Next year, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted by the United Nations after the Millennium Declaration, are set to expire. As they wind down, the global development community is taking stock. While there have been great strides toward accomplishing many of the goals set forth in 2000, there has been little headway in ensuring environmental sustainability, said Melinda Kimble, senior vice president of the United Nations Foundation. Which raises the question: What should change for the next set of global development goals, which are supposed to be even more environmentally focused – the “Sustainable Development Goals?”
Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti on Opportunities for Transatlantic Cooperation on Climate Change, Energy›
“We’ve got real pressure on key natural resources: food, water, energy, and land,” says Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s special representative on climate change, in this week’s podcast. “But what we haven’t got, if I can use the words of Winston Churchill, we haven’t got ‘action this day.’”
“Morisetti spoke at the Wilson Center on June 6 for the launch of The Climate and Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities for Transatlantic Security, by CNA and the Royal United Services Institute. As climate change threatens stability in some places, energy security has emerged as a key vulnerability to Western militaries’ abilities to respond to conflict and assist in disaster relief operations, says Morisetti.
Afghanistan’s youth, including more than seven million girls currently in school, are leading the call for new leadership, but many Afghans fear the chilling effect of a resurgent Taliban, said panelists at the Wilson Center during the second half of “Afghanistan Beyond the Headlines.” As the United States prepares to withdraw its forces over the next year, a halt in the country’s progress on women’s health may be the first sign of backsliding on many of the gains made over the last decade. [Video Below]
As the United States approaches its 2014 deadline for military withdrawal from Afghanistan, one often overshadowed aspect of the conflict is the hard-won progress made by previously marginalized segments of the Afghan population, particularly women, girls, and young people.
Afghanistan has one of the highest proportions of young people in the world – many of whom have known only war. The median age of the population is 15.6 years old, the median age of marriage is 18, and half of mothers surveyed during a country-wide mortality survey had their first child when they were teenagers. [Video Below]
2012 witnessed a remarkable number and extremity of environmental conditions, from Hurricane Sandy and the U.S. drought to wildfires in Siberia and drought-driven blackouts in India. Arctic sea ice melted to its furthest extent in recent history. The energy landscape continued to change as well, from the launch of the U.S. Navy’s Great Green Fleet to the first liquefied natural gas shipments across the Arctic. As President Obama clearly stated in his second inaugural address, climate change is heightening both our risks and the need to respond, but tying together all of these issues is a highly complex endeavor.
The National Intelligence Council is trying something new for this year’s Global Trends report: keeping a blog. So far, there have been postings from analysts and contributors on everything from migration and urbanization to international banking and precision strike capabilities, but over the past week, one of the most extensive series yet went up on demography. Though youth bulge theories have often dominated population-related security discussions, 11 posts highlight the newest and least understood of all demographic conditions: advanced population aging.In parts of the world, mainly Europe and several countries in East Asia, populations are set to become “extremely mature” because of sustained declines in average fertility to very low levels and steady increases in lifespan. Demographers measure maturity by a population’s median age – the age of the person for whom precisely half of the population is younger and half older. Japan and Germany currently have the most mature populations; both are reported to have a median age slightly over 45 years. By 2030, UN Population Division and U.S. Census Bureau projections suggest that there may be between 19 and 29 countries that pass this benchmark. In Japan, the median age is projected to be 51.
If 5 out of 10 people in a country over 50 years old sounds unprecedented, that’s because it is. In this series, titled “Population Aging to 2030,” a group of political demographers, economic demographers, political scientists, and historians discuss the implications of this never-before-experienced set of age structures.
In his introductory essay, “Population Aging: A Demographic and Geographic Overview” (cross-posted here on New Security Beat), Richard Cincotta outlines the upcoming demographic trend, identifying the particulars of these novel age structures and indicating the regions that are expected to mature into economically and politically advantageous and disadvantageous demographic profiles.
In “Population Aging – More Security or Less?,” Jack Goldstone examines the effects on the U.S. military of a maturing developed world. With the United States and their traditional allies having proportionally fewer young people, will this impact limit their ability to put “boots on the ground?” Can new partnerships be developed in order to make up for this shortfall in man power?
In “China: the Problem of Premature Aging,” Richard Jackson focuses on China’s unique set of aging issues. Due to strict immigration laws and the one-child policy, China is experiencing the most rapid aging of the major powers. The favorable age structure which has enabled huge economic growth will soon shift to being a major burden on a relatively smaller working-age population, having potential political and societal consequences beyond that.
“The Sun Has Yet to Set on China” provides a different interpretation of the challenges China faces. Jennifer Dabbs Sciubba argues that although there will be changes in age structure, the problems may be overstated and the United States may still face a challenge to its status as sole global superpower.
In “Population Aging and the Welfare State in Europe,” Ronald Lee and Andrew Mason emphasize the stresses aging will exert on the extensive social welfare programs of many European states. The combination of longer life expectancy and declining fertility rates has led to a large and increasing funding gap in the welfare system, leaving questions as to the future viability of these programs.
In “Population Aging and the Future of NATO,” Mark Haas foresees that the welfare funding gap could have far-reaching international security consequences. With European governments diverting more and more resources away from military spending to fund welfare programs, the current U.S. irritation with NATO is likely to continue, as European allies “free ride” on the back of U.S. military supremacy in order to cut their defense budgets.
In “The Beginning of History: Advanced Aging and the Liberalness of Democracies,” Richard Cincotta examines the future of the liberal democratic political systems across aging countries. With increasing pressure on resources and a large disparity likely between the native born and migrant populations, it may become challenging for these states to remain liberal and democratic.
For Toshi Yoshihara, author of “The Strategic Implications of Japan’s Demographic Decline,” the aging process will pose a question of priorities for the leaders of Japan. The decreasing number of personnel available to the military, the effects of which were highlighted by the recent tsunami, will force a strategic decision between a defense force that is prepared primarily to address immediate and local security threats or one that is trained primarily for broader humanitarian interests.
“A Demographic Sketch of a Reunified Korea” provides interesting insights into the hypothetical demography of a single, unified Korea. Putting aside the two very distinct social paths that evolved during the past 60 year, Elizabeth Hervey Stephen uses demographic projections to envisage the challenges and opportunities that could arise from reunification.
David Coleman points to immigration as a possibly-mitigating force to aging in the developed world. In “The Impact of Immigration on the Populations of the Developed World and Their Ethnic Composition,” Coleman concludes that the developed world is likely to become “super diverse” by 2030. But this trend can be volatile. International migration is subject to many political and economic factors, bringing into question whether the developed world can rely on migration to supplement their native growth rates.
In “The Ethnic Future of Western Europe to 2030,” which wraps up the series, Eric Kaufmann examines the ethnic make-up of Western Europe in the coming decades. While the size of ethnic minority populations may be smaller than in the United States, the speed of growth in these minorities is likely to be much more rapid in Western Europe. This unprecedented increase in migrant populations could exacerbate ethnic social tensions, particularly in urban areas.
The broad nature of these essays suggests that advanced population aging will emerge within the context of many types of policy debates in the coming decades. While these 11 brief essays only scratch the surface of their respective areas of research, they provide a broad introduction to the politics of advanced population aging.
Jonathan Potton is a student at the University of Aberdeen and currently interning at the Stimson Center for demographer Richard Cincotta.
Sources: UN Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Richard Cincotta. Data from U.S. Census Bureau’s international database.
›Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world: 327 out of every 100,000 women who give birth die during childbirth. Despite some recent improvements, political, social, cultural, and economic factors present enormous challenges. Last month, the Center for Population and Development Activities hosted an online viewing and dialogue discussion of the PBS Independent Lens film Motherland Afghanistan, which follows Afghan-American filmmaker Sedika Mojadidi and her father, Dr. Qudrat Mojadid, as they return to their home country and visit the Laura Bush Maternity Ward in Kabul. The conditions they find are devastating and underscore not only the need for greater commitment to reproductive health services, but also the advancement of women’s and girl’s access to education, security, and political participation.
Like most health facilities in Afghanistan, Dr. Mojadid found that the ward lacks sufficient human resources and adequate health supplies. Health care workers were limited, most with out-of-date skills, and no functional training. “Most of these doctors don’t have the basic knowledge to take care of their patients. They’re so thirsty for just one word of wisdom, but there’s nobody to give them that,” he says.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) only 14 percent of births in Afghanistan are attended by a skilled healthcare worker. Qualified birth attendants ensure a continuum of care through pregnancy and birth, leading to healthier mothers and children. One strategy to address the human resource shortages in places like Afghanistan is to expand and acknowledge the skills and responsibilities of non-physician health workers through task-shifting (redistribution of tasks to persons with a baseline set of skills). Task-shifting can help lighten the load, but trained midwives are essential, as panelist Jeffrey Smith, regional technical director for Asia Jhpiego pointed out during the Wilson Center’s Advancing Dialogue to Improve Maternal Health series.
“The most important decision made early in the reconstruction [of] Afghanistan was that midwives would be the backbone of the reproductive health workforce and they would be empowered with the skills to perform the tasks necessary for provision of basic emergency obstetric care,” said Smith.
Due to population growth and existing shortfalls, the UNFPA estimates that Afghanistan needs an additional 4,000 midwives in order to attain a 95 percent skilled birth attendance by 2015. Although it is a long road to progress, the government of Afghanistan has worked with UNPFA and other international donors such as USAID to create the first National Policy and Strategy for Nursing and Midwifery Services, which provides nurses and midwives with a comprehensive education and skillset to address preventable causes of maternal deaths.
While improving the overall health system is imperative to decreasing maternal mortality rates in Afghanistan, I found it impossible to ignore the cultural and political backdrop of Motherland Aghanistan’s setting. Forced marriages, lack of education and political participation, violence, insecurity, and patriarchal cultural norms clearly play a large role.
Women for Afghan Women – a women’s rights organization based in Kabul and New York – joined the video discussion and had a strong message about the prospects for women in ongoing negotiations with insurgents. “Afghan women have been left out of any formal talks,” said Executive Director Manizha Naderi:
We are trying to get our voices heard by doing media interviews and speaking anywhere we can. We are against any form of negotiation with the Taliban because they can’t be trusted. Our position against negotiating with the Taliban does not mean we are giving in to a permanent war or that we want war. It means we look for strategies that are not destined to failure before the ink is dry on the settlement pages.Just this April, Afghan Minister of Health Suraya Dail said at the Wilson Center that “the gains we have made [in reducing maternal mortality rates] are remarkable; however, gains are fragile and donor resources are declining. Substantial investments must be maintained to safeguard these hard-wins.” The film reiterates her point.
The most important point is that the subjugation of women is not a sidebar, something that can be avoided through negotiations, it is the linchpin of Taliban strategy, having nothing to do with religion. The subjugation of half a country is the straightest path to subjugating the whole. Just forbid women from going to work or school or leaving the house without a mahram (male escort), beat them with whips or guns on the street because a square inch of ankle shows below the burkha, drag a few into the Kabul stadium, force them to their knees and shoot them in the head, and a terrorized country will submit.
Although we believe women must be at all negotiations and decision making tables, we also believe these negotiations are doomed to failure. They have not worked in the past, they will not work in the future. Let’s invest our considerable energies and experience in other solutions to the Afghan situation. Security, infrastructure, economic, and civic development are essential for Afghanistan as well as advancement of women’s and girls’ economic, educational, health, civic participation, and political rights. Funding from NATO countries is necessary to secure these goals.
Indeed, exposés like Motherland and the work of photographer Lynsey Addario, who presented at the Wilson Center last year, show the precariousness of women’s rights and development in ways that statistics and politicking sometimes mask.
Sources: MEASURE DHS, PBS, UNFPA, World Health Organization.
Video Credit: Independent Lens Motherland Afghanistan, courtesy of PBS. Feature image: “Side streets of Kabul,” courtesy of flickr user Abdurahman Warsame.
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