Greetings from Rio de Janeiro! I will be blogging from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development
throughout the week, tracking the inclusion of reproductive health and rights in the agenda.
Population dynamics have significant influence on sustainable development but the two have not always been seen as connected.
This year’s conference is the follow-on to the original UN Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992 (thus Rio+20). The resulting documents from that conference – Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Statement of Principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests – were adopted by more than 178 governments and have done much to set the sustainable development agenda over the last two decades. Population dynamics were largely left off the table and instead were taken on separately, and in parallel, at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994.
This year, watchers from across the spectrum are eager to see these two issues talked about in a more integrated fashion. The official proceedings don’t start until the 20th, but side events have already begun.
At the first of Population Action International’s side events, appropriately named “From Rio to Cairo to Rio…and Beyond,” Eliya Zulu, executive director of the African Institute for Development Policy, said that virtually all development policies in sub-Saharan Africa cite population growth as an inhibitor to sustainable development and efforts to alleviate poverty, ensure food security, and preserve the environment. Furthermore, climate change is increasingly seen as a major threat to sustainable development in Africa. Policymakers in the region recognize the linkages between population, climate change, and sustainable development; however, little integration of these issues – operationally or conceptually – has been achieved.
Michael Herman, a technical adviser on population and economic development at the United Nations Population Fund, reminded audience members that demographic projections, like those predicting 10 billion by mid-century, are not destiny: population growth or decline is affected by policies, which should include human rights-based access to voluntary family planning.
Doris Mpoumou, an international policy officer at International Planned Parenthood Federation’s Western Hemisphere Regional Office, concluded the event by describing efforts to ensure that the Rio+20 outcome document being negotiated recognizes several key points. First, that population dynamics influence production and consumption rates; second, that population dynamics are relevant to the management of resources and sustainable development planning; and third, that population dynamics should be carefully integrated into development strategies and environmental planning with a focus on human rights.
Stay tuned here for more updates from Rio+20 and follow us on Twitter. I’ll be at every population-environment event I can get to and will also be visiting a favela with IPPF to see first-hand the ways Brazilians cope with the challenges of sustainable development.
Photo Credit: View of Rio de Janeiro from a mountain in Tijuca National Forest, courtesy of Michos Tzovaras/UN Photo.