UNFPA commemorates World Population Day 2011

By | 12 July 2011

Pretoria – The Department of Social Development and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are hosting a National Seminar to commemorate World Population Day with the theme “Prospects for the demographic dividend in South Africa”.

World Population Day (WPD) is an annual event, commemorated on 11 July to raise awareness on the importance of population and socio-economic development.  WPD was first highlighted when the world reached five billion in 1987 and in 1999 the world passed the six billion mark.  This year, the world population is projected to reach 7 billion on 31 October.  Current world population projections point to the importance of creating opportunities for young people, who constitute the majority in many African countries, including South Africa.  The focus of this year’s event is on young people, because when young people can exercise their right to health and education, and have access to descent work, they can contribute significantly to improve the capacities of their countries to escape poverty.

During the seminar, government leaders, researchers and senior officials will present papers that reflect on different aspects of the state of our country’s youth, and prospects for their development. These papers have been posted on www.population.gov.za since 4 July 2011. On the second day of the seminar, participants engaged in group discussions on how to collaborate in a “youth population strategy”, which will support the government’s objectives on the sexual & reproductive health & rights and health of young people, their employment and education & training.

Below are key messages on World Population Day 2011:

Message by Mr. Ban Ki-moon,
United Nations Secretary-General on World Population Day 2011

This year’s World Population Day falls during a milestone year, when we anticipate the birth of the earth’s seven billionth inhabitant.  This is an opportunity to celebrate our common humanity and our diversity.  It is also a reminder of our shared responsibility to care for each other and our planet.

Reaching a global population of seven billion is a numerical landmark, but our focus should always be on people.  That is why I am pleased that the United Nations Population Fund is giving meaning to the number by launching its campaign for “7 Billion Actions” to contribute to a better world.

More than ever, individuals can make a difference by uniting together through social networks and working for change.  We have seen many examples this year of the immense power of people to embrace hope over despair, to seek fair treatment where they are suffering discrimination, and to demand justice over tyranny.

They are aspiring to attain universal rights that the United Nations proudly upholds and relentlessly works to realize.

When we act on our shared values, we contribute to our common future.  Ending poverty and inequality unleashes vast human potential.  Promoting the Millennium Development Goals fosters prosperity and peace.  And protecting our planet safeguards the natural resources that sustain us all.

Later this year, a seven billionth baby will be born into our world of complexity and contradiction.  We have enough food for everyone, yet nearly a billion go hungry.  We have the means to eradicate many diseases, yet they continue to spread.  We have the gift of a rich natural environment, yet it remains subjected to daily assault and exploitation.  All people of conscience dream of peace, yet too much of the world is in conflict and steeped in armaments.

Overcoming challenges of this magnitude will demand the best in each of us.  Let us use this World Population Day to take determined actions to create a better future for our world’s seven billionth inhabitant and for generations to come.

Message by Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin,
UNFPA Executive Director on World Population Day 2011

This year, on October 31st, world population reaches 7 billion.  This milestone represents a challenge, an opportunity and a call to action. Today on World Population Day, I am launching a campaign called 7 Billion Actions. It will engage people on what it means to live in a world with 7 billion people and encourage action on issues that affect all of us.

While poverty, inequality and increased stress on resources represent major challenges, the world is more interconnected than ever before, creating enormous possibilities. We now have unprecedented capacity to share information and ideas, and engage communities across the globe to solve common problems.

Reducing inequities and improving living standards for people alive today – as well as for generations to follow – will require new ways of thinking and unparalleled global cooperation.  The moment to act is now.

Together, we can forge the future with young people, advance rights for girls and women, and safeguard the natural resources on which we all depend.

Protecting reproductive health and rights is fundamental to our collective future and sustainable development. Together we can meet the needs of some 215 million women in developing countries who want to plan and space their births but do not have access to modern contraception. Together we can prevent the deaths of 1,000 women every day from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

When women and adolescent girls have rights and opportunities, their families, communities and nations prosper.

We have an opportunity and responsibility to invest in the world’s 1.8 billion adolescents and youth aged 10 to 24.  They constitute more than a quarter of the world’s population and almost 90 per cent live in developing countries. Every young person deserves education, including sexuality education, and access to comprehensive health services. With the right policies, investments and social support, young people can enjoy healthier lives free of poverty and enhance prospects for peace and stability.

As the most interconnected population, young people are already transforming society, politics and culture. By more actively engaging women and young people, we can build a better future for all generations.

Today on World Population Day, visit 7BillionActions.org to learn about the key issues and find out how you can join the movement. Individual actions multiplied many times over can make a world of difference. Together we are 7 billion people counting on each other.

Statement by Mr. Bryan Mark Schreiner,
UNFPA Deputy Representative / Officer-in-Charge at the National Commemoration of World Population Pretoria 

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is very excited about the theme of today’s national commemoration of World Population Day 2011- “Prospects for the demographic dividend in South Africa”, as it gives us the opportunity to review research output that has been collectively produced, and move from research to action through answering the question “What would it take / what can we do for the country to achieve full prospects of the demographic dividend?”

World Population Day is an annual event, observed on the 11th of July, which seeks to raise awareness of global and national population issues. The event was inspired by the public interest in the ‘Five Billion Day’ on July 11, 1987, approximately the date on which the world’s population reached five billion people, and was formally established in 1989.

On the 20th anniversary of Five Billion Day, July 11, 2007, the world population was estimated to have been 6,727,551,263.

Now in 2011, we will reach another milestone.  The global population is projected to reach 7 billion on 31 October 2011, according to global population prospects released by the UN Population Division. This major population milestone comes at a time when South Africa will be conducting national housing and population census, the outcome of which will define the country’s exact contribution to the 7 billion global population. We encourage every South African to get counted in October as part of the national and global population, let every person say “I am here- I count”.

The global theme for World Population Day 2011 is: “The world at 7 billion”, and this day serves as the official launch of the global 7 billion actions campaign. World Population Day is the start of a worldwide advocacy effort that will continue through 31 October.  In South Africa, UNFPA is working with partners at national and provincial levels in Limpopo, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape to highlight challenges and opportunities of living in a world of seven billion people.

In many ways, a world of seven billion people is an achievement. Globally, people are living longer and healthier lives, and couples are choosing to have fewer children. But huge inequities persist and daunting challenges lie ahead.

While many richer countries are now concerned about low fertility and ageing, the poorest nations struggle to meet the needs of rapidly growing populations. Whether we can live together on a healthy planet will depend on the choices and decisions we make now.  In a world of seven billion people, we need to count each other. The poor communities and the public at large need to be confident that they can count on those of us in public institutions and office to bring about the change that will improve their quality of lives and socio-economic status.  UNFPA’s slogan is that everyone counts.  And now, with nearly 7 billion people sharing our planet, we need to count on each other as never before.

Today’s national event reminds us to give young people their place and space in the campaign, and also recognize the benefits that would accrue to society at large if we do the needful to nurture, and support our young people to achieve their full potential. If we do not give young people their place in society, the demographic dividend will remain a “dream”, and cannot be achieved.

The national theme of this commemoration aligns with the main messages of the 7 billion actions campaign on Young People:

“The largest population of young people is changing our world and future”

Young people are energetic and open to the possibilities afforded by new technologies; they are transforming politics and culture.  Their choices will determine our common future. When young people can claim their right to health, including sexual and reproductive health, education and decent working conditions, they are a powerful force for economic transformation. Investing in young people, especially adolescent girls, is a smart investment a country can make.  With health, education and opportunities, they will be equipped to contribute fully to society. As leaders, parents and teachers of the next generation, they can help break the cycle of poverty.

UNFPA is providing support to national and provincial departments in support of young people’s health and development in South Africa. We are supporting the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) in the development of the State of the South African Youth Report, as well as the Integrated Youth Development Strategy and its Implementation Plan. UNFPA is collaborating with youth-serving organizations such as Soul City and Lovelife, in support, for example, of the Youth HCT Campaign. These and other UNFPA interventions in the areas of Gender, Reproductive Health, Population and Development are set to make a meaningful contribution to the empowerment of young people in South Africa.

We note with appreciation the level of Government commitment to the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) agenda from Ministerial level to senior officials. The prospects of the demographic dividend will only be achieved when we draw on this political will to implement programmes that bring about concrete changes in the lives of young people.  We must provide the information, including sexuality education, and services young people need to protect their sexual and reproductive health and make informed decisions – paying particular attention to the needs of adolescent girls. Design supportive policies that give young people opportunities to reach their full potential.

UNFPA calls on civil and youth-serving organizations to represent young people and amplify their voices and viewpoints so that they are heard and considered by decision-makers.  UNFPA calls upon young people to take advantage of these opportunities to educate yourself. Continue to speak out and participate in the future of your country.  We often refer to our young people as leaders of tomorrow, but in fact they are demonstrating they are leaders of today!

As we celebrate World Population Day, and commit to realizing the prospects of the demographic dividend in South Africa, let us take responsibility to invest in our adolescents and youth.  With the right policies, investments and social support, young people will enjoy healthier lives free of poverty and become a powerful force for economic development and positive change.

UN Commitment to Youth Development in South Africa
Statement by the UN resident Coordinator, Dr. Agostino Zacarias on National Commemoration of World Population Day 2011

The UN system appreciates the opportunity to participate in a seminar to discuss an important emerging issue as youth development.  Government and its partners need be constantly aware that young people are vibrant, optimistic and should be supported to take up challenges that will help them realize their full potential.

Youth development remains very central to the work of the United Nations. We are proud to have supported the Government to undertake the “Youth Risk Behaviour Study” which critically assessed the levels of risky behaviors that are common in South Africa but also made concrete recommendations on how we can put in place measures that will combat such behavior. Young people face a number of challenges that as development partners can support Government to address, important to highlight amongst these are the following:

  • Teenage pregnancy: Investing in young people, especially adolescent girls, is an important investment a country can make.  With health, education and opportunities, they will be equipped to lead generations to come. As leaders, parents and teachers of the future, they can help break the cycle of poverty. I am pleased to note the “Techno-girls” initiative by UNICEF and the Ministry of Women, which aims to attract young girls to science, technology and other professional tracks that have been traditionally male dominated.
  • Substance abuse: The UNODC is working tirelessly with departments including Social Development, Justice to respond to this challenge which can cost the country more than half of its youth population, and prevent us from realizing the prospects of the dividend if not decisively dealt with.
  • Youth unemployment: This remains a major challenge facing young people in the country; we are pleased with the work of the ILO in collaboration with the department of Public Works to mainstream youth employment into the Expanded Public Works Programme. We hope that this and similar initiatives by UNIDO in this area of work will continue to make meaningful contributions towards helping the country benefit from the dividend.
  • HIV /AIDS: The UN system through UNAIDS, WHO, UNDP, UNFPA and other agencies in the UN Joint Team on AIDS are working with SANAC, DOH on the development of the next National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS. We believe that through such processes the UN system will be able to make meaningful contributions in accelerating prevention efforts amongst the young people. We are concerned with the negative effect of the epidemic on the economically active population in general and youth in particular.

The “full prospects of the demographic dividend” which is our cause for concern today, can only be realized if all of us play our respective roles individually and as a collective to address the highlighted and other challenges facing the youth. Young people count on us to lead the way, and to provide space for them to make contributions in society.

We are approaching COP 17; I want us to challenge ourselves on youth engagement in this process.

As we commemorate 35 years since the Soweto uprising led by young people, let us remember that we would have failed to bring about sustainable development in our time, if we can’t harness the passion, energy, abilities that young people bring to the development agenda. There will actually be no development if we leave young people behind.

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