The Division was established in the earlier years of the United Nations to serve as the Secretariat of the then Population Commission, created in 1946. Over the years, it has played an active role in the intergovernmental dialogue on population and development, producing constantly updated demographic estimates and projections for all countries, including data essential for the monitoring of the progress in achieving the MDGs and now the SDGs, developing and disseminating new methodologies, leading the substantive preparations for the United Nations major conferences on population and development as well as the annual sessions of the Commission on Population and Development.
It studies population dynamics and monitors demographic trends and policies worldwide. Population estimates and projections prepared by the Division for all countries – on fertility, mortality, international migration, urbanization, and population size and structure – are widely used by various entities.
The Division is a member of the Global Migration Group and provides programmatic support to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration and Development. It co-chairs the Population cluster of the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs (EC-ESA), together with the Population Division of ECLAC.