Population Prospect and Sustainable Development

Press Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

Vice Minister Mr. CHEN Li,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen, 

I am very pleased to join you for this timely event.

Population is a cross-cutting issue.

All the major challenges on the agenda of Rio+20 are in one way or another linked to demographic dynamics – whether it is food security, energy, water, urbanization, biodiversity, oceans, disaster preparedness… or other cross-cutting issues like education or empowerment of youth and women.

These multiple linkages make it critical that policymakers have the right data on population – birth, mortality, fertility, aging, migration, life expectancy, age distribution, geographical distribution, density, and others.

Today, we will introduce a new innovative tool – population projection software – which was developed by prominent Chinese experts. I am delighted to learn that this software can be adapted for broad application to situations in developing countries.

On behalf of the United Nations, I extend my warm congratulations to the developers for creating this much needed, demographic tool.

Why is this software so necessary? And why now? Let me share my perspectives as a policymaker.

Foremost, we are all aware that unprecedented demographic changes are reshaping the world.

After relatively slow growth for most of human history, the world’s population has more than doubled in the last half-century. In 1999, there were 6 billion people on the planet. As of last year, that number climbed to 7 billion. By 2025, the world’s population is projected to reach roughly 8 billion.

In addition to this rapid population growth, substantial changes are occurring or will soon occur in other specific areas of demography: migration, urbanization, population aging, and shifts in geographic distribution.

Furthermore, there will be great variations in how these trends manifest, within and across nations.

The sum total equals a profound impact on the social and economic development of all countries.

These changes in turn, will have far-reaching implications for jobs, poverty, eradication, public heath, gender equality, food and energy security, natural resource use, and vulnerability to disasters, among others.

The challenges these changes create will remain undiminished in the foreseeable future.

Indeed, when the former director of the Population Division in my Department complained that there is no special chapter on population in the compilation document for Rio+20, I disagreed. 

All the priority issues reviewed during the preparatory process are linked to population dynamics.

Having the right data can help policymakers to prepare to meet these inter-linked challenges.

Reliable assessments of population growth and good demographic data can assist us in designing and implementing appropriate population policies and responses.

We need reliable data and scientifically derived estimates and projections to plan and provide access to a range of essential services, including child care, schools, hospitals, safe drinking water, among others. Such data are also needed for housing, infrastructure building, and job creation.

Yet today, many developing countries lack the valuable resources and capacity needed to undertake population projections, especially at sub-national levels.

The development and availability of population projection tools that are both scientifically sound and widely applicable to developing countries are urgently needed.   

Countries armed with this information can plan national development strategies on the basis of accurate demographic evidence.

With that in mind, let me introduce a web-based software programme for population projection, called PADIS-INT.

PADIS-INT was developed by the China Population and Development Research Centre after in-depth research and careful studies.

This program benefited from the methodological expertise of the Population Division in my department.

PADIS-INT is an innovative and flexible tool that combines the application of population projection techniques with new internet technologies.

It can help bridge the capacity-gap facing many developing countries and regions.

By enabling developing countries to undertake and improve population projections, this software effectively assists governments formulate social and economic development plans and design population policies.

The current version can simultaneously conduct sub-national projections for more than 50 units/scenarios at once…a substantial improvement over last year’s version.

Many countries are already benefitting from this tool.

Kenya is currently using the PADIS-INT software to undertake population projections for its provinces. From my understanding, PADIS-INT will provide solid demographic data to help the government formulate development plans at all levels.

Additionally, scholars from India and Brazil have shown a great interest, and are considering using the PADIS-INT programme.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The United Nations expresses its deep appreciation to the China Population and Development Research Centre for developing and sharing this population projection software.

We believe that the PADIS-INT will be an important new tool for many countries… helping them implement the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, and meet the international agreed development goals, including the MDGs.

I look forward to hearing about the many successes of PADIS-INT.

Thank you.