Senior official stresses link between demographic shifts and UN development, climate priorities

13 April 2015

As United Nations Member States met today in New York to begin the 48th session of the Commission on Population and Development, the head of the UN office dealing with economic and social affairs underlined the importance of the link between population changes and the Organization’s current development priorities.

“The year 2015 offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to achieve transformational global change,” said Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, in opening remarks to the Commission’s current session, which runs at UN Headquarters through the end of the week.

“In our world of stark and destabilizing inequality, where hundreds of millions of people struggle against assaults on their human dignity, we must honour our promise to leave no one behind,” he added.

Mr. Wu looked forward to a session that would contribute further to realizing the rights and worth of every individual and protecting the environment for generations to come.

“You meet as the international community strives this year to forge a set of sustainable [development] goals and a meaningful new universal climate agreement,” he said. “These twin priorities will be influenced by the profound demographic shifts taking place in our world, especially those related to youth, the elderly, urbanization and migration.”

As the world’s population of young people reached its highest in history, one of those shifts being felt by many countries was the ‘youth bulge,’ which, if handled properly, could allow those States to reap a demographic dividend.

“This requires enhancing education for both girls and boys, ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health care, and creating more decent jobs,” said Mr. Wu.

While the youth population was indeed expanding, the Under-Secretary-General added that the fastest growing age group worldwide was comprised of people aged 60 and over. That meant that workforces were shrinking and populations greying, and it made it necessary to forge societies where older persons can contribute to the fullest and enjoy the social protections they deserve.

He looked also to increasing urbanization, the benefits of which needed to be optimized, and he stressed the need to create conditions for safe, orderly and regular migration.

“Far too many migrants suffer from exploitation, discrimination and xenophobia,” he said. “Addressing these violations of their rights will empower migrants to increase their contributions to development in both countries of origin and destination.”


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