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SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE: CAN A CONTINUED RISE IN THE GLOBAL POPULATION BE SUSTAINED?

On October 31, as most people were out and about masquerading, a milestone was reached that undoubtedly flew beneath most of the revelers radar: The seven billionth person – this figure is an actual projection according to Gerhard Heilig, chief of the population estimates and projections section of the United Nations Population Division -  was born into the world.

This number, though, does not masquerade the fact that attached to it are very serious consequences – on an economic, environmental, and social scale.

To put this figure in some perspective, consider that it took one hundred and twenty-three years (1804-1927) for the world’s population to increase from one billion to two billion people; it has taken twelve years for the global population to increase from six billion to seven billion.

Since 1960, we have added approximately one billion people to the planet every twelve years or so. At this rate, according to U.N. estimates, the world population will be about ten billion people by the year 2050. CONTINUED IMPORTANCE OF U.N.  FUNDING

In a world with a finite amount of resources it is incumbent upon the global community of nations, acting as partners under the auspices of the U.N., to develop sustainably responsible solutions to help stabilize the exponential growth in the global population; failure to do so would be otherwise irresponsible. This is why the issue of continued U.N. funding by the United States is vital. These solutions will require substantial financial resources.

The height of irresponsibility is being carried out before the House Foreign Affairs Committee where its Chairwoman, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, threatens to cut off U.S. funding to the U.N. The congressional representative and her colleagues who support her on this issue are very misguided. Why? Because the critical matter of population control is linked to funding, as are many of the important issues before the global body. Without it, attempts to develop sustainably fall by the wayside. It is quite clear that a select few on the Hill just do not “get it”.

A burgeoning population places an enormous stress on an already fragile global economy. A significant portion of this growing population–including much of China, most of India and sub-Saharan Africa – lives on $2 a day. It is estimated that nine hundred million people are chronically hungry or undernourished. These are important facts congressional legislators fail to recognize when they consider cutting funding to the U.N.

The issue of continued U.S. funding to the U.N. is critical if the world body and its affiliate departments that are involved in mitigating the effects of population growth are to move forward with the important work it does. THE U.N. ROLE IN THE GLOBAL POPULATION CRISIS

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, writing in the October 31 edition of the International Herald Tribune, had this to say regarding the global population, “Throughout the world, young people and women have taken to the streets. They are demanding their rights and a greater voice in economic and political life…women and young people make up more than two-thirds of the global population…they are the world’s next emerging economy. We must listen to them. We must do all we can to meet their needs and create opportunities, from maternal health care to jobs.”

 The lead department charged with population and development issues is the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Its executive director, Babatunde Osotimehin, feels the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) that was held in Cairo, Egypt, has never been more relevant than it is today. The conference set forth a 20-year Programme of Action that believed that population trends were inextricably linked to reproductive health, poverty, production and consumption, and the environment.

In The State of World Population 2011 report, Mr. Osotimehin stated that in all of these issues “universal rights are paramount…the rights issue is what drives everything.”

The UNFPA focuses its attention on achieving the goals of the  ICPD as well as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target of universal reproductive health by 2015.

There have been some success stories in these areas. In  developing countries like Bangladesh, for example, the executive director of  UNFPA expressed his feeling that the role of women should be the department’s central focus and making sure that the ICPD principles are reinforced. Mr. Osotimehin reiterates the fact that maternal health care is a priority and that “…every pregnancy is wanted and that every child is born with care, and in dignity.” The country is achieving   success in meeting some of the targets of the MDGs, and they are moving forward in educating girls and empowering them to make good decisions.  In Mexico, a middle-income country as described in The State of World Population 2011  report, UNFPA is helping the Mexican Government in handling its migration issue – particularly with many people moving into the cities. The UNFPA wants to  be sure that life for these people improve, and does not decline.The U.N. department also is mindful of making sure the same services are available to young women, such as education, in order for them to continue in their personal development.  The UNFPA’s work goes a long way towards fulfilling the goals of the MDGs in areas of poverty, gender and maternal health.

In 2010 alone, the department provided and supported one hundred and twenty-three countries. However, this support requires huge financial commitments; this makes U.S. funding to the U.N. an absolute priority.

As the UNFPA Report made maternal health a priority, another U.N department does so as well- the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  With the assistance of UNDP, Eritrea is well on its way to achieving a 75% reduction in maternal mortality that would allow the country to achieve the mark set forth in MDG 5 (Maternal Health) by 2015.  UNDP is also assisting in the training of individuals as birth attendants, which helps to lower the maternal mortality rate. 

Collaborating with its fellow U.N. departments like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), UNFPA, and the Government of Eritrea, the UNDP has made a real difference in saving the lives of many women all as a direct consequence of the work of the U.N. MOVING  FORWARD

If attempts fail at curbing population growth, what type of world  will we be leaving for our children and grandchildren? Will they be afforded the same quality of life, or better, that we have become accustomed to living? If the important work done by the U.N. in many parts of the world in the areas of poulation and development cannot continue, what happens then? These are questions to important to be left unanswered by the global community.

In a 1987 report entitled “Our Common Future”produced by the World Commission on Environment and Development, it defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The present generation of policymakers and citizens alike has an obligation, albeit a responsibility, to provide for our own now; but we also have a commitment to successive generations to permit them an opportunity to  experience a world similar to ours. For if we do not, we have failed them.