25 April 2013
Economic and Social Council
POP/1016

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on Population and Development

Forty-sixth Session

8th Meeting (AM)


Science, Technology, Innovation Support Progress towards International

 

Development Goals, Commission on Population and Development Told

 


Advances in science and technology not only improved living conditions in both developed and developing countries, but enhanced the lives of migrants and enabled progress towards internationally agreed development goals, a senior official of the Economic and Social Council told Population and Development Commission members in today’s session.


Vice-President Masood Khan ( Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Council’s President, emphasized how science, technology and innovation had impacted modern society in several key areas.  Introducing the annual ministerial review on those points, he noted that modern methods of contraception, made possible by scientific and technological innovations, had supported effective fertility management and had improved the health of mothers and children.


He also spotlighted how advancements in communication and transportation technologies had facilitated migration by assisting migrants to maintain ties with their countries of origin and reach their countries of destination more easily.  Applying scientific knowledge and technical innovations, along with appropriate social and economic policies, was critical to continued progress towards the objectives of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (the Cairo Programme of Action), the Millennium Development Goals, and other internationally agreed development goals.


Jorge Bravo, Chief of the Population and Development Section of the DESA-Population Division, added that such technological advances had also improved entry and exit data on migrants, and had help facilitate money transfers between diaspora communities and their countries of origin.  In addition, new technologies, such as global positioning systems, were improving data on land cover and land use and helping to assess the growth of human settlements in low-lying coastal zones, large cities and forests.


With 240 million people living in Indonesia, that country’s representative noted his Government’s initiatives to engage new communications technologies that connected its population across the archipelago.  More so, a national electronic population database was being established with statistics on age, religion and sex that would assist policymakers on how best to serve the population.  However, he also warned of technology’s constraints in helping to build sustainable development, such as the varying capacities individuals had in using it. 


On the second topic of the day’s meeting, programme implementation and future programme of work of the Secretariat in the field of population, Helge Brunborg, Senior Researcher, Statistics, of Norway, stressed the importance of methodologies used for data collection.  Noting the Population Division’s virtual “monopoly on global population projections”, he questioned how well the stochastic projections with confidence intervals introduced into its World Population Prospects were understood by users.


Commenting on the need for data on migration uncertainty, he inquired how the Division had made its country-specific migration projections, as there was a significant discrepancy between the Division’s projections for Norway and that country’s own projections.


Closing the meeting, Barney Cohen, Chief of the Population Studies Branch, DESA-Population Division, addressing speakers’ concerns, said that during the 2014-2015 biennium, there would be greater outreach to users on new data approaches.  As for data on migration, he underscored that “migration is the black sheep of demography” because it was the demographic variable that responded most quickly to changes in the world.


Also speaking on the second topic of the day was a representative of the United States.


A representative of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) spoke as well.


The Council on Population and Development will next meet on Friday, 26 April, at 3:00 p.m. to conclude its session.


Background


The Commission on Population and Development met today to take up the issue of programme implementation and future programme of work of the Secretariat in the field of population, for which it would consider a report by the Secretary-General on programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2012 (document E/CN.9/2013/6) detailing the activities of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) in 2012, as well as a draft programme of the Division’s work for the biennium 2014-2015 (document E/CN.9/2013/CRP.1).


It would also hold a general debate on the theme of the annual ministerial review in 2013, “science, technology and innovation, and the potential of culture for promoting sustainable development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals”.


Opening Remarks and Statements


MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, speaking on behalf of Council President Néstor Osorio (Colombia), identified three main aspects in the ongoing process of strengthening the Council, namely:  sharpening the focus on key thematic areas and benefitting from the knowledge and expertise of the specialized bodies in the system; reviewing the work of functional commissions to achieve closer integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development, as prescribed in the International Conference on Sustainable Development; and improving dialogue and cooperation between United Nations organs.


Turning to the theme of the annual ministerial review, he stressed that scientific and technological innovations were essential to modern societies.  Historically, such advances had improved living conditions in both developed and developing countries.  New technologies and innovations had expanded access to health services and diagnostic tests; improved hygiene and public health; and dramatically reduced mortality.  Between 1970 and the present, life expectancy at birth had increased from 55 to 67 years in developing countries, and from 71 to 78 years in more developed regions.


He went on to say that modern methods of contraception, made possible by the scientific and technological innovations of the twentieth century, had enabled more efficient regulation of fertility and helped to improve the health of mothers and children.  The increased use of modern contraceptive methods had reduced global fertility from four and a half children per woman in 1970 to two and a half children per woman in current times.


In addition, he said, innovations reducing the time and costliness of air, land and sea transportation, along with advances in communication technologies, had greatly facilitated both internal and international migration, as well as the ability of migrants to contact their countries of origin.  Thus, applying scientific knowledge and technical innovations, along with appropriate social and economic policies, was critical to continued progress towards the objectives of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (the Cairo Programme of Action), the Millennium Development Goals, and other internationally agreed development goals.


JORGE BRAVO, Chief of the Population and Development Section of the DESA-Population Division, said that in the Cairo Programme of Action, science, technology and innovation were addressed in several topic areas, with a call for strengthened data collection, harnessing biomedical and social research on reproductive health and more research to improve understanding on the causes and consequences of migration and mobility.


He said that, in regards to fertility issues, demand for contraceptive methods remained high around the world.  However, there was significant discontinuation or non-use of contraception for various reasons.  In response, a new wave of research was under way to develop methods that could not only be more private and user-controlled, but also protect against both unwanted pregnancies and HIV.  As well, new research was under way to assist couples who needed help having children.


In the area of mortality, he described “e-Health” and “m-Health” innovations, which included monitoring equipment with integrated connectivity and new technologies for mobile devices to help extend the geographic coverage of health services.  On migration, he pointed out that advancements in technological tools had improved the registration of migrants’ entry and exit, and had provided better overall data collection.  Those tools had also connected diaspora communities with their countries of origin, and were facilitating easier financial transactions.  In that regard, he cited the example of “mobile money”, a cheap and simple way to transfer capital.


Turning to the field of demography, he noted that innovations in census data collection had improved dramatically in recent decades, adding that those improvements had also allowed for much better information on both internal and international migration.  In addition, important progress had been made in the area of urban growth and human settlements.  New data on land cover and land use was being collected through global positioning system (GPS) technologies, helping, in particular, to assess the growth of human settlements in low-lying coastal zones, large cities and forests.


He also noted that scientific research was under way in the area of ageing and intergenerational transfers.  More complete data on the human lifecycle had an impact on the planning of pensions and other forms of support in old age.  Lastly, he said, technological innovations had improved population projections, and new “stochastic” models of fertility and mortality now allowed for “probabilistic” projections.


SUDIBYO ALIMOESO (Indonesia) said that it was urgent to reverse and respond to the challenges facing the developing world.  The theme of the annual ministerial review offered a real opportunity to improve the quality of life for people.  In Indonesia, population dynamics had a strong impact on economic development.  The Government was establishing an electronic population database with statistics on age, religion and sex.  Such information would assist policymakers on how best to serve the population.


As an archipelagic country of 240 million people, he continued, technology was also being used to electronically link people across islands.  Areas, among others, that would benefit from modern technology were education, trade and health care.  However, he warned of constraints on the use of modern technology, such as varying levels of individual capacities to use it, which must be taken into account in development planning.


Introduction of Reports


BARNEY COHEN, Chief of the Population Studies Branch, DESA-Population Division, then introduced two documents before the Commission.


The first was a report of the Secretary-General entitled, “programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2012:  Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs” (document E/CN.9/2013/6), which described activities of the Division in six thematic areas:  fertility and family planning; mortality; migration; population estimates and projections; population and development; and population policies.


The second was the draft programme of work of the Population Division for the biennium 2014-2015 (document E/CN.9/2013/CRP.1), which contained objectives, expected accomplishments and indicators for the population sub-programme, as well as a list of proposed outputs.


Statements


HELGE BRUNBORG, Senior Researcher, Statistics, of Norway, said that the DESA-Population Division had a virtual “monopoly on global population projections”.  Its World Population Prospects, which were used all over the world, underlined the importance of engaging sound methodology.  He welcomed the addition of stochastic projections with confidence intervals, but wondered how well they were understood by users.


Further, he went on to say, it would be useful to have data on migration uncertainty, although that might entail such large confidence intervals that they would cease to have meaning.  As well, he was interested in how the migration projections for each country had been made, as the ones on Norway differed significantly from his country’s own statistics.  Norway’s approach to modelling migration flows focused more on gross migration flows than net migration, which, he believed gave a more realistic picture of the migration process.


THOMAS M. MCDEVITT, Chief of the Population Studies Branch, International Programs Center for Demographic and Economic Studies, Population Division of the United States Census Bureau, praised the Economic and Social Affairs Population Division for its “crucial” and “policy-neutral” role.  Among its many achievements, the Division had produced a new estimate of international migrants’ stocks and flows, and had prepared a background paper on the potential for international migration and poverty reduction.


In the area of population projections, he said, the Division’s document on probabilistic projections emphasized the fact that projected changes in size, distribution and composition of national and regional populations in the 2012 revision and beyond would be more data-driven, less subject to analysts’ judgment and arguably better able to inform the Commission’s discussions.  A number of particular developments included its model-based estimated in the area of fertility and family planning.


As well, he said, there had been “impressive work” on mortality trends by cause.  Two other particular elements of the Division were also to be commended, including the emphasis placed on the dissemination of its work, and the effort made to leverage United Nations funds through interagency cooperation.  Concluding, he thanked the Division for its work in preparing for the current session of the Commission, whose speakers had provided a unique perspective.


DIRK JASPERS-FAIJER, Director, Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Centre of the Population Division, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said that his Centre had worked with several partners in the region on a number of recent developments.  The most important event had been organizing the special meeting of the Commission in Quito, Ecuador, with the broad participation of civil society and others.  The new regional conference would hold its meetings every two years, he noted; the first, to be held in Montevideo, Uruguay, in August, would aim to review the implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action in the region throughout the last 20 years, and to identify areas to follow up on it beyond 2014.  


Regarding the “ Cairo+20” process and the related global survey and follow-up beyond 2014, he noted a regional report based on that survey.  In July 2013, Costa Rica would hold a meeting on the San Jose Charter on the Rights of Older Persons.  Historically, the Centre had made contributions to human rights training; in 2012, those activities were strengthened and focused on census analysis, with workshops and trainings held on various subjects and in various countries.


Further, he said, the Centre had always sought close relationships with other United Nations bodies, such as the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  Finally, he pointed to preparations for the High-level Dialogue of the General Assembly on Population and Development, to be held in October.


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For information media • not an official record