Volume 18, No.04 - April 2014

Feature articles

Assessing progress for populations worldwide

When the Commission on Population and Development gathers on 7-11 April, it will be only a few months away from the 20-year anniversary of the largest intergovernmental conference on population and development ever held – the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994. Ahead of this event, John Wilmoth, Director of UN DESA’s Population Division, spoke with DESA News about some of the demographic trends during the past 20 years and some of the issues currently at stake.

“One of the most important areas of progress goes to the heart of what the Cairo conference was all about,” said Mr. Wilmoth, highlighting how this conference represented a shift in thinking. “Across the board, the emphasis went toward thinking about individuals and their rights and needs, and addressing those issues first and foremost,” he explained. He also pointed to positive changes that can be seen over the past 20 years including a substantial reduction of fertility around the world, increases in life expectancy as well as greater recognition of the contribution of international migration to development.

“The emphasis went toward thinking about individuals and their rights and needs, and addressing those issues first and foremost”

The conference in Cairo helped galvanize action that brought major improvements in the well-being of people around the world. When representatives and experts from a large number of UN Member States and NGOs gather in New York for the 47th session of the Commission on Population and Development, they will assess the status of implementation of the Programme of Action, adopted by 179 governments in 1994.

“There is still an unfinished agenda of the Cairo conference,” Mr. Wilmoth said, pointing to the need to continue to improve life expectancy, reduce fertility, enhance access to education, and achieve gender equality. “It means continuing to work on fulfilling the rights and needs of individuals across the life course,” Mr. Wilmoth added.

The Commission will also be an important preparatory event for the special session of the General Assembly, which will take place on 22 September 2014 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Cairo conference.

Population growth and diversity

In 2011, the world’s population surpassed 7 billion and it is expected to reach 8.1 billion in 2025 and 9.6 billion in 2050. Between 2010 and 2014, the world’s population grew at a rate of 1.2 per cent per annum, below the 1.5 per cent per annum around the time of the ICPD in 1994.

Considerable diversity exists in the expected future course of population change, driven mainly by differences in fertility levels. At one end of the spectrum are countries characterized by high fertility and rapid population growth, and at the other end are countries where fertility has fallen below the replacement level, resulting in rapid population ageing and, in some cases, population decline.

For example, the combined population of the 49 least developed countries is projected to double by 2050, whereas in more than 40 other countries – many of them in Eastern Europe, East, South-East and Western Asia, other parts of Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean – the size of the population is expected to decline in the coming decades.

Need to close gaps

Policies designed to increase the availability of safe and effective contraceptives and accessibility to family planning programmes and reproductive health care have been instrumental in reducing fertility. In 2013, more than 90 per cent of governments provided either direct or indirect support for family planning programmes. Furthermore, life expectancy worldwide has increased since ICPD, rising from 65 years in the period 1990-1995 to 70 years in the period 2010-2015.

Despite these advances, most countries will not achieve the ICPD Programme of Action target for life expectancy of 75 years (70 years for the countries with the highest mortality levels) by the target date of 2015. Worldwide, women live 4.5 years longer than men, a gap that has remained virtually unchanged since 1994. Similarly, the world as a whole will miss the Conference target of a 75 per cent reduction in maternal mortality.

Ageing, international migration and urbanization

In 2013, the number of international migrants worldwide reached 232 million, up from 154 million in 1990. There are more people living outside their country of birth than ever before, and it is expected that the numbers will increase further.

“[Migration] has become increasingly important as [a] driver of development,” said Mr. Wilmoth. Indeed, the international community is increasingly recognizing the contribution of migration to global development, as exemplified by last year’s landmark General Assembly political declaration on the issue.

An important consequence of lower fertility and higher life expectancy is population ageing. The number and proportion of older people are expected to continue rising. Globally, the share of people aged 60 years or older increased from 9 per cent in 1994 to 12 per cent in 2014, and is expected to reach 21 per cent by 2050.

“Since most of the future growth of the world’s population […] will be absorbed by urban areas, it is important to address urban planning issues and promote sustainable patterns of urban growth”

Mr. Wilmoth observed that “this creates challenges in terms of meeting the needs of the older population and also in managing the relationship between the generations as the working-age population inevitably has to provide a certain amount of financial and other forms of support for the older population,” he said.

“Another important area is urbanization,” Mr. Wilmoth added. “Since most of the future growth of the world’s population […] will be absorbed by urban areas, it is important to address urban planning issues and promote sustainable patterns of urban growth,” he said.

Shaping the post-2015 sustainable development agenda

People are at the heart of sustainable development. As emphasized in one of the Commission’s main reports (E/CN.9/2014/3), few factors will shape the global development agenda as fundamentally as the size, structure and spatial distribution of the world’s population. Demographic change will continue to affect and be shaped by social, economic, environmental and political changes. Increased knowledge of how these factors interact can help shape the post-2015 development agenda and contribute to policies that achieve both new and existing development goals.

Although the post-2015 development agenda has yet to be finalized, Mr. Wilmoth expected that the Population Division would have a major role in monitoring future sustainable goals. “We look forward to being a part of that,” Mr. Wilmoth concluded.

For more information:

UN DESA’s Population Division

47th Session of the Commission on Population and Development


Transforming public administration for sustainable development


The 13th session of the UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA) will be convened at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 7 to 11 April. The newly appointed twenty-four CEPA members will hold discussions on the theme of transforming public administration for sustainable development.

Good governance, underpinned by well-functioning public administration, is the cornerstone of present and future sustainable development. At the 12th session of CEPA last year, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo highlighted the crucial role of public administration in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the post 2015 development agenda, acknowledging “the significant task of public administration, which is vital for sustainable development.”

Considering the importance of public administration in the creation of a favorable environment to foster economic growth, social cohesion and environmental protection – the three pillars of sustainable development, which the MDGs embody, reinventing and reforming public administration is a positive and necessary way forward.

Established by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in its resolution 2001/45, CEPA is responsible for supporting the work of ECOSOC concerning the promotion and development of public administration and governance among Member States. Since its conversion from a Group into a full-fledged Committee, CEPA has been meeting annually to deliberate on current and emerging public administration issues related to the implementation of the internationally agreed development goals (IADGs), including the MDGs.

“Good governance, underpinned by well-functioning public administration, is the cornerstone of present and future sustainable development”

The 13th session will witness the first meeting of the 24 members of the Committee appointed by ECOSOC for the period 2014-2017 upon their nomination by the Secretary-General as outlined in the ECOSOC resolution E/2013/9/Add.13. Discussions will be held under the sub-themes of a) strengthening national and local capacities for sustainable development management; b) promoting leadership, innovation and risk management; and (c) invigorating the professionalism and morale of the public service.

To enrich the discussion, UN DESA’s Division for Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM) invited observers of CEPA to send their input on the main theme of the meeting which will be uploaded online and made available to the public. The inputs will be compiled and made available to the Committee for its consideration during its deliberation.

Strengthening capacities, promoting leadership, and invigorating public service

Experts on public administration will gather from 24 countries to participate in this session.  Members of the Committee will present papers on the above-mentioned different sub-themes for discussion. On the basis of the parameters set out in these papers, the Committee will discuss and present conclusions and recommendations related to the transformation of public governance and public administration in supporting sustainable development.

Dr. Najat Zarrouk will present a paper on the theme of strengthening national and local capacities for sustainable development management. Her paper will address progress in attaining the Millennium Development Goals, residual challenges and governance deficits and transforming governance to allow it to serve the interests of sustainable development as well as defining a new vision for capacity development, which are now urgent imperatives at both the national and local levels for sustainable development management.

The paper by Ambassador Walter Fust will explore the transformation in public administration and public leadership that needs to be undertaken to enable Governments to pursue and achieve sustainable development. In this paper, the leadership of public administration is called upon to adopt risk management practices and develop appropriate capacities to assess, measure and manage risk.

“Reinventing and reforming public administration is a positive and necessary way forward”

Ms. Odette R. Ramsingh, will present a paper on the impact of the reform on public service and public servants as the stewards of the development goals, and the challenges and issues that the reform has wrought on professionalism of the public service with special reference to Africa. Additionally, her presentation will draw lessons from the reform periods and the Millennium Development Goals to explore whether public servants have the requisite ethos, behavioural pattern and motivation to successfully deliver on the sustainable development agenda.

Reviewing the UN Programme in Public Administration and Finance

In addition to engaging in dynamic discussions on transforming public administration for sustainable development, the Committee will also review the report submitted by the Secretariat on the activities implemented in 2013 and those proposed for implementation in the biennium 2014-2015 under the United Nations Programme in Public Administration and Finance.

Recommendations will be made to the Secretariat to assist Member States in addressing concerns of global importance, and in becoming aware of emerging issues related to public governance and administration and its role in supporting sustainable development.

CEPA — “Going Green”

Since the 11th session of CEPA, DPADM has partnered with the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM) through the Integrated Sustainable PaperSmart Services (ISPS) Secretariat to strategically utilize information technology in servicing delegates with varied methods of accessing documentation.

Delegates attending the 13th Session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration will be able to download documents to their mobile devices/tablets by the use of QR codes. The ISPS Media can make documents also available via flash-drives. Additionally, the ISPS Print-on-demand will provide hard copies upon request.

For more information:

13th Session of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA)

Profiles of the Members of the Committee 2014-2017



The role of partnerships beyond 2015

International Day of Peace celeberation in Juba.

Strengthening the global partnerships for sustainable development for the post-2015 development agenda will be the main topic of a thematic debate and Forum on Partnerships  jointly convened by the President of the General Assembly Mr. John Ashe, and the President of the Economic and Social Council, Mr. Martin Sajdik which will take place from 9 to 10 April at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The thematic debate and forum on partnerships will feature three consecutive, interactive, multi‐stakeholder panel discussions on 9 April 2014 and two on 10 April. The event is being organized by UN DESA in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Partnerships and the UN Global Compact.

Building on MDGs moving forward

As the Secretary General’s High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda has noted, an important transformative shift going forward is to bring a new sense of global partnership into national and international politics.  A new global partnership should engage national governments of all countries, local authorities, international organizations, businesses, civil socirty, foundations and other philantropists, and people.  It should move beyond the MDG’s orientation of state-to-state partnerships.

“Together, nothing is impossible; if we strengthen these partnerships among governments, business communities, civil organizations and philanthropists, then I think all these powerful partnerships can bring us towards the right direction,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the beginning of his second term in office.

“Together, nothing is impossible; if we strengthen these partnerships among governments, business communities, civil organizations and philanthropists, then I think all these powerful partnerships can bring us towards the right direction”

UN Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon

Strengthened global partnerships for sustainable development will be a catalyst for the international community to aspire and advance towards an ambitious and transformative sustainable development agenda beyond 2015. The thematic debate and forum on partnerships will promote the scaling‐up of the impact of all forms of cooperation in the post 2015 development agenda, and promote the urgent implementation of existing commitments under the global partnership for development while also addressing the emerging role of innovative multi‐stakeholder partnerships.

Member States will participate, including at Ministerial level, alongside senior representatives of private sector companies, UN agencies, NGOs and other relevant stakeholders.

The two-day event is expected to generate innovative policy ideas and models for multi-stakeholder partnerships that can contribute to the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. The Presidents of the General Assembly and ECOSOC will issue a summary at the conclusion of the event which will be made available to the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals and the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing.

Addressing the role of innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships

In the effort to achieve the MDGs, partnerships among various groups and stakeholders have played a critical role. New partnership models have emerged, motivated by the sense of urgency of the MDG deadline, which have created innovative sources of financing, in addition to the official development assistance and trade. Novel uses of technology, capacity building, and engagement with low-income members of society have helped increase access to basic services. The panel debates will discuss how to further leverage these innovative approaches in the conclusion of the MDG process, as well as in the delivering on the post-2015 development agenda.

The role of private sector, civil society and philanthropy has grown significantly in its size and reach. These actors will have a critical role to play in bringing the innovative methods and tools to the task of creating decent employment and strengthening the use of funding and research. In the panel discussions, member states will have a chance to explore the role of the private sector in the development agenda.

Monitoring and accountability

One of the most common explanations for gaps in MDG achievement is the lack of effective framework. Challenges in establishing consistent mechanisms for monitoring and accountability come from the diverse nature of partnerships and partners. The architecture of this framework will need to be flexible and adaptable enough in order to accommodate the variety of actors with the development agenda.

In order to better understand these issues, participants will share their experiences and lessons learned. While focusing on development, these sessions will also attempt to address gender, human rights and peace-building issues.

Finding solutions, delivering outcomes

The second day of the two-day event will focus on linking the policy discussions on innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships, monitoring and accountability with specific concrete solutions and outcomes. In the course of that discussion, special focus will be on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs). One of the major issues to be discussed will be food security, nutrition and marine resources. In this area, partnerships can provide indispensable science, technology, financing and capacity building in order to address the problems of food security.

In order to deliver solutions, the core component in sustainable development is reliable infrastructure. Without its physical components, such as roads, railways, ports, communication and technology, water and waste management systems, development efforts are severely hindered. This is especially relevant for a certain group of vulnerable countries, such as small islands and landlocked developing countries. These are faced with serious transportation infrastructure problems, which result in high transit transportation costs.

The outcome of the event is expected to provide ideas and information for the coming major conferences, such as the SIDS conference in September in Samoa, the Ministerial conference on New Partnerships for Development of Productive capacities of LDC in July in Benin and the Comprehensive Ten-Year Review Conference of the Almaty Programme of Action to be held 3-5 November 2014 in Vienna, Austria.

For more information: The role of partnerships in the implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda