'Shortsighted' World Lets Population Swell

By Alex Kirby, BBC News Online environment correspondent

The United Nations says developed countries are not paying their share of controlling world population growth.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) says much more money is also needed to care for people with HIV/Aids.

In the State of World Population Report 2001, UNFPA says the funding shortfall is already showing its effects. And it says the costs of delay will increase rapidly over time.

The report says human numbers have doubled since 1960 to 6.1 billion people, with most of the growth in poorer countries. World population will grow by 50% to a medium projection of 9.3 billion by 2050, it says.

The highest estimate is 10.9 billion people; the lowest is 7.9 billion.

UNFPA says: "The 49 least-developed countries, already straining to provide basic social services to their people, will nearly triple in size, from 668 million to 1.86 billion people."

Finding the money

The report adds: "The great questions for the 21st Century are whether the activities of the 20th Century have set us on a collision course with the environment and, if so, what can we do about it?"

With population a key influence on the environment, UNFPA says the 1994 Cairo conference on population and development linked environmental protection to individual decision-making and human rights.

"Implementing the Cairo recommendations (including better reproductive health and moves towards gender equality) will help defeat poverty and protect the environment," it says.

But little of the money needed to act on what was agreed in 1994 is forthcoming.

The report says: "Current resources for reproductive health and population programmes are well below the $17bn that Cairo agreed would be needed in 2000.

"While developing countries are providing most of their two-thirds share of needed resources, support from international donors is less than half of the $5.7bn annually called for from them.

"HIV/Aids prevention was part of the package. But considerably more funds are needed for treatment and care of the millions of people living with HIV.

"The total elimination of unmet need for family planning by 2015 is now an internationally agreed goal; this will require further resources. Reducing maternal mortality is another major challenge."

'Shortsighted view'

The report says: "The funding shortfall is already showing its effects: fertility declines have been slower than would be expected if more couples and individuals could have the family size they desire, and HIV/Aids has spread faster than expected.

"The costs of delaying action will increase rapidly over time."

The editor of the report, Alex Marshall, of UNFPA, told BBC News Online: "What we're faced with is really serious under-performance.

"Everyone agreed the Cairo recommendations were realistic, and it's disappointing to find the developed world cannot come up with its share of the resources.

"We're talking about chickenfeed, $20bn a year. You try fighting a war on that. It's shortsighted, because implementing Cairo is in every country's interests.

"Health, disease, poverty, the environment, powerlessness - they're all global, and they all interact. And everyone can see that. It doesn't need some complex calculation - it's obvious."

Researchers said last August they thought the world's population could stop growing sooner than expected, possibly peaking within the next 70 years, and then declining.

By the end of the century, they said, the number of people alive might be 8.4 billion.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1640000/1640890.stm


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