Press Releases

    POP/925
    8 April 2005

    Expected to Reach 7 Billion by 2013, World Population Currently Stands at 6.5 Billion, Commission Told

    Major Trends Include Ageing; Urbanization of Population; Reduction of Family Size, Fertility Levels; Increases in Family Planning

    NEW YORK, 7 April (UN Headquarters) -- The current world picture was one of dynamic population change, reflected in new and diverse patterns of family formation, childbearing, mortality, ageing, urbanization and migration, the Commission on Population and Development was told this morning.

    Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on world demographic trends, Barry Mirkin, the Chief of the Population Policy Section of the Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said that new developments presented unique opportunities and challenges for all societies in the twenty-first century.  The world population now stood at 6.5 billion, and the 7 billion mark was expected to be reached in 2013.  Since last year’s session of the Commission, 75 million people had been added to the world’s population.  Among other major trends, he mentioned the ageing and urbanization of the world population; reduction of fertility levels and family size; and increases in family planning.  People were living longer, with life expectation in developed countries now reaching 75 and in developing countries, 63 years of age.

    Developed and developing countries diverged significantly with regard to their population concerns, he said.  High mortality was the most significant population concern for developing countries, particularly mortality among infants and children, and mortality from HIV/AIDS.  The main concern for developed countries related to low fertility and its consequences, including population ageing and the shrinking of the working-age population.  Governments were now more inclined to act on population concerns by formulating the implementing policies to address those issues.

    Progress reports in the field of population and world population monitoring are part of the Population Division’s programme of work, which was presented for the Commission’s information today.

    As the Commission took up programme implementation and the future programme of work of the Secretariat in the field of population, the United States’ representative noted that the Population Division continued to produce analytical reports, compendia of data and policies and other informational products that were widely used by policy makers, programme planners, experts and the general public.  Among other things, he mentioned the World Fertility Report 2003, and the CD-Rom on World Fertility and Marriage Indicators.  He also commended the special study on childlessness.  With close to 20 per cent of women aged 45-49 in several countries never having given birth, that population could no longer be treated as a statistical aberration.  He also mentioned the report on Workshop on HIV/AIDS and Adult Mortality in Developing Countries. 

    He said a demographic process which linked many countries, but which had been too often neglected, was that of international migration.  With the Division’s help, that process had begun to receive the attention it deserved, through, among other things, the Third Coordination Meeting on International Migration in October 2004 and a database entitled Trends in Total Migrant Stock:  The 2003 Revision.

    The representative of Norway encouraged the Population Division to incorporate the uncertainty about both HIV/AIDS and other mortality into the population projections, saying that such uncertainty stemmed from the fact that widely different sources and methodologies were used.  It was very difficult to obtain accurate and reliable data on HIV/AIDS and mortality in poor countries and there were problems with estimates.  The future course of mortality was also uncertain for countries without any significant level of HIV/AIDS, including the developed countries.

    Various documents before the Commission were introduced by Assistant Director of the Population Division, Larry Heligman; and Senior Population Affairs Officer, Population Division, Armindo Miranda.  Statements were also made by representatives of three United Nations regional Commissions: Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

    The Commission is expected to conclude its session tomorrow, 8 April.

    Background

    The Commission on Population and Development was expected to take up the programme implementation and future programme of work of the Secretariat in the field of population this morning.

    Introduction of Reports

    The draft programme of work of the Population Division for 2006-2007 (document E/CN.9/2005/CRP.1) was introduced by LARRY HELIGMAN, Assistant Director of the Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), who said that in the past, similar documents had been submitted to relevant specialized bodies for review and comments.  However, the Secretary-General, in his report on improvements to the current planning and budgeting process, had indicated that with the introduction of the strategic framework, intergovernmental bodies, including the Committee for Programme and Coordination, would no longer be required to review the programmatic aspects of the proposed budget.  In its resolution 58/269, the Assembly had decided that the programme narratives of the budget fascicles should be identical to the biennial programme plan.

    The programme plan for 2006-2007 had been reviewed, as appropriate, by relevant intergovernmental bodies last year and endorsed by the Assembly in its resolution 59/275 of 23 December 2004.  Accordingly, the draft programme of work for the Population Division for 2006-2007 was presented to the Commission for its information.  The outputs listed in the document would be incorporated into the Secretary-General’s proposed programme budget for the next biennium, to be approved by the Assembly at its sixtieth session.  In keeping with the work of the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs, consultations were held among relevant entities in the United Nations system on possible areas of cooperation and collaboration in the programme of work related to population and development.

    BARRY MIRKIN, Chief of the Population Policy Section, Population Division, DESA, then introduced the report of the Secretary-General on world demographic trends.  He said that at the time of preparing that document, the results of World Population Prospects:  the 2004 Revision were not yet available.  Thus, his presentation would be based on the results of that report, and the data presented would differ somewhat from what appeared in the Secretary-General’s report.

    Highlighting some of the major forces shaping world demographic trends, he said that world population now stood at 6.5 billion, with the average annual growth rate at 1.2 per cent.  The 7 billion mark was expected to be reached in 2013.  Since last year’s session of the Commission, 75 million people had been added to the world’s population.  Among other major trends, he mentioned the ageing and urbanization of the world population.  In the past year, some 14 million older persons had been added to the world population.  By 2007, half of the world’s population would be urban dwellers.  In less developed regions, the number of urban dwellers was expected to equal the number of rural dwellers by 2017.  Also, fertility levels were lower, and family size smaller.

    Family planning had increased substantively, he continued.  Short-acting and reversible methods were more popular in developed countries, whereas longer-acting methods were more popular in developing countries.  People now were living longer, with life expectation in developed countries now reaching 75 years of age and, in developing countries, at 63.  The HIV/AIDS epidemic continued to take a devastating toll, resulting in increased morbidity, mortality and population loss for the most affected countries.  Other factors in the world demographic picture included increased migration.

    Developed and developing countries diverged significantly with regard to their population concerns, he said.  High mortality, particularly among infants and children, and mortality related to HIV/AIDS was the most significant population concern for developing countries.  The most significant concern for developed countries related to low fertility and its consequences, including population ageing and the shrinking of the working-age population.  Governments were now more inclined to view population as a legitimate area of government action and act on those concerns by formulating the implementing policies to address those issues.

    In summary, he said that the current population picture was one of dynamic population change, reflected in new and diverse patterns of family formation, childbearing, mortality, ageing, urbanization and migration.  The new trends presented unique opportunities and challenges for all societies in the twenty-first century.

    ARMINDO MIRANDA, Senior Population Affairs Officer, Population Division introduced the Secretary-General’s report on programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2004 (document E/CN.9/2005/9), highlighting selected activities and products of the Population Division in major areas of its 2004 work programme.  He said the Division had issued the final version of the World Fertility Report 2003, which presented for each country a profile showing data on marriage, contraceptive use, fertility and national policies with respect to family formation and family planning.  In the area of mortality and health, a database had been developed comprising mortality data and indicators for as many countries as possible and for several time periods.

    He said the Division had also prepared the Secretary-General’s report on international migration and development for 2004.  It had organized a series of coordination meetings on international migration.  In the area of population estimates and projections, the Division played a pre-eminent role, producing official United Nations sets of comprehensive and consistent demographic data.  Regarding population policies, he highlighted the work related to the United Nations Ninth Inquiry among governments on population and development, a survey of the views and policies of governments regarding the full spectrum of population and development issues.  Eighty countries, representing about 80 per cent of the world’s population, had responded to the Inquiry.  He appealed to governments to respond promptly and accurately to those inquiries.

    In conclusion, he said that the Division’s products needed to reach users quickly.  Hard-copy publications were only one aspect of the dissemination strategy.  The Division had been an early user of the Internet for speedy dissemination, and its website was one of the most frequently accessed in the economic and social sector of the United Nations.  He estimated that one third of the users were in developing countries.

    Statements

    PETER O. WAY (United States) said the Population Division continued to produce analytical reports, compendia of data and policies and other informational products that were widely used by policymakers, programme planners, experts and the general public, noting, among other things, the World Fertility Report 2003, and the CD-Rom on World Fertility and Marriage Indicators.  He also commended the special study on childlessness.  With close to 20 per cent of women aged 45-49 in several countries never having given birth, that population could not longer be treated as a statistical aberration.  He also mentioned the report on Workshop on HIV/AIDS and Adult Mortality in Developing Countries. 

    He said a demographic process which linked many countries, but which had been too often neglected, was that of international migration.  With the Division’s help, that process had begun to receive the attention it deserved, among other things through the Third Coordination Meeting on International Migration in October 2004 and a database entitled Trends in Total Migrant Stock:  The 2003 Revision.  The 2002 revision had explicitly incorporated the effect of HIV/AIDS on mortality in 27 countries.  The Division had also examined broader impacts in their report the Impact of AIDS.  He commended the increased availability of the Division’s report and other products on the Internet, as well as on CD-ROM.

    HELGE BRUMBORG (Norway) said that there was substantial uncertainty about the estimates of HIV prevalence and mortality measures in countries severely affected by the pandemic, as widely different sources and methodologies were used.  It was very difficult to obtain accurate and reliable data on HIV/AIDS and mortality in poor countries, and there were problems with estimates.  The most common source for mortality data in developing countries was the vital statistics system, but in sub-Saharan Africa there was not a singly country that had a vital statistics system of sufficient coverage and quality.  He, therefore, supported World Health Organization’s (WHO) efforts to improve vital statistics systems.

    He said the future course of mortality was also uncertain for countries without any significant level of HIV/AIDS, including the developed countries.  Some experts talked about a future life expectancy of between 90 and 100 years due to medical advances, whereas others claimed that there would be little or no improvement in life expectancy due to epidemics, unhealthy life styles, pollution and environment degradation.  He, therefore, encouraged the Population Division to incorporate the uncertainty about both HIV/AIDS and other mortality into the population projections.  There was also very little international research on other demographic consequences of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, such as impact on the age structure and other societal changes.  He encouraged the Division and the international research community to do more on that.

    BHAKTA GUBHAJU, Officer-in-Charge, Population and Social Integration Section, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said that an issue of serious concern was population ageing.  By the year 2050, approximately one out of four people in the region would be 60 years old or older.  Migration was another important issue of concern in the ESCAP region.  Managing migration was important in the region’s efforts to alleviate poverty and improve the status of women.  During the project cycle 2004-2007, ESCAP was implementing a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)-funded project entitled “Population, Development and Poverty:  Emerging Challenges”, the overall goal of which was to contribute to more effective national and sectoral development plans that incorporated emerging population issues in ways that reduced poverty, improved reproductive health and empowered women and older persons.  It would focus on activities concerning mortality, fertility, population ageing and international migration. 

    He said that ESCAP would organize a regional seminar on international migration to improve understanding regarding the linkages of international migration with gender, development and poverty.  Specifically, the seminar would focus on three areas:  trafficking, data and human rights implications.  To better understand the interconnectedness between population variables and poverty, ESCAP was also organizing a regional training workshop to help national planners and policymakers to improve their understanding of the complex relationships between population, poverty and gender.  ESCAP was gratified by the number of requests for technical assistance received from member governments, many of which were to build capacity in the area of population and development.  The technical assistance provided was usually in the context of UNFPA country programmes and in cooperation with UNFPA Country Technical Services Teams.   

    Mr. JASPERS-FAIJER, Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Demographics Centre (CELADE), Division of Population of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), described the Commission’s main activities in the area of population and development in 2004 and focused on the plans for this year.  In connection with the tenth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), two major meetings had been held in Santiago, Chile, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Fully represented by Members of ECLAC, the second meeting adopted a unanimous resolution on the challenges in implementing the ICPD Programme of Action in the region.  To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Conference, two round tables had been held, focusing on population and poverty and HIV/AIDS.  Pursuant to the Plan of Action of the Second World Conference on Ageing (Madrid, 2002) and the outcome of a regional conference, which was held in Santiago in 2003, CELADE had helped various countries of the region in preparation of policies and programmes on older population, provided for training of staff and contributed to fostering the public debate on related issues.  Three subregional meetings had discussed how to implement a regional strategy in that regard.

    The Commission had also taken part in the analysis and dissemination of information from the 2000 census round, he said.  With assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank and UNFPA, it had been able to provide considerable technical support to several countries in the region.  The most important outcome of those activities was widened access to information for the users, in particular through the Internet.  Online databases had also made the information available to local authorities.  Access to census information would allow most countries of Latin America to update the population estimates and objectives, and the results would provide input for the revision of the 2004 World Population Prospects, recently issued by DESA.

    Among other issues of interest to the Commission, he mentioned internal migration in Latin America and the Caribbean, saying that progress had been made in updating databases on international migration patterns.  In late 2004, a meeting of experts had been held to deal with migration, regional integration and human rights.  Another meeting, to be held next June, would provide further input on related issues, including socio-demographic vulnerability, sectoral demands and child mortality.  Accumulated knowledge would be useful for CELADE’s forthcoming report on international migration, human rights and development.

    He also highlighted completion of a pilot study on socio-demographic situation of Latin America’s indigenous populations and population of African descent.  The final results would be submitted to a regional seminar to be held at the end of month in Chile.  In 2004, CELADE had begun preparing materials to sensitize decision makers on various issues related to population and development.  It was also participating in preparing an inter-agency document for the United Nations, which dealt with progress made in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

    Mr. SIBANDA of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said that the ECA secretariat had continued to work on population and development-related issues within the context of the ICPD Programme of Action, the Millennium Development Goals and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  High priority was attached to the global and regional population and development frameworks.  The ECA had held a series of ICPD +10 regional evaluation preparatory meetings, which had led to the Fifth Meeting of the Follow-up Committee on the implementation of the Dakar/Ngor Declaration and the ICPD outcome, which was held in Dakar, Senegal, in June 2004.  At that meeting, the Commission had presented a report -- produced in close collaboration with the UNFPA and the African Union -- which highlighted progress in such areas as HIV/AIDS, reproductive rights and health, gender equality, population, poverty, family, children and youth, urbanization, crisis situations and resource mobilization.  The Ministerial Declaration adopted in Dakar promised to exert maximum efforts in building on the progress achieved in the last 10 years through the Cairo and Dakar/Ngor programmes.

    The ECA continued to give priority to advocacy, awareness creation and capacity-building at the national and subregional levels in such areas as food security, population, human settlements, natural resources and environment.  In 2004, advocacy using the Population, Environment, Development and Agriculture (PEDA) model had been reinvigorated.  To promote its use by African policymakers, the model had been presented to the Africa Union and the participants of the UNFPA meeting in December 2004.  As a member of the African Population Commission, the ECA had been involved in the meetings of its secretariat and assemblies, the most recent of which had taken place in Durban, South Africa, at the beginning of this year.  The Commission had also presented research findings on population ageing -- an increasingly relevant issue for Africa -- at an international conference held in South Africa last August.

    Of particular importance to the continent was the impact of HIV/AIDS, and the Commission placed particular emphasis on that issue.  The ECA had been actively involved in developing action plans for tackling HIV/AIDS through the Commission for HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa, which had been established in 2003.  In partnership with the African Union, UNAIDS and WHO, the Commission had been monitoring the commitments in the Abuja Declaration and the Framework for Action on HIV/AIDS, Tubercolosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases.  The African Centre for Gender and Development had focused particularly on the gender aspect of HIV/AIDS, picking up the situation for orphans and women in the workplace.  Several papers had been published on those issues.

    In closing remarks, Mr. HELIGMAN expressed appreciation for the commendations of speakers on the Division’s reports and work.  He also appreciated the interventions of the Regional Commissions.  He said that last Sunday, the Division had met with the Regional Commissions to discuss the programme of work and to see how its output could be more timely and consistent.  Those annual meetings were very useful, and appreciated the suggestions on what could be done differently.

    Regarding the comments of the representative of Norway, who had mentioned confusing numbers regarding life expectancy at birth as a result of HIV/AIDS, he said a better word than “confusing” might be shocking.  Botswana had been an example how devastating the impact of HIV/AIDS was when the proportion of infected people could be one third of the population.  He also noted suggestions to include alternative assumption on mortality and migration, saying that the Division had already started to include alternative assumptions, for instance, what the impact would be if an AIDS vaccine were available. 

     * *** *