World Population Day focuses on family planning

World Population Day focuses on family planning

July 11, 2018

World Population Day focuses on family planning

Population growth is increasing at a strong pace worldwide, and current trends appear dangerous in terms of environmental and social sustainability, in a planet that is increasingly crowded and often exploited beyond its potential. 

11 July 1987 is remembered as the “5 billion day”, that is the day the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) identified as the moment when the planet's population reached 5 billion. Following the interest generated by that event, the World Population Day has been celebrated every 11 July since 1989, to bring the spotlight on the issues that affect our Planet's inhabitants, their needs and rights. “Family Planning is a human right” is the theme chosen for 2018: an issue that goes beyond the simple demographic birth data, touching key domains such as women's rights and the rights of young people.

Are we really too many? 

Each year, nearly 83 million people are added to those already populating the Planet. It took us hundreds of thousands of years to reach 1 billion, and then, in just a few centuries, our numbers increased 7 fold to reach 7 billion in 2011. 

Even though data shows a decrease in birth rates and fertility levels in many countries, the world population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030 and exceed 11 billion in 2100. This is according to experts from UNFPA, the United Nations' agency that deals with reproductive health and rights, who also illustrate the broad trends characterizing the world population altogether: 

decreased fertility, during the early ’70s of the last century, each woman on average had 4.5 children, compared to 2.5  in 2015;

Increased life expectancy, from 64.6 years in the early ’90s to the current 70.8;

urbanization, that is the movement of people from country to city, which in 2050 will mean that 2/3 of the world population will be living in urban areas. 


However, decreased fertility is not a uniform phenomenon, according to research published on Science in 2014: the decrease is still limited in Africa, for example. Experts point out that this factor, combined with the continent's vulnerability to climate change, calls into question the local food sustainability, resulting in the climate and food migration that is well described in the Food and Migration Report co-produced by BCFN and Macrogeo.

Planning is a right...

Family Planning is one of the tools that can alter the observed trends in population growth. Exactly 50 years have passed since it was stated, for the first time, that Family Planning is a human right - at the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights. 


The document published at the end of the International Conference, the Proclamation of Tehran, states that "parents have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children". It is essential to read between the lines, because behind the official statement there is a call for change, towards a system where all women in the world have the right to say no to the risks linked to too many pregnancies that are too close together. Putting the spotlight on Family Planning means also saving many lives, reducing the number of miscarriages and deaths linked to birth or complicated pregnancies. If all developing countries' women who have no access to contraception could use modern effective methods, each year 35 million miscarriages and 76'000 maternal deaths could be prevented. Not to mention the protection from many sexually transmitted diseases that some contraception can guarantee.  

...not a privilege

"Our mission is to build a world where each pregnancy is really wanted, giving birth is safe and the potential of each young person is enhanced", recites the UNFPA website. However, in developing countries, over 200 million women who would like to plan their reproductive life are not able to do so, because of difficulties in receiving targeted information or services and because of the lack of support from their partners and the community. The barriers to global diffusion of the tools for Family Planning  – from contraception to information on how to use them and how to manage one's fertility -  are many, and they change with the context. In some instances, they may be 'physical' barriers, which imply that many people have difficulty reaching the specialist health centers, but very often these are 'cultural' barriers. It is thus essential that we adapt the planning strategies to the individual contexts, as the UNFPA is committed to doing as partner in the  Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) global partnership, set up to offer contraceptive services for 120 million women in the 69 poorest countries in the world. 

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