UN Agency Releases Population Report

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) released a report Wednesday, Six Billion: A Time for Choices, that concludes that a slowdown in world population growth and accompanying increases in economic and social "well-being" will depend on actions taken to "increase education, promote gender equality and ensure the universal exercise of the right to health, including reproductive health."

The report, the agency's annual statement on world population, is being released in advance of the birth of the world's sixth billionth person, estimated to occur on October 12th.

The report expresses the agency's concern that continued world population growth will result in "increasing pressure on the planet due to wasteful and unbalanced consumption patterns and growing numbers of people, raising demand for food and water," adding that "the effect of global warming" could result in "possible changes such as sea level rise [and] increased storms and floods [that] could affect billions of people."

Nearly one billion young people are entering their childbearing years, according to UNFPA, a fact that will put increasing pressure on many nations, especially those in the third world.

The report also warns, "The cumulative effects of continuing poverty, gender discrimination, HIV/AIDS, environmental change and shrinking resources for development have the potential to wipe out the benefits of lower birth rates."

UNFPA concludes that the "need for universal access to quality reproductive health care is as pressing as ever," adding that "just as important is the creation of social, cultural and economic conditions in which women and men can make free and informed choices about their lives."

UNFPA executive director, Dr. Nafis Sadik, who unveiled the report in London Wednesday morning, said that the United Nations' 20 year "Programme of Action on Population," drawn up with considerable controversy in Cairo in 1994, remains two-thirds implemented but largely underfunded.

"We need $5.7 billion from the international community. We have $2 billion and $2.5 billion will have to be spent on Africa alone," Sadik said.

Sadik also said that "far too many" women in developing countries do not have access to contraception, abortion, and education, and are forced into unwanted or unhealthy reproduction.

"In developing countries reproduction is the single greatest threat to their health," said Sadik. "Women are urged by society that that is their role, but then they're not really supported."

The report finds that population growth is falling in all industrialized nations, including Europe and Japan, with the notable exception of the United States - much of which is attributable to immigration.

More to follow . . . .