'Population sidelined' in Millennium Goals

Posted: 28 April 2005

Population increases have been sidelined by international institutions that aim to reduce hunger and poverty, according to a report by Professor Anthony Young of the University of East Anglia.

Governments and international institutions will fail to reduce hunger and poverty, part of the UN Millennium Development Goals, as populationpressures are outstripping land resources and restricting development,says Dr Young. His report appears in the latest issue of Geographical Journal published by the Royal Geographical Society.

The paper focuses on the Millennium Development Goals agreed in 2000 and confirmed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development held inJohannesburg 2002, attended by the world's nations: to reduce hunger and poverty to half their current levels by 2015.

"There is an imbalance of attitudes" says the author of the report."Population-based organisations constantly stress the need toreduce rates of population increase. By contrast, institutions concerned with hunger, poverty and the environment, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank, and United Nations Environment Programme, and are not placing population policy at the centre of their agenda for sustainable development".

'Spare land'

Contrary to estimates by the FAO, most developing countries have no 'spare land'; that is, land not yet under agriculture but which could be cultivated on a sustainable basis, the report argues.

Professor Young, has over 40 years of experience in all aspects of land resources, and has worked in over 30 developing countries, and carried outconsultancies for the FAO and World Bank. He draws on case studies in developing countries, particularly in Africa, to show that advances made in rural development are being counteracted by the effects of population increase.

"An example is Malawi. Forty years ago its population was 3 million. It has now passed 11 million. Average farm size is less than half a hectare, soil fertility has been much reduced, and crop yields are low. There are simply no viable development options left to its Government or to the rural people themselves." This is a typical example of the future for many developing counties, unless they include measures to check population increase in their development policy.

In order for the Millennium Development Goals to succeed in the reduction of hunger and poverty, the only long-term solution, Professor Young argues, is to adopt the recommendations of the UN 1993 Cairo Conference on Population and Development. This set out ethically acceptable measures for reducing population growth: improve the education and status of women; promote reproductive health; and make family planning services available to all.

Source: The report entitled Poverty, Hunger and population policy: linking Cairo with Johannesburg appears in the April 25, 2005. issue of Geographical Journal published by Blackwells 0n behalf of the Royal Georgaphical Society and the Institute of British Geographers.

Related link: Millennium Development Goals