World Population Day 2019: No Sustainable Development Without Sustainable Population

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Population Matters events on three continents highlight Sustainable Development Goals

On July 11, World Population Day, campaign group Population Matters will participate in events in London, Lagos and New York, to highlight the importance of sustainable population and small families in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals. The actions will also coincide with the High Level Political Forum meeting at the United Nations to discuss progress on the goals. World Population Day falls less than a month after the latest UN population projections, of a global population of 9.7bn in 2050, and 10.9bn in 2100.

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The events will highlight the enormous obstacles posed to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by continued unsustainable population levels and growth. The locations have been chosen to represent the critical population challenges faced by the world:

  • London - the global environmental impact of growing populations in high-consuming, high-emitting nations such as the UK;
  • Lagos - the explosive population growth in sub-Saharan Africa, the principle driver of global population growth over the coming century;
  • UN HQ, New York - the need for international frameworks to ensure equitable, just and effective measures to address population and demographic challenges across the world.

In London, Population Matters will hand in a letter to the Department for International Development, calling on the UK government to include population considerations in its aid strategy and foreign relations, and to support the development of an international framework on population and demographics. The letter calls for these measures as part of a UK Sustainable Population policy, which addresses unsustainable UK population growth in the context of our high consumption and environmental impact. DfID Secretary of State Rory Stewart will attend the New York meeting on the SDGs next week.

Alistair Currie of Population Matters says:

“We recognise that the UK is already a world leader in supporting many of the critical solutions to population growth internationally: women’s empowerment, family planning, poverty eradication and education. It is also a world leader in action to address climate change. But as Rory Stewart himself has said, a coordinated approach to aid, foreign policy and trade is needed – one that puts the environment and the SDGs at the heart of UK policy. There can be no sustainable development without sustainable population, however, and we’re urging his department to recognise that and take action. Beyond that, we’re calling on the government to recognise that the UK itself has an unsustainable population, and also ‘act local’ to address that challenge too.”

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In Lagos, Population Matters is partnering with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation to co-host a round table discussion on population and sustainability in Nigeria and beyond. The public meeting will feature contributions from leading Nigerian environmental NGOs and government agencies, addressing the challenges in meeting the SDGs and opportunities nationally and internationally. It will particularly focus on the environmental Sustainable Development Goals. Nigeria is currently set to overtake the USA as the world’s third most populous nation by 2050, with a projected population of more than 700m by 2100.

Mr Joseph Onoga of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation says:

“We all understand the social and economic challenges posed by the fast growing population in Africa, and we must also recognise its negative impact on the vulnerable group of women, girls and children, our environment and biodiversity. Worldwide, biodiversity is under unprecedented pressure – we cannot ignore the role of human population growth in endangering our precious, shared natural heritage.  NCF is proud to host this event, and our goal is to raise the profile of this issue nationally, and explore how we can work with partners overseas to find solutions. “

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In New York, Population Matters will join with US organisation Having Kids, in an event outside UN HQ during the High Level Political Forum, calling on UN Secretary-General António Guterres to issue a statement supporting small families, and to examine opportunities for developing international action to address population. A letter to be sent to Mr Guterres on Wednesday, and endorsed by a number of organisations, calls on him to recognise that the protection of future generations depends on a model of family planning that puts children and their future lives at its heart.

Ashley Berke of Having Kids says:

“While world leaders are looking to reduce emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement and COP24 Conference, it's clear that we are still forgetting the most effective way to create a sustainable future - through better family planning. Child-centred family planning that includes smaller, more sustainable families is the most effective way to protect animals, kids, and the environment, and to promote human rights and democracy. That is why we are asking the Secretary-General to offer much needed leadership by making a statement in support of smaller, well-planned families.” 

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Robin Maynard of Population Matters says:

“There’s an ever-growing scientific consensus that population growth is a primary driver of climate change and biodiversity loss. The equation is simple: too many of us, taking too much (especially, but not uniquely in rich, developed countries) from a finite planet. This is a global problem, demanding global action. The Sustainable Development Goals are the mechanism through which the international community seeks to achieve a sustainable future – but unless the SDGs incorporate the goal of achieving a sustainable population, they will not succeed in that noble mission.”

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