On World Population Day, UN officials highlight environmental concerns

On World Population Day, UN officials highlight environmental concerns

Marking World Population Day - an annual observance spotlighting the urgent need for solutions to global population problems in the context of sustainable development - United Nations officials today underscored the fragile relationship between the human species and the planet.

"Humanity must solve a complex equation: we must stabilize our numbers, but, equally important, we must stabilize our use of resources and ensure sustainable development for all," said Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his message on the occasion. Calling attention to such problems as deforestation, pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, he said, "Our ecological footprints on the Earth are heavier than ever before."

In order to address the problem, Mr. Annan advocated special measures for women who, despite making up more than half the world's agricultural workforce, are often denied the right to learn, to own or inherit land, and to control their own fertility. "Enhancing women's opportunities enables them to make informed choices about family size - and to break the vicious cycle of poverty and environmental degradation," he stressed.

Picking up on this theme, the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Thoraya A. Obaid, said better reproductive health, while important for men, is vital for women, considering that one woman dies every minute of causes related to pregnancy, and four women every minute catch the infection that leads to AIDS.

Ms. Obaid underscored the connection between reproductive health and sustainable development. "Women who can choose have smaller families, and that means slower population growth - a little more time to meet basic needs and make vital decisions," she said.

World Population Day evolved as an outgrowth of the Day of Five Billion, celebrated on 11 July 1987. Since then, global population has exceeded 6 billion.