Introductory Remarks at Expert group meeting on “Population and sustainable development, in particular sustained and inclusive economic growth”

Good morning,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to this expert group meeting, organized as part of the preparations for the 55th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) in April 2022, which will focus on the theme of “Population and sustainable development, in particular sustained and inclusive economic growth”. 

The Population Division of DESA has convened this meeting to take stock of up-to-date knowledge, evidence and policy recommendations on the referenced theme. Your expert views and input will be of great value for our task of preparing the reports of the Secretary-General for the upcoming CDP session. 

We are grateful to our DESA colleagues from the divisions for Economic Analysis and Policy (EAPD) and for Social Development (DISD), and to colleagues from the UNFPA and UNCTAD, for helping us flesh out the topics to be addressed in this meeting, and subsequently in the Secretary-General’s reports. Those reports will inform the discussions among the delegations of the UN Member States during the upcoming CPD session, as well as the negotiations on a resolution on the special theme.

For those who may not be familiar with it, let me give some brief background about the CPD. The Commission on Population and Development, originally the Population Commission, was created by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in 1946. The Population Division was established at the same time to serve as Secretariat of the Population Commission. Supported by the Population Division, and in recent decades also by the UNFPA, the Commission has served as a forum for discussions on both political and technical aspects of population and development.

The Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, or ICPD, underlies and guides the work of the Commission. Soon after the ICPD, held in Cairo in 1994, the Population Commission was renamed the Commission on Population and Development, emphasizing the important linkages between population trends and development processes. Ever since, the Commission’s primary mandate has been to monitor, review and assess the implementation of the Programme of Action of the ICPD.

The special theme of the upcoming (2022) session of the Commission, “Population and sustainable development, in particular sustained and inclusive economic growth” lies at the core of population and development concerns. Indeed, the Programme of Action emphasized the importance of achieving both sustained economic growth and sustainable development. More recently, widespread rising income inequality within countries has led to a worldwide consensus on the need for inclusive economic growth, that is to say, prosperity shared broadly across the population. 
The world has experienced significant demographic and economic growth over the past 3 decades. Total population has increased from 5.3 billion in 1990 to about 7.9 billion at present. During this same period, global GDP increased by a factor of about 2.5, and as a result, the world’s per capita GDP has increased by 67% in real terms. But contrary to the aspirations of the international community, aggregate economic growth has been neither sustained or inclusive, over time or across countries and regions of the world. From 1990 and through the late 2000s, the growth of global economic output was positive but quite variable, and it dipped into negative territory during the Great Recession of 2008-2009.  Even though per capita income picked up quickly thereafter, it fell sharply again in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As for the lack of inclusivity, DESA’s World Social Report 2020 showed clear evidence that inequality has been growing for more than 70 per cent of the global population, exacerbating the risks of divisions and hampering economic and social development. And since last year, we face the challenge of preparing reports that keep the long-term trends in view, while also giving due attention to evolving evidence on the impacts of the still ongoing pandemic on the livelihoods of billions of people around the world. In this context, we need your expert analysis and advice more than ever. 

In closing, let me sincerely thank all of the experts joining us today for having accepted our invitation to participate in this meeting. I leave you now in the good hands of the Population Division to proceed with the program.

File date: 
Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Elliott Harris