“Population should be at the heart of everything we do in development,” according to the United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health.
The Group, which is made up of members of both Houses of Parliament who share an interest in development and seek to raise awareness of population and reproductive health issues, recently issued a report entitled Population Dynamics and the Sustainable Development Goals in which the members warn that successfully addressing climate change, armed conflict, water scarcity and other global problems will be difficult if not impossible if policymakers fail to take factors such as population size, age structure, migration and urbanisation into greater consideration.
Ten recommendations for policymakers are included in the report, which was created using evidence submitted by development institutions, nongovernmental organisations, academics and others. The key recommendations are:
- increase funding for family planning and the wider sexual and reproductive health agenda;
- amend the United Kingdom International Development Act to mandate the Secretary of State to consider the impact of development assistance on population dynamics and vice versa;
- press for further commitments to reduce resource consumption and carbon emissions;
- support and invest in secondary education for girls to promote gender equality and empowerment; and
- work with conflict, humanitarian, security and climate change organisations to promote a holistic approach to sustainable development that ensures universal access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The report represents a welcome voice of reason in a world where issues related to population dynamics are rarely a priority among development organisations despite the fact that population levels are skyrocketing. Population projections recently issued by the United Nations indicate that there will be an additional one billion people on Earth by 2030 — this increase will have significant implications for any organisation committed to making a better world because overpopulation is a primary cause of problems such as loss of natural resources and poverty.
Many policymakers address only the problems caused by changing population dynamics rather than the changes themselves and thus do not in fact resolve issues. The authors of the report in it recognise this failing and urge policymakers to change their approach. So do we.