Global perspective Human stories

Population rises threaten development in poor nations, UN official warns

Population rises threaten development in poor nations, UN official warns

Amb. Chowdhury
With almost 90 per cent of the global population expected to live in developing nations by the middle of this century, straining those countries' already limited resources, policy-makers must pay more attention to protecting sustainable development and preventing environmental degradation, a senior United Nations official said this week.

Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, told a meeting yesterday in Tokyo on cooperation between developing nations that rapidly increasing populations are shrinking the area of available cropland per person to the stage "where countries can no longer produce enough to feed themselves."

The combined population of the 50 countries classified as the least developed in the world is forecast to jump to 1.8 billion in 2050 from 658 million in 2000, he told the High Level Policy-Makers Symposium on South to South Collaboration.

Mr. Chowdhury said many of the world's poorest countries are particularly at risk because they depend on agricultural industries, which require large amounts of fertile land to succeed, for much of their national income.

These nations are also so impoverished that they struggle to absorb rapid increases in population without harming their citizens' quality of life.

Mr. Chowdhury said world leaders need to place population and environment at the centre of their sustainable development policies and programmes.

He added that "a world that spends almost a trillion dollars a year on the military" can afford to do much more to fund programmes that can sustain economic and human development in poor countries.

In a separate speech to the symposium's session examining the progress made since the 1994 UN International Conference on Population and Development was held in Cairo, Mr. Chowdhury said many affluent nations have failed to meet the commitments they made 10 years ago.

But he said developing countries have still achieved a lot of progress since Cairo, especially those States that have given population issues and the empowerment of women high priority in determining their economic and social policy.