9 April 2001


NEW YORK, 6 April (UN Headquarters) -- The Commission on Population and Development this afternoon closed its thirty-fourth session, with Joseph Chamie, Director of the Population Division, telling the Commission that, while it had deliberated over the last five days, it was estimated that the world’s population had experienced a growth of more than 1,061,000.

The world’s population did not wait for the Commission to reach its decisions, he noted. More specifically, that net result translated into roughly: 220,000 Indians; 128,000 Chinese; 53,000 Pakistanis; 44,000 Nigerians, 42,000 Bangladeshis; and 37,000 Indonesians worldwide. "This", he said, "is the current nature of population change."

He reminded the Commission of the call he made at beginning of the session for members to embrace the challenge of providing bold vision, as well as strong and enlightened leadership in the area of population, environment and development. The hard work of delegations showed that some progress had been achieved over the past week, but a great deal of work remained for the coming years and decades ahead.

In his closing remarks, Commission Chairman Makoto Ato (Japan), said that, while he was happy agreement was reached on a resolution directly related to the theme of the current session, it was disappointing that the Commission was not able to reach consensus on the other two texts -- one on the 10-year review of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) (Cairo, 1994), and the other on financial resources for the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action.

Several delegations expressed their disappointment at the failure of the Commission to reach agreement on a draft resolution on the review and appraisal in 2004 of the further implementation of the Programme of Action of the ICPD. Comments were made by the representatives of Sweden (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Iran (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), Bangladesh, Mexico and Japan.

By the terms of the only text approved this afternoon, the Commission requested the Population Division to continue its research, in close cooperation with other relevant United Nations bodies, on the linkages among population, consumption and production, the environment and natural resources, and human health, giving particular attention to levels, trends and differentials of mortality, fertility, distribution and mobility, and the role of population and development policies, as well as mainstreaming of a gender perspective.

The Commission also requested the Division to work closely with all relevant bodies of the United Nations system to contribute research findings to the preparatory processes for the special session of the General Assembly for an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), the World Summit on Sustainable Development, and other relevant intergovernmental meetings and conferences.

Further, the Commission requested that the findings from that and other related research on population, environment and development should contribute to the next review and appraisal of the implementation of the Programme of Action of the ICPD scheduled for 2004.

Also, by an oral decision put forward by the Chairman, the Commission took note of the substantive documentation submitted to it by the secretariat at its thirty-fourth session under items 3 and 5, namely, documents E/CN.9/2001/2, 3, 5 and 6.

In addition, the Commission approved the draft report for its current session, as well as the provisional agenda for its thirty-fifth session.

Commission Highlights

During this session, the Commission’s deliberations centred on the critical exploration of the complex linkages between population, development and environment. The Commission also reviewed follow-up actions to the recommendations of the 1994 ICPD. To facilitate its discussions, it considered, among others, projections, trends and indicators outlined in two reports of the Secretary-General: one on world population monitoring; and another on global demographic trends.

Opening the session, Mr. Chamie, Population Division Director, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, echoed the sentiments of the Secretary-General: that rapid and uneven population growth and economic development during the twentieth century had occurred simultaneously with environmental degradation. Mr. Chamie said that current forecasts estimated that the world’s total population would be substantially larger -- by perhaps 3 billion people -- by mid-century. By example, he said that the natural increase in population -- births minus deaths -- for the European Union was 343,000 for the entire year; India had achieved that amount of population growth during the first week of 2001. He added that particularly rapid growth was expected among the 48 least developed countries.

With those factors to consider, Mr. Chamie said it was uncertain to what extent the future size, growth and distribution of the population would affect economic development and environmental trends. However, it was clear that population and development policies were vital to ensuring sustainable development and safeguarding the environment. That being the case, the Commission would play a vital role in the debate on international population and development throughout the new century and beyond. Its bold vision and strong and enlightened leadership would, indeed, contribute to the ability of the United Nations system to make the world a better place, not just for a fortunate few, but for all.

The Commission was also told that growing populations, wasteful production and consumption, increasing development and urban sprawl had put a strain on air, land and water resources. Kunio Waki, Deputy Director of the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), said such pressures often resulted in ecosystem disruption and environmental degradation. He added that the five-year reviews of the ICPD in 1999 and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1997 had re-emphasized the interrelationships between population, environment and development, while underscoring the necessity of eliminating unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, reducing poverty, and adopting population and development policies which did not compromise future requirements.

As the Commission’s general debate began, Joel Cohen, Populations Professor at Rockefeller University and Columbia University, reminded the members that culture was a significant, but often overlooked, element of the population, environment and development equation. "Culture matters", he said, and without a thorough examination of various cultural factors such as politics, technology, institutions and values, it would be very difficult to understand how population, environment and development truly interacted.

Professor Cohen’s observations concerning the critical importance of examining cultural aspects of population development issues were reiterated later in the session by Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the UNFPA. Cultural perspectives were at the heart of any country’s attitudes and behavioural patterns regarding those issues, she said. That was particularly true of the ways in which various communities would deal with the many challenges on the international development agenda. Along with the spread of HIV/AIDS, statistics had shown that poverty was on the rise and, generally, millions of human beings, including a disproportionate number of women, were unable to exercise very basic economic, social and cultural rights.

The notion that rapid cultural, economic and developmental achievements were severely affecting the environment was echoed by many delegations. The representative of Canada said that global sustainable development was most threatened when population growth was coupled with the emergence of modern consumer markets in large urban areas. Often, environmental stewardship lagged behind such explosive growth. However, Japan’s representative urged the Commission to move away from the widely held assumption that environmental degradation was a necessary by-product of economic growth. By promoting a human-centred approach, focused on restrained use of energy and natural resources, economic development could be pursued without unduly burdening the ecosystem.

The representative of Algeria said that broad economic development and safeguarding the world’s natural resource base could be harmonized by promoting globalization with a "human face"; creating policies and programmes which reflected the interrelation of population, environment and development. The representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that investment in education programmes aimed at implementing better land management and cultivation techniques and preservation of water reserves and fisheries, among others, was also essential to ensure the balance between economic development and a healthy environment.

Throughout the debate, developing counties emphasized that their experiences with population, development, environment and economic growth were markedly different than those of developed nations. The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that developing countries faced a broad mixture of both traditional and modern environmental health threats that were further exacerbated by the economic transitions wrought by continuing migration from rural to urban areas. He said that capacity-building efforts and strong political will on the part of the donor community would help developing countries achieve the population and development goals agreed at Rio.

Many delegations, particularly those in the most affected African and Latin American and Caribbean regions, stressed the fact that their population and development goals had been seriously hampered by the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The representative of South Africa said the impact of the disease in his country increased people’s socio-economic vulnerability, which decreased their choices and subsequently led to reliance on the environment, which placed constant pressure on the country’s fragile ecosystem. Several small island developing nations underscored their susceptibility to natural disasters and the vagaries of outside macroeconomic factors as having a negative affect on policy programmes and development initiatives.

During this session, the links between population, environment and development were also examined in a panel discussion. Several participants pointed out that environmental change was most often related to increases in economic growth; per capita well-being certainly tended to affect human activities. So the question was how to minimize the negative effects of those activities -- such as water and air pollution -– on environmental conditions. There, economically advanced nations, with access to better technologies and waste disposal facilities, seemed to have the upper hand over the developing world. Poorer countries still faced substandard water purification facilities, traffic congestion and erosion problems. It was crucial, therefore, to promote coordination of environmental and development programmes.

The Commission also heard from the United Nations regional commissions, as well as other specialized agencies and funds on the theme of population, environment and development. Those included: Economic Commission for Africa (ECA); Economic Commission for Europe (ECE); Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA); International Labour Organization (ILO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); and United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Commission Officers

The Chairman of the Commission was Makoto Ato (Japan). Jose Roberto Andino Salazar (El Salvador), Antonio Golini (Italy) and Jacques Van Zuydam (South Africa) served as Vice-Chairmen. Gediminas Serksnys served as Vice-Chairman/ Rapporteur.

Commission Background

The Commission, a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, is charged with studying and advising the Council on population changes and their effect on economic and social conditions. Following the 1994 ICPD in Cairo, it was decided that the Commission would meet annually, beginning in 1996, to assess implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action. The current session is the second since the General Assembly held a five-year, high-level review in July 1999.


The Commission normally comprises 47 members, who are elected on the basis of equitable geographic distribution and serve a term of four years. In 2001, the members are: Algeria, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, Chile, China, Croatia, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malawi, Mexico, Niger, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, Yemen, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the United States.

* *** *