment-friendly production methods that increased compatibility between economic development and environmental preservation, and fully considered environmental safety in all areas of life.

    Population concentration in metropolitan areas, specifically the capital, had been a critical obstacle to socio-economic development, environmental preservation and enhancement of the quality of life, he said. Thus, the New Population Policy, established in 1996, put an emphasis on a balance of population distribution aimed at achieving sustainable development. He stressed that the recent economic recession in Asia had increased poverty and aggravated environmental degradation. Therefore, special attention, at the domestic and international levels, should be given to the establishment of social safety nets in those countries.

    RICHARD LEETE, Chief, Population and Development Branch, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), introduced the Fund's paper entitled, "Population, Environment and Sustainable Development: A Note on the Implementation of Operational Activities". The environmental implications of rapidly growing and rapidly urbanizing populations remained far-reaching, particularly where poverty levels were high, air was polluted, water was scarce, and land degradation and deforestation were most severe.

    The paper noted that, while many countries had formulated a local Agenda 21, or national plans on environment and sustainable development, often they did not explicitly integrate population and environmental policies, he said. Also, there tended to be little consideration of the environmental implications of demographic dynamics. The effectiveness of environmental agencies varied. They often lacked horizontal links with other agencies concerned with population and poverty issues.

    He said that the paper called attention to three capacity constraints on implementing national sustainable development plans. First, there was often a lack of an agreed holistic multi-sectoral conceptual framework based on the interrelations between population, environment and sustainable development. Second, there was often a lack of suitable data and research. And thirdly, a lack of financial and skilled human resources could place severe limits on the range and scope of activities. Through its country regional and interregional programmes, the UNFPA was providing support for a number of initiatives aimed at clarifying the relationships between population, environment and sustainable development.

    Work of Secretariat in Field of Population

    JOSEPH CHAMIE, Director, Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs introduced the report on the work of the United Nations Secretariat in the field of population. He said that representatives of agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) had been invited to participate in the work of the Commission.

    He said that research and publications carried out by the Population Division often provided the foundation for much of the Organization’s work in the area of population. During the current and upcoming bienniums, the activities of the Division would include issuing technical material, including databases and charts, and providing technical cooperation and advisory services, namely in the form of population Web sites. The Division would also undertake studies in fertility, internal migration, and population ageing. The combined efforts of the Division and its partners within the Secretariat had been most helpful in producing work which highlighted the important and controversial area of international migration. He added that many of the Division's documents and studies had also been prepared with the help of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.

    HANIA ZLOTNIK, Chief of the Population Estimates and Projections Section of that Division, introduced a report on world demographic trends, which summarized the most recent official United Nations projections of the world’s population. Information in the report was drawn from data from 224 countries or areas of the world. In addition, for countries with more than 140,000 inhabitants, the estimates and projections included factors such as fertility, mortality and international migration. Three projection variants expected to encompass the likely pathway of population growth had also been prepared. Those variants, known as low, medium and high, differed from one another only in terms of future trends in fertility patterns. She added that projection variants reflected information derived from studies of the fertility levels of three groups of countries; those whose fertility rates were either low, medium or high.

    She next turned to briefly highlight three critical trends that had been noted in the report. First, at the global level, population growth was expected to continue, but that growth was expected to vary considerably among countries and regions. For instance, Europe’s population was expected to decline relatively rapidly, while the population in Africa would likely show robust growth. The second major trend was the acceleration of population ageing. Declining fertility accompanied by increased longevity appeared to be at the root of that trend. All major countries and regions were expected to experience a marked increase in their population’s median age. The increase was, however, expected to be more moderate in Africa.

    The final major trend was the continuing impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Indeed, the number of affected persons living with the disease was expected to rise in all countries and regions. As the impact of the disease spread, the death toll was expected to increase dramatically. Indeed, according to estimates, the populations of African countries had been reduced by nearly 10 million as a result of the spread of the disease, and nearly 50 million deaths were predicted worldwide over the next 15 years. She added that it was her sincere hope that this was one projection that might be proven wrong and that, as a result of actions taken by the international community, it would turn out to be too pessimistic.

    Mr. WAY (United States) said that the report on world demographic trends represented an important assessment of where the world stood demographically and where it was heading. It highlighted divergent trends between developed and developing regions. Continued efforts would be required to make family planning information and services available to those populations who did not yet have them.

    The report, he continued, had indicated a worsening of the AIDS epidemic in terms of population loss, with 15.5 million excess deaths expected in the next five years. It also focused on the transformation to an ageing population, which would reach almost 2 billion in the coming years. He expressed his appreciation for the report on the work of the Secretariat in the field of population. In addition, he said he was eagerly awaiting the Population Division’s manual on adult mortality.

    Ms. ZBARSKAYA (Russian Federation) said that the studies undertaken by the Division had taken into account the problems facing different countries and regions, particularly countries in transition. She was also interested in other studies, such as those on migration and population policies. The efforts of the Secretariat deserved support and should be continued. With regard to the dissemination of population information, the Division should continue to post information on its Web site. She recommended that the Division post annotated, preliminary versions of reports in order to assist delegations in their consideration of the issues.

    Furthermore, she added, studies by the Division, such as those on replacement migration and world population prospects, should be made available in all six official United Nations languages.

    FRANÇOIS HERAN (France) drew attention to the outstanding scientific quality of the work done by the Division, whose documents were irreplaceable. "Without the work of the Division, we would be walking in the dark." He welcomed the honesty and frankness with which the Division had developed their hypotheses. The reports had alerted countries to the scourge of AIDS in the long-term and the speeding up in the ageing of the population, both of which would become very significant in a few years time.

    T.K. ROY (India) asked how the Division had estimated the impact of AIDS on mortality rates in countries.

    Responding to questions, Ms. ZLOTNIK said that studies would have to involve more complex sets of models in order to give a sense of what might happen in countries highly affected by AIDS. Currently, the Division was modelling the disease itself, in addition to its impact on mortality. It had estimates of how many AIDS-related deaths there were in the population, which was then added to the mortality rates. The Division was working with UNAIDS and researchers to improve the methodology used and make better use of the data to make estimates.

    Mr. CHAMIE said that he welcomed the support and kind words from the delegations. It was clear from the comments that there was great appreciation for the information provided in the reports. Also, he had taken note of the request to put unedited, preliminary reports on the Web site for consideration by members. He would try his best to make the reports available in the six United Nations official languages. The Division had visited many capitals recently to share data and information and would continue to do so. Science needed to be transparent and shared.

    JOHN LANGMOR, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, briefly highlighted several past and future United Nations conferences and events whose outcomes could guide the Commission’s work during the session. Those included the recent General Assembly special session on social development held in Geneva, the February substantive session of the Commission for Social Development, held at Headquarters, and the upcoming Second World Assembly on Ageing, to be held next April in Madrid.

    He said that the special session had been "striking", attended by nearly 5,000 participants, included many heads of State and government. It had culminated in the adoption of the Geneva Declaration on Social Development, which included a political declaration and 160 paragraphs of proposals and initiatives. Those initiatives highlighted the many ways in which core social development issues could be improved worldwide. He said that the session’s outcome reflected substantial technical and political progress. He added that since the session the wider United Nations community had begun to implement many of those decisions.

    Turning next to discuss the work of the Commission on Social Development at its February session, he noted that the focus of that work had been on issues of social protection. Unfortunately, the Commission had been unable to reach a consensus outcome at the session’s close. There had been disagreement on the Commission’s methodology, namely its political and technical functions. There had been agreement reached on an aggressive future programme for the Commission. He concluded his intervention by drawing the Commission’s attention to the upcoming Second World Conference on Ageing.

    WILLEM DE VRIES, Deputy Director, Statistics Division, informed the Commission about what happened in the Statistical Commission during its first meeting from 6 to 9 March. Two issues that might be of relevance to the Population Commission were the work of the Statistical Commission and the Statistics Division in the area of population and housing censuses, and the work on conference indicators that the Statistical Commission was undertaking.

    Traditionally, he said, the Statistical Commission and the Statistics Division had always been active in promoting population and housing censuses, and had supported guidelines and quality standards in that area. They also supported international collection and compilation of census information through production of the Demographic Yearbook and its related database, which was used by the Population Division in the preparation of population estimates and projections. The Division also worked to strengthen national capacity in demographic and social data collection through preparation of guidelines, technical handbooks and advisory services.

    The Statistical Commission accepted the invitation of the Economic and Social Council to serve as the focal point for the review of conference indicators, he said. In that connection, the Commission emphasized the importance of the need for: national statistical capacity-building; effective user-producer dialogue on indicators; and reducing the overburdening of countries with data requests. The advisory group formed to look into the matter would present its findings to the Statistical Commission at its next session.

    RALPH CHIPMAN, Acting Chief, Socio-Economic Policies, Finance and Technology Branch, Division for Sustainable Development, addressed the relationship between the work of his Division and that of the Commission. He said that one of the functions of the Commission and the Division was to oversee implementation of Agenda 21. To avoid overlap with other organizations, both bodies focused on tools and policies for integrating environmental, social and population concerns into development projects and strategies. In addition to those broad integrating areas, his Branch of the Division for Sustainable Development also provided policy analysis in areas of energy, transport, water and natural resources.

    In 1997, the Commission conducted a five-year review of the implementation of Agenda 21, culminating in a special session of the General Assembly. A 10-year review was expected to take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002. The first preparatory meeting for that World Summit on Sustainable Development would be held next month. He hoped that the Summit would conduct a comprehensive review of all activities in the field of sustainable development. Its focus would be on a holistic approach, identifying ways in which economic, social and environmental aspects might be integrated into sustainable development plans.

    He said the Summit would also promote a multi-stakeholder approach for sustainable development, which included ways to improve the use of national resources and cooperative activities between governments, private sector actors and civil society. He hoped the Summit would rebuild confidence in sustainable development as a fundamental strategy for integrating economic, social and environmental strategies and leading to long-term development.

    BERTIL LINDBLAD, Senior Liaison Officer, UNAIDS Liaison Office in New York, said that given the urgency of the epidemic, the General Assembly last year decided to convene a special session of the Assembly on HIV/AIDS. The purpose of that session, to be held from 25 to 27 June, was to secure a global commitment for intensified and coordinated action. The expected outcome of the event was a "declaration of commitment" covering such areas as effective leadership and coordination, alleviating the social and economic impact of the epidemic and ensuring the availability of care and support. The first preliminary draft of the outcome document was submitted to Member States last Friday.

    The UNAIDS, he said, had used some of the best practices from the Millennium Summit in preparing for the special session. Therefore, the session would have four interactive round tables on the following themes: HIV/AIDS prevention and care, HIV/AIDS and human rights; the social and economic impact of the epidemic; and international funding and cooperation to address the challenges of the epidemic. While there was not enough time to hold preparatory meetings, the Assembly was conducting informal "informals" in order to prepare for the session.

    On the involvement of civil society, he said that, as many organizations active in the area of HIV/AIDS would not be able to participate in the actual session, efforts were under way to secure their inputs through other channels, including existing electronic networks with discussion groups linked to the Advisory Committee and the UNAIDS secretariat.

    DOROTA GIERYCZ, Chief, Gender Analysis Section, Division for the Advancement of Women, highlighted the decisions taken during the recent session of the Commission on the Status of Women that might be of relevance to work already under way in the field of population and development. The most important of those decisions had been the adoption of a multi-year programme of work from 2002 to 2006, which focused on the outcome of the June special session on women, as well as the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. For its 2002 session, the Commission adopted topics that included poverty eradication and women, and integrating a gender perspective in environmental management and efforts to mitigate natural disasters. The 2004 session would include discussion of such topics as the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality, and the role of women in conflict resolution.

    She went on to say that for 2005, the Commission would focus on a broad review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and for 2006, two of its main topics would be the enhanced participation of women in development, and the equal participation of men and women in decision-making. She felt that the multi-year work programme provided ample opportunity to work closely with other divisions within the United Nations system. She added that, at the session’s close, some important and relevant issues had remained open, however. Issues that would need to be further negotiated included racial discrimination from a gender perspective, and women and HIV/AIDS. Those issues would be taken up again at the Commission’s resumed session in April. She added that discussion on the working method of the Women’s Commission had been postponed until its next substantive session.

    Mr. BRUNBORG (Norway) congratulated the Population Division on its excellent work. On the dissemination of data, he believed that all of the Division’s reports should be made available to the public on the Internet. Likewise, all population projection results could also be published on the Internet. He asked why there were two population Web sites -– that of the Population Division and that of POPIN (Population Information Network). Also, what happened to POPIN? Was it suffering from a lack of funding?

    Mr. CHAMIE replied that the Division intended to make more results available on the Internet in addition to reports. It was also trying to make the information available in a format that was easy to understand. The POPIN dealt with many sets of data from all over the world. Until recently, it had been funded by the UNFPA. The Division had tried to develop its own Web site, consistent with its own format. It had funding until the middle of the current year, with some prospects for the rest of the year. However, budgetary issues had limited its ability to secure funds. It would seek to continue negotiations with possible funders for POPIN.

    Mr. WANG (China) expressed his appreciation to the Secretariat for their work. China would fully support the agencies of the Secretariat in convening the World Conference on Ageing and the special session on HIV/AIDS. He was grateful to the Population Division for its report, which enabled him to understand the global trends in population growth. It was his belief that the projections were becoming more scientific.

    He hoped that the Division had taken note of the recent Fifth National Population Census undertaken in China, to which the country had devoted a lot of resources. Six million people had been involved in census work. The results of the census indicated that, as of 1 October, China’s population stood at 1.29 billion.

    Mr. CHAMIE stated that the Division was very aware of China’s recent census, as well as that of the other "billionaire" –- India -- and gave a great deal of attention to those results and would continue to work with officials in both countries.

    DANIEL BLANCHARD, Director of the Population Division, Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Centre, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said that one of the most important functions of his organization was to monitor fertility, mortality and migration trends in the Latin American region by regularly updating databases on demographic trends and indicators. The Centre had recently issued two special reports on the complex links between population and development in that region. The first of those reports identified crucial development issues and their relation to specific policy areas, such as employment, poverty, spatial distribution and human rights. The second report detailed the relevance of socio-demographic information and knowledge for the design and implementation of social policies.

    He said that the Centre was also preparing a special report on urbanization trends in all Latin American cities of 20,000 or more during the last 50 years. The organization was also readying the fourth generation of its database and processing software for use with information derived from the region’s 2000 census round. He added that the new software could be downloaded free on the Centre’s Web site.

    He next briefly highlighted other issues on which the Centre had focused during the past year. Those issues included ageing, international migration and indicators for assessing the progress in implementation of the Cairo goals. He said that there were several major challenges the organization would focus on in the coming year. Those included social and socio-demographic vulnerability and the optimization of resources for population initiatives in the Latin American region.

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