1 April 2005

Background Release

UN Commission on Population and Development to Meet in New York, 4 - 8 April

Theme: Population, Development and HIV/AIDS, with Particular Emphasis on Poverty

NEW YORK, 31 March (UN Headquarters) -- The theme of the thirty-eighth session of the Commission on Population and Development, meeting at United Nations Headquarters (Conference Room 3) from 4 to 8 April, will be population, development and HIV/AIDS, with particular emphasis on poverty.

The Commission will also be considering the contribution of the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, in all its aspects, to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration.

Highlighting this year’s Commission meeting will be two keynote speakers. Dr. Debrework Zewdie, Director of the Global HIV/AIDS Programme of the World Bank, will speak on Tuesday, 5 April at 11:30 a.m. on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and its implications for development.  Dr. Paulo Texeira, Senior Coordinator, São Paulo STD/AIDS Programme, will speak on Wednesday, 6 April at 11:30 a.m. on strategies to prevent HIV transmission and reduce the spread of the epidemic.  Delegations, media representatives and Secretariat staff are invited to attend.

Other items to be discussed by the Commission include world demographic trends and national experiences in population matters.

Reports before Commission

Population, Development and HIV/AIDS

Poverty and HIV/AIDS are interrelated, according to the report World population monitoring, focusing on population, development and HIV/AIDS, with particular emphasis on poverty (document E/CN.9/2005/3).  Poverty exacerbates the spread of the disease, as it can interfere with prevention and make treatment less accessible, and the disease itself then exacerbates poverty.  Although the poorest countries do not necessarily have the highest rates of infection, the hardest-hit countries are the among the poorest countries in the world, with nine times greater prevalence in the least developed countries than in more developed regions.

HIV/AIDS is a global crisis, a pandemic that has gained momentum over the last 25 years.  It has expanded to all regions of the world, developed and less developed; it affects the rich and the poor.  Although there has been an increase in awareness, political commitment and resources, the epidemic continues to spread, with increasing rates of infection.  The most effective approach to thwarting the HIV/AIDS epidemic is to implement a combination of strategies that reduces risks, diminishes vulnerability and mitigates impact, and a massive effort is needed to attain a response that matches the global scale of the epidemic.

HIV/AIDS and Population

Over 20 million people have died since the first diagnoses of AIDS in 1981.  As of December 2004, approximately 39.4 million people were living with HIV, with an estimated 4.9 million people newly infected that year alone.  Even if infection with HIV were to be completely stopped by mid-2005, AIDS-related deaths would continue to increase in number, because so many are already infected.

AIDS deaths are expected to result in a slowing of population growth and, in some places, lead to a reduction in population.  It is estimated that in the 53 countries affected by AIDS, their total population in 2005 is 49 million less than it would have been in the absence of AIDS and will be 129 million less by 2015.  In the 38 African countries that are heavily affected, the average growth rate from 2005 to 2015 is projected to slow to 2 per cent from the 2.5 per cent growth rate expected in the absence of AIDS.

In the seven countries with HIV prevalence of 20 per cent or more, AIDS is projected to bring population growth to a near halt, with an increase of just over 0.6 million by 2015 as opposed to the 17 million projected in the absence of AIDS.  By 2025, they are projected to have populations that are one third smaller than they would have been.  AIDS is also having a major impact on age structure in the most affected countries.

Development and Poverty

AIDS-affected families often quickly fall into poverty.  They may lose breadwinners and income and be forced to spend savings, sell assets and borrow money.  Inter-generational support systems are weakened:  by 2003, 15 million children under age 18 had lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS.  Orphans are often cared for by relatives, but the sheer numbers are overwhelming traditional support systems.  Many older persons are caring for orphaned grandchildren at the same time that they are caring for their sick adult children.

Demographically, HIV/AIDS affects all sectors of society and the economy, and is influenced by many population variables, such as fertility, migration, population growth, family structure and gender.  In some countries, it is very damaging to agriculture, resulting in less land being cultivated, lower food production and food insecurity.  The business sector is also very vulnerable because so many victims are of working age:  the labour force shrinks, productivity is lost, and costs for health and death benefits and for training new workers increase.

HIV/AIDS weakens educational systems.  Keeping children from attending school, it is eroding gains made towards universal primary education.  The quality of education also suffers, with the loss of qualified teachers.  Similarly, the health sector -- which is central to HIV/AIDS care and transmission reduction -- is suffering from the increased demand for health services at the same time that it is losing qualified health workers.

Effects on the economy may be more serious than most analyses -- which do not take into account the loss of “social capital” -- suggest, because that will affect economic performance far into future decades.  In addition, many studies only deal with quantifiable economic effects without integrating the concept of development, while successful development implies achieving a long and healthy life for a population.

Spread of HIV/AIDS

Africa is the most affected by HIV/AIDS, but rates of infection are rising steeply in some countries of Asia and Eastern Europe.  The second-highest incidence of HIV infection in the world is in the Caribbean.  Prevention is critical for stemming the epidemic, and it must address all three modes of transmission:  sexual contact, direct exposure to blood, and from mother to child.  Most governments report that they have implemented prevention programmes, but in many countries those most in need lack access to basic prevention strategies.  The most effective approach for thwarting the epidemic is to carry out a combination of strategies that reduce risks, diminish vulnerability and mitigate impact.

Implementing Millennium Goals

A Secretary-General’s report on the Contribution of the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, in all its aspects, to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration (document E/CN.9/2005/6) says that fulfilling the goals of the Programme of Action would facilitate the achievement of the goals included in the United Nations Millennium Declaration and other agreements.

Implementing the Programme of Action, particularly of measures to ensure that all couples and individuals have the number of children they desire and the information, education and means to do so, would contribute to accelerating the transition to low fertility in developing countries that still have high fertility levels, and would produce slower population growth, which in turn would improve the ability of those countries to adjust to future population increases, to combat poverty, to protect and repair the environment, and to set the conditions for sustainable development.  Even the difference of a single decade in the transition to stabilization levels of fertility can have a considerable positive impact on quality of life.

Fertility reduction gives rise to the “demographic bonus” whereby the proportion of the population of working age increases relative to that of children and the elderly, a change that can contribute significantly to economic growth and poverty reduction.  Fulfilling the goals of the Programme of Action would lead to reduction of child mortality and maternal mortality, universal access to primary education, parity in access to secondary and higher education between boys and girls, reductions in the spread of HIV, and achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Because of synergies between these goals and other universally agreed development goals, further benefits would be reaped.

Population Programmes

The report Monitoring of population programmes, focusing on population, development and HIV/AIDS, with particular emphasis on poverty (document E/CN.9/2005/4) examines progress towards implementing the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and its five-year review, the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Millennium Development Goals.

Critical information needed for understanding the spread of HIV and planning effective and appropriate prevention programmes is being collected, analysed and disseminated within the framework of population and development programmes.  Given that most HIV transmission takes place through sexual contact or through pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, and that the Programme of Action of the Population Conference calls for ensuring universal voluntary access to reproductive health services, existing reproductive and sexual programmes and services provide a valuable entry point for HIV prevention while using existing resources and infrastructure.

Women and girls are increasingly becoming infected, while women also bear the burden as primary caregivers and continue to face legal and social inequities in the areas of education, health care and livelihood.  As of December 2003, women accounted for nearly 50 per cent of all people living with HIV worldwide and for 57 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa.  Young women represent over 60 per cent of all 15 to 24-year-olds living with HIV.  The particular vulnerability of adolescent girls and women to HIV infection is due to both a biological predisposition and to gender inequality and discrimination.  Female-controlled prevention methods, possibly including microbicides, must be promoted, while addressing social stigmas to their use.

The needs of young people must be met.  There are over 1 billion adolescents now entering sexual maturity, and 5,000 to 6,000 young people are infected daily; but young people are often overlooked or discriminated against, and receive services and information too late.

Gender inequality, stigma and discrimination are key factors hindering an effective response to the epidemic.  Male and female condoms, universally recognized as one of the most effective ways to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, are in short supply in many countries and usage remains low and sporadic.  Political and cultural barriers remain, including gender dynamics that prevent women from successfully negotiating their use.

There are now unprecedented treatment options available for people living with HIV/AIDS, and progress has been made in global initiatives to provide them.  Retroviral drugs are much more affordable, and political commitment and financial resources have increased, but in the 73 low- and middle-income countries most affected by AIDS, less than 1 per cent of adults aged 15 to 49 take advantage of voluntary counselling and testing services.  Fewer than 10 per cent of pregnant women are offered services to prevent HIV transmission to their as yet unborn children.

Resource Gap

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS estimates that in low- and middle-income countries approximately $12 billion will be needed annually for AIDS interventions by 2005.  This figure is expected to rise to approximately $20 billion by 2007. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that, in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, implementing the Programme of Action in the area of reproductive health will cost $18.5 billion by 2005, $20.5 billion by 2010 and $21.7 billion by 2015.  Current levels of resources are woefully inadequate.  AIDS must be treated as both an emergency and a long-term development issue, and funds available today, while greater than ever before, are only half of what is needed.

Financing Implementation of ICPD Programme of Action

A report of the Secretary-General on Flow of financial resources for assisting in the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (document E/CN.9/2005/5) examines the levels of donor and domestic expenditures for population activities in developing countries for 2003 and provides estimates for population expenditures in 2004 and projections for 2005.

Although financial targets of the Programme of Action for 2000 were not met, the report notes that it is encouraging that both international donor assistance and domestic expenditures have increased since then.  Donor assistance for population, which stood at $2.6 billion in 2000 and $3.2 billion in 2002, was estimated at $4.2 billion in 2003.  Domestic expenditures, which hovered between $7 billion and $9 billion during 2000-2002, increased to an estimated $11 billion in 2003.  Together, donor assistance and domestic expenditures for population activities yielded a global estimate of just over $15 billion in 2003.

Donor assistance is estimated to have increased to $4.5 billion for 2004 and is projected to reach nearly $6.4 billion in 2005.  Resources mobilized by developing countries were estimated at $12.5 billion for 2004, and are projected to increase to $12.7 billion in 2005.  To reach the 2005 target of $18.5 billion, both donor assistance and domestic resources must be further increased.

Although the largest share of funding is currently going to AIDS-related activities, the increased resources are still not sufficient for the scope of the pandemic.  In addition, funding for family planning and reproductive health has been lagging behind, but should increase proportionately with current needs in these areas.

The population and health situation has changed dramatically since the International Conference on Population and Development, especially in the areas of poverty and reproductive health and the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  It is particularly important to reach the official development assistance target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product and to ensure that appropriate resources are allocated to both population and reproductive health in new funding and programming mechanisms such as sector-wide approaches and poverty reduction strategies.  Without adequate financial resources and a firm commitment to population, reproductive health and gender issues, it is unlikely that any of the goals and targets of the Programme of Action or the Millennium Summit will be met.

World Demographic Trends

The Secretary-General’s report on World demographic trends (document E/CN.9/2005/8) provides an overview of demographic trends worldwide, for major areas and for selected countries.

Developed and developing countries differ significantly regarding their population concerns.  High mortality, particularly infant and child mortality, maternal mortality and mortality related to HIV/AIDS, is the most significant population concern for developing countries.  The most significant demographic concern of the developed countries relates to low fertility and its consequences, including population ageing and the shrinking of the working age population.

World population reached 6.5 billion in 2005, and is currently growing at about 1.2 per cent annually.  The 7 billion mark is projected to be reached in 2012.  Long-range population projections suggest that world population could ultimately stabilize at about 9 billion people.

While world population is continuing to grow, considerable diversity exists in the expected population growth of countries.  The population of many countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, will increase greatly in the coming decades.  In contrast, owing to below-replacement fertility levels, some developed countries are expected to experience significant population decline.

Most countries, both developed and developing, have experienced significant fertility decline, in line with increased contraceptive use.  Most developed countries exhibit fertility levels at or below the replacement level.  Although most developing countries are far advanced in the transition from high to low fertility, some developing countries, mainly in Africa, still exhibit high fertility.

Until recently, it was expected that mortality would continue declining in all countries.  But HIV/AIDS has already produced marked increases in mortality in Africa, the region most affected by the disease.

Contraceptive use has increased significantly over the past decade, from 54 per cent in 1990 to 63 per cent in 2000.  Short-acting and reversible methods are more popular in the developed countries, whereas longer-acting methods are more popular in the developing countries.

The proportion of older persons is expected to continue rising well into the twenty-first century.  As the pace of population ageing is much faster in the developing countries, these countries will have less time to adjust to the consequences, and will face population ageing at much lower levels of socio-economic development.

The world’s urban population is expected to increase from today’s 3.2 billion persons to about 5 billion in 2030.  Half the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2007.  The number of very large urban agglomerations is increasing. Tokyo, Mexico City, New York-Newark, Mumbai (Bombay), São Paulo and Delhi, all have more than 15 million persons.  But about half of all urban dwellers live in small settlements with fewer than 500,000 inhabitants.

International migration affects countries of origin, transit and destination. About 175 million persons reside in a country other than the one in which they were born; 60 per cent of the world’s migrants reside in the more developed regions.

The current population picture is one of dynamic population change, reflected in new and diverse patterns of childbearing, mortality, migration, urbanization and ageing.  The continuation and consequences of these population trends present opportunities, as well as challenges for all societies.

Other Documents

A Secretary-General’s report on the Working methods of the Commission on Population and Development (document E/CN.9/2005/7) makes recommendations to the Commission on improving its working methods.  Recommendations are presented relating to the election of the Bureau, the planning horizon for the work of the Commission, and strengthening links with the Economic and Social Council, other functional commissions and the regional commissions.

A Secretary-General’s report on the Programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2004:  Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (document E/CN.9/2005/9) covers the activities of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  The Commission will review the Division’s work in the areas of analysis of fertility, mortality and international migration; world population estimates and projections; population policies and population ageing; population and development; monitoring, coordination and dissemination of population information; and technical cooperation.

A Report of the Bureau of the Commission on Population and Development on its intersessional meeting, held in Lima, Peru, from 16 to 19 October 2004 (document E/CN.9/2005/2) reiterates the importance of the intersessional meetings for planning future Commission sessions and for stimulating interest in population and development issues.  The Bureau offered recommendations for the work of the Commission concerning its agenda and organization of work, work programme for future sessions, the Bureau’s own work programme, and the work programme of the Secretariat in the field of population.

Background of Commission

The Commission was set up in 1946 under the name of the Population Commission to study and advise the Economic and Social Council on population changes and their effect on economic and social conditions.  Later, the name was changed to the Commission on Population and Development following the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994; and it was decided that, from 1996 on, the Commission would meet annually to review the implementation of the Programme of Action of the Cairo Conference.

The Commission normally comprises 47 members, who are elected on the basis of equitable geographic distribution and serve a term of four years.  In 2005, the members are:  Armenia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Botswana, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, China, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, France, Gambia, Germany, Guyana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Libya, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Thailand, United States and Zambia.  Two members remain to be elected.

For information, please visit www.unpopulation.org or contact Hania Zlotnik, Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, tel.:  (212) 963-3179, fax: (212) 963-2147.

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