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Actions should be taken to solve the problem of the increasing number of population

The promotion of development and improvement of quality of life require co-ordination of action in all major socio-economic fields including that of population, which is the inexhaustible source of creativity and a determining factor of progress.

At the international level a number of strategies and programmes whose explicit aim is to affect variables in fields other than population have already been formulated. The explicit aim of the World Population Plan of Action is to help co-ordinate population trends and the trends of economic and social development. The basis for an effective solution of population problems is, above all, socio-economic transformation.

Population and environment: a global challenge

A population policy may have a certain success if it constitutes an integral part of socio-economic development; its contribution to the solution of world development problems is hence only partial, as is the case with the other sectoral strategies. Consequently, the Plan of Action must be considered as an important component of the system of international strategies and as an instrument of the international community for the promotion of economic development, quality of life, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The formulation of international strategies is a response to universal recognition of the existence of important problems in the world and the need for concerted national and international action to achieve their solution. Where trends of population growth, distribution and structure are out of balance with social, economic and environmental factors, they can at certain stages of development, create additional difficulties for the achievement of sustained development.

Policies whose aim is to affect population trends must not be considered substitutes for socio-economic development policies but as being integrated with those policies in order to facilitate the solution of certain problems facing both developing and developed countries and to promote a more balanced and rational development. Throughout history the rate of growth of world population averaged only slightly above replacement levels.

The recent increase in the growth rate began mainly as a result of the decline in mortality during the past few centuries, a decline that has accelerated significantly during recent decades. The inertia of social structures and the insufficiency of economic progress, especially when these exist in the absence of profound socio-cultural changes, partly explain why in the majority of developing countries the decline in mortality has not been accompanied by a parallel decline in fertility.

Since about 1950, the world population growth rate has risen to 2 per cent a year. If sustained, this will result in a doubling of the worlds population every 35 years.

However, national rates of natural growth range widely, from a negative rate to well over 3 per cent a year. The consideration of population problems cannot be reduced to the analysis of population trends only. It must also be borne in mind that the present situation of the developing countries originates in the unequal processes of socio-economic development which have divided peoples since the beginning of the modern era.

This inequity still exists and is intensified by lack of equity in international economic relations with consequent disparity in levels of living. Although acceleration in the rate of growth of the world's population is mainly the result of very large declines in the mortality of developing countries, those declines have been unevenly distributed.

Policies to Address Population Growth Nationally and Globally

Thus, at present, average expectation of life at birth is 63 years in Latin America, 57 years in Asia and only a little over 46 years in Africa, compared with more than 71 years in the developed regions. Furthermore, although on average less than one in 40 children dies before reaching the age of 1 year in the developed regions, 1 in 15 dies before reaching that age in Latin America, 1 in 10 in Asia and 1 in 7 in Africa.

In fact, in some developing regions, and particularly in African countries, average expectation of life at birth is actions should be taken to solve the problem of the increasing number of population to be less than 40 years and 1 in 4 children dies before the age of 1 year. Consequently, many developing countries consider reduction of mortality, and particularly reduction of infant mortality, to be one of the most important and urgent goals. While the right of couples to have the number of children they desire is accepted in a number of international instruments, many couples in the world are unable to exercise that right effectively.

In many parts of the world, poor economic conditions, social norms, inadequate knowledge of effective methods of family regulation and the unavailability of contraceptive services result in a situation in which couples have more children than they desire or feel they can properly care for. In certain countries, on the other hand, because of economic or biological factors, problems of involuntary sterility and of subfecundity exist, with the result that many couples have fewer children than they desire.

Of course, the degree of urgency attached to dealing with each of these two situations depends upon the prevailing conditions within the country in question. Individual reproductive behaviour and the needs and aspirations of society should be reconciled. In many developing countries, and particularly in the large countries of Asia, the desire of couples to achieve large families is believed to result in excessive national population growth rates and Governments are explicitly attempting to reduce those rates by implementing specific policy measures.

On the other hand, some countries are attempting to increase desired family size, if only slightly. Throughout the world, urban populations are growing in size at a considerably faster rate than rural populations. As a result, by the end of this century, and for the first time in history, the majority of the word's population will be living in urban areas.

Urbanization is an element of the process of modernization. Moreover, while in certain countries this process is efficiently managed and maximum use is made of the advantages this management presents, in others urbanization takes place in an uncontrolled manner and is accompanied by overcrowding in certain districts, an increase in slums, deterioration of the environment, urban unemployment and many other social and economic problems.

In most of the developing countries, although the rate of urban population growth is higher than the growth rate in rural areas, the latter is still significant. The rural population of developing countries is growing at an average rate of 1.

Furthermore, many rural areas of heavy emigration, in both developed and developing countries, are being depleted of their younger populations and are being left with populations whose age distribution is unfavourable to economic development.

World Population Plan of Action

Thus, in many countries, the revitalization of the countryside is a priority goal. For some countries international migration may be, in certain circumstances, an instrument of population policy.

At least two types of international migration are of considerable concern to many countries in the world: Movements of the former often involve large numbers and raise such questions as the fair and proper treatment in countries of immigration, the breaking up of families and other social and economic questions in countries both of emigration and immigration. The migration of skilled workers and professionals results in a "brain drain", often from less-developed to more-developed countries, which is at present of considerable concern to many countries and to the international community as a whole.

The number of instruments on these subjects and the increased involvement of international organizations reflect international awareness of these problems. A population's age structure is greatly affected by its birth rates. For example, declining fertility is the main factor underlying the declining proportion of children in a population. Thus, according to the medium projections of the United Nations, the population of less than 15 years of age in the developing countries is expected to decline from an average of more than 41 per cent of total population in 1970 to an average of about 35 per cent in 2000.

However, such a decline in the proportion of children trill be accompanied by an increase in their numbers at an average of 1.

The Population Explosion: Causes and Consequences

With regard to the population 15 to 29 years of are, an increase in both their proportion and number is expected in the developing countries. Consequently, unless very high rates of economic development are attained in many of these countries, and particularly where levels of unemployment and underemployment are already high, the additional difficulties will not be overcome at least until the end of this century.

Furthermore, in both developed and developing countries, the greatly changing social and economic conditions faced by youth require a better understanding of the problems involved and the formulation and implementation of policies to resolve them.

Declining birth rates also result in a gradual aging of the population. Because birth rates have already declined in developed countries, the average proportion of the population aged 65 years and over in these countries makes up 10 per cent of the total population, whereas it makes up only 3 per cent in developing countries. However, aging of the population in developing countries has recently begun, and is expected to accelerate.

Thus, although the total population of these countries is projected to increase by an average of 2. Not only are the numbers and proportions of the aged increasing rapidly but the social and economic conditions which face them are also rapidly changing.

Solving our population problems

There is an urgent need, in those countries where such programmes are lacking, for the development of social security and health programmes for the elderly. Because of the relatively high proportions of children and youth in the populations of developing countries, declines in fertility levels in those countries will not be fully reflected in declines in population growth rates until some decades later.

To illustrate this demographic inertia, it may be noted that, for developing countries, even if replacement levels of fertility approximately two children per completed family - had been achieved in 1970 and maintained thereafter, their total population would still grow from a 1970 total of 2. In these circumstances, the population of the world as a whole would grow from 3.

This example of demographic inertia, which will lead to a growing population for many decades to come, demonstrates that whatever population policies may be formulated, socio-economic development must accelerate in order to provide for a significant increase in levels of living. Efforts made by developing countries to speed up economic growth must be viewed by the entire international community as a global endeavour to improve the quality of life for all people of the world, supported by a just utilization of the world's wealth, resources and technology in the spirit of the new international economic order.

  1. There is an urgent need, in those countries where such programmes are lacking, for the development of social security and health programmes for the elderly.
  2. Recognizing that per capita use of world resources is much higher in the developed than in the developing countries, the developed countries are urged to adopt appropriate policies in population, consumption and investment, bearing in mind the need for fundamental improvement in international equity.
  3. The formulation of international strategies is a response to universal recognition of the existence of important problems in the world and the need for concerted national and international action to achieve their solution.
  4. Governments should bear in mind humanitarian considerations in the treatment of aliens who remain in a country illegally.
  5. Such research is best carried out in the countries and regions themselves and by competent persons especially acquainted with national and regional conditions.

It also demonstrates that countries wishing to affect their population growth must anticipate future demographic trends and take appropriate decisions and actions in their plans for economic and social development well in advance. This Plan of Action is based on a number of principles which underlie its objectives and are observed in its formulation. The formulation and implementation of population policies is the sovereign right of each nation.

This right is to be exercised in accordance with national objectives and needs and without external interference, taking into account universal solidarity in order to improve the Quality of life of the peoples of the world.

The main responsibility for national population policies and programmes lies with national authorities. However, international co-operation should play an important role in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. The Plan of Action is based on the following principles: Of all things in the world, people are the most precious.

Man's knowledge and ability to master himself and his environment will continue to grow. Mankind's future can be made infinitely bright; b True development cannot take place in the absence of national independence and liberation.

Alien and colonial domination, foreign occupation, wars of aggression, racial discrimination, apartheid and neo-colonialism in all its forms continue to be among the greatest obstacles to the full emancipation and progress of the developing countries and all the people involved. Co-operation among nations on the basis of national sovereignty is essential for development. Development also requires recognition of the dignity of the individual, appreciation for the human person and his self-determination, as well as the elimination of discrimination in all its forms; c Population and development are interrelated: In addition, the necessary measures should be taken to facilitate this integration with family responsibilities which should be fully shared by both partners; i Recommendations in this Plan of Action regarding policies to deal with population problems must recognize the diversity of conditions within and among different countries; j In the democratic formulation of national population goals and policies, consideration must be given, together with other economic and social factors, to the supplies and characteristics of natural resources and to the quality of the environment and particularly to all aspects of food supply including productivity of rural areas.

The demand for vital resources increases not only with growing population but also with growing per capita consumption; attention must be directed to the just distribution of resources and to the actions should be taken to solve the problem of the increasing number of population of wasteful aspects of their use throughout the world; k The growing interdependence among nations makes international action increasingly important to the solution of development and population problems.

International strategies will achieve their objective only if they ensure that the underprivileged of the world achieve, urgently, through structural, social and economic reforms, a significant improvement in their living conditions; l This Plan of Action must be sufficiently flexible to take into account the consequences of rapid demographic changes, societal changes and changes in human behaviour, attitudes and values; m The objectives of this Plan of Action should be consistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with the objectives of the Second United Nations development Decade; however, changes in demographic variables during the Decade are largely the result of past demographic events and changes in demographic trends sought during the Decade have social and economic repercussions up to and beyond the end of this century.

Guided by these principles, the primary aim of this Plan of Action is to expand and deepen the capacities of countries to deal effectively with their national and subnational population problems and to promote an appropriate international response to their needs by increasing international activity in research, the exchange of information, and the provision of assistance on request.

In pursuit of this primary aim, the following general objectives are set for this Plan of Action: Population goals and policies a Population growth 16. According to the United Nations medium population projections, little change is expected to occur in average rates of population growth either in the developed or in the developing regions by 1985.

According to the United Nations low variant projections, it is estimated that, as a result of social and economic development and population policies as reported by countries in the Second United Nations Inquiry on Population and Development, population growth rates in the developing countries as a whole may decline from the present level of 2. In this case the world-wide rate of population growth would decline from 2 actions should be taken to solve the problem of the increasing number of population cent to about 1.

Countries which consider that their present or expected rates of population growth hamper their goals of promoting human welfare are invited, if they have not yet done so, to consider adopting population policies, within the framework of socio-economic development, which are consistent with basic human rights and national goals and values.

Countries which aim at achieving moderate or low population growth should try to achieve it through a low level of birth and death rates.

Causes and effects of population decline

Countries wishing to increase their rate of population growth should, when mortality is high, concentrate efforts on the reduction of mortality, and where appropriate, encourage an increase in fertility and encourage immigration.

Recognizing that per capita use of world resources is much higher in the developed than in the developing countries, the developed countries are urged to adopt appropriate policies in population, consumption and investment, bearing in mind the need for fundamental improvement in international equity. The reduction of morbidity and mortality to the maximum feasible extent is a major goal of every human society.

It should be achieved in conjunction with massive social and economic development. Where mortality and morbidity rates are very high, concentrated national and international efforts should be applied to reduce them as a matter of highest priority in the context of societal change.

The short-term effect of mortality reduction on population growth rates is symptomatic of the early development process and must be viewed as beneficial. Sustained reductions in fertility have generally been preceded by reductions in mortality.

Although this relationship is complex, mortality reduction may be a prerequisite to a decline in fertility. It is a goal of this Plan of Action to reduce mortality levels, particularly infant and maternal mortality levels, to the maximum extent possible in all regions of the world and to reduce national and sub national differentials therein.

The attainment of an average expectation of life of 62 years by 1985 and 74 years by the year 2000 for the world as a whole would require by the end of the century an increase of 11 years for Latin America, 17 years for Asia and 28 years for Africa.

Countries with the highest mortality levels should aim by 1985 to have an expectation of life at birth of at least 50 years and an infant mortality rate of less than 120 per thousand live births. It is recommended that national and international efforts to reduce general morbidity and mortality levels be accompanied by particularly vigorous efforts to achieve the following goals: It is recommended that health and nutrition programmes designed to reduce morbidity and mortality be integrated within a comprehensive development strategy and supplemented by a wide range of mutually supporting social policy measures; special attention should be given to improving the management of existing health, nutrition and related social services and to the formulation of policies to widen their coverage so as to reach, in particular, rural, remote and underprivileged groups.

Each country has its own experience in preventing and treating diseases.