In 1950, five years after the founding of the United Nations, world population was estimated at nearly 2.6 billion people. According to UN estimates, it reached 5 billion on 11 July 1987 and hit 6 billion on 12 October 1999. Now, just over 10 years later, it is approximately 7 billion.
This continuing, rapid expansion of the human footprint on what has increasingly come to seem a small planet, has serious implications for nearly all aspects of life. Issues relating to health and ageing, mass migrations and urbanization, demand for housing and inadequate food supplies, access to safe drinking water, and so much more.
Rapidly increasing population exacerbates existing problems, such as transnational crime, economic interdependency, climate change, the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and various other pandemics, and such social issues as gender equality, reproductive health, safe motherhood, human rights, emergency situations, and so much more.
The United Nations system has long been involved in addressing these complex and interrelated issues – notably, through the work of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Population Division. In addition, the UN Statistics Division produces a vast amount of reliable information relevant to this work.
The Population Division pulls together information on such issues as international migration and development, urbanization, world population prospects and policies, and marriage and fertility statistics. It services UN bodies such as the Commission on Population and Development, and supports implementation of the Programme of Action adopted by the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (IPCD) In the context of the UN Millennium Development Goals, it produces three indicators under the target of universal access to reproductive health –– namely the contraceptive prevalence rate, the adolescent birth rate and the unmet need for family planning (the latter with UNFPA).
In addition, the Population Division prepares the official United Nations demographic estimates and projections for all countries and areas of the world, helps States build capacity to formulate population policies, and enhances coordination of related UN system activities through its participation in the Committee for the Coordination of Statistical Activities.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) was established in 1973 to assume a leading role within the UN system in promoting population programmes. At the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994), its mandate was fleshed out in greater detail, to give more emphasis to the gender and human rights dimensions of population issues, and UNFPA was given the lead role in helping countries carry out the Conference’s Programme of Action.
Subsequent international agreements –– including the UN General Assembly’s five-year review of implementation of the IPCD Programme of Action (ICPD+5), the Millennium Summit (2000) and the World Summit (2005) –– linked UNFPA’s mandate with specific, time-bound goals, and gave greater emphasis to the Fund’s role in HIV prevention and poverty reduction. The three key areas of the UNFPA mandate are reproductive health, gender equality, and population and development.
World Population Day is observed annually on 11 July. It marks the date, in 1987, when the world’s population hit the 5 billion mark.
"Population trends reflect individual choices and collective actions."
–– United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)