During the fiftieth session of the UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD 50), governments decided to conduct a four-year review cycle for the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and its contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Members were not able to reach consensus on the session’s outcome document on changing population age structures and sustainable development, which was the theme of the session.
7 April 2017: The UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD) will conduct a four-year review cycle for the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and its contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, based on a decision taken during CPD’s 50th session. CPD 50 also considered the impacts of changing population age structures, but did not reach consensus on an outcome document on this topic.
CPD 50 convened from 3-7 April 2017, in New York, US. The newly agreed four-year review cycle for the Cairo Programme of Action will begin with its 53rd session.
A “temporary bulge in the age distribution” can lead to faster economic growth, said UN officials.
On changing population age structures, John Wilmoth, Director, Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), explained that success in reducing death rates means that the world’s population is aging overall. This brings adjustments to pension systems, health care systems, support for women’s participation in the workforce, and in some countries, a higher retirement age. In many parts of Africa, the birth rate is falling due to investments in sexual and reproductive health. Put together, these trends mean that today’s “relatively large youth cohorts” will eventually be responsible for a smaller number of children requiring their support, and the older population size will not yet have increased as much as it will further into the future. In other words, the world will experience a “favourable demographic situation caused by the temporary bulge in the age distribution as it passes through the working ages.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted other population trends, including that people are “more urban than ever.” He cited the impacts of progress on providing access to education and to sexual and reproductive health-care services, especially for girls and women, which is credited with the falling birth rates in many countries. He said the trend has improved the lives of women and children. Guterres said falling birth rates can result in faster economic growth, when accompanied by investments in human capital, and with increased labor force participation by women. He said that, in addition to ensuring that women have the same education and employment opportunities as men, men must share in household work and caregiving responsibilities. He called for governments to support mothers to better manage the demands of working and raising children at the same time. Guterres noted that international migration can “help to address the challenges of population ageing,” by adding workers to the population and reducing the average age. The Secretary-General also called for continued progress towards implementing the Cairo Programme of Action, which he said is critical for achieving the 2030 Agenda, highlighting marriage before 18, adolescent pregnancy, and the unmet need for modern methods of family planning.
In other opening statements, CPD Chair Alya Ahmed Saif al-Thani, Permanent Representative of Qatar, said that rapid rises in youth population present some parts of the world with a different situation than the rise in proportions of older persons in other countries. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), stressed the need for “a new social structure that looks after the ageing population.”
Members were not able to reach consensus on the session’s outcome document on changing population age structures and sustainable development, which was the theme of the session. Al-Thani called the lack of agreement “a major failure.” Osotimehin noted that this is the second time the Commission has been unable to reach consensus on its outcome document. He said, “For every minute we don’t come to a conclusion, we not only lose value, we lose lives,” noting that the text addressed “the lives of women and girls who are especially disenfranchised.” He urged all Member States to continue funding the UNPFA in order to restore its core budget.
The Netherlands, which served as Co-Facilitator of the draft resolution, noted that the Commission had been close to an agreement, but could not agree on “really crucial themes for development and human rights.” The US noted the historical uniqueness of changing population age structures. The US and EU said they had been ready to accept the compromise text discussed towards the end of negotiations. France, also for about 30 other countries, said protecting the rights of young people and adolescents is critical to sustainable development, and stressed the need for youth to have access to comprehensive sexuality education.
The Russian Federation said linking sexual and reproductive health rights with human rights dilutes basic human rights. Nigeria for the African Group said it had hoped the resolution would address developing countries’ development issues.
Thomas Gass, DESA, noted the importance of addressing the “unfinished business” of Cairo, and highlighted the need to ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The Commission decided that for its upcoming sessions, the themes will be ‘Sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration,’ in 2018, and ‘Review and appraisal of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and its contribution to the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,’ in 2019. [UN Press Release, Opening Session] [Opening Remarks of UN Secretary-General] [CPD 50 Webpage] [Meeting Summary, 7 April] [Monitoring of population programmes, focusing on changing population age structures and sustainable development, in the context of the full implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development: Report of the Secretary-General]