For information only - not an official document.
  Press Release No: UNIS/SG/2609 
Release Date: 11 July 2000
 The Secretary-General
Message on the Occasion of World Population Day


11 July 2000

NEW YORK, 11 July (UN Headquarters) -- At the start of a new century it is more obvious than ever before that humanity needs to stabilize its numbers. With the world’s population at more than six billion, the challenge ahead of us is clear: to find ways to support all the world’s people in peace and dignity, and to ensure that people—especially women—are able to make informed decisions about the size of their families. 

Every human being aspires to health, security and dignity. This is the essence of universal human rights. And as the world has increasingly come to realise, sexual and reproductive health is an essential part of these rights.

We can all recognize the anguish of the person who loses wife or mother in childbirth, because of a lack of proper care. Of the teenager whose options in life are suddenly foreclosed because she gets pregnant and drops out of school. Of the woman who has to go on having children even though she knows her health is at risk. Or the refugee who has been raped but is too frightened, or too ashamed, to ask for help.

Better understanding of women’s issues has brought real change in the daily life of millions of people. Women now have wider choices, and can make key decisions about their own lives. Yet there is still much left to do. Too many girls do not have the same chance of education as boys. Too many women still cannot choose when or whether to become pregnant. Too many women are victims of sexual violence, especially during conflict. Too many women resort to abortions that are not safe. Too many are subjected to genital mutilation and other harmful traditional practices.

We clearly have a long way to go. But population programmes have made a difference. Without them, the world’s population would be much larger. Many societies would be less developed economically and socially. And, most important, millions of families around the world be less healthy, prosperous and hopeful than they are.

Appropriately, this year’s World Population Day coincides with the World AIDS Conference being held in Durban. The lessons we have learned about the beneficial effects of better health-care and education on population growth also apply to controlling AIDS. If women and men are free to make their own decisions, they can protect themselves against the virus.

And so, on this first World Population Day of the 21st century, let us resolve to build upon the progress we have made. Let us bring all our skills and energies to bear on the struggle to save women’s lives, and to make this new century a better one for all.

* * * * *