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20th Anniversary of the First World Population Day

July 10, 2009

In commemorating the 20th Anniversary of first World Population Day, the Population Institute today urged policymakers around the globe to recommit themselves to the expansion of family planning and reproductive health services. 

William N. Ryerson, president of the Population Institute, said, "Much has been accomplished, but much remains to be done if we are to accomplish the Millennium Development Goal of giving all women access to reproductive health services.  Many women who want to space or limit the number of their pregnancies, particularly in the least developed countries, today still face significant obstacles, including cultural barriers and lack of knowledge." 

The first World Population Day, observed on July 11, 1989, was held to foster greater public awareness of population issues and the impact they have on development and the environment. 

"Over the past 20 years," Ryerson noted, "we have had some notable success in giving women greater access to modern methods of contraception, but still we have added another 1.6 billion people to the planet."  According to the latest projection, world population--currently 6.8 billion--will reach 8.0 billion in 2025.  In 1989, the UN projected that world population would reach 8.5 billion by 2025.

"As we celebrate our successes," Ryerson said, "let us also recognize that progress has been very slow in the neediest nations.  According to the United Nations Population Division, 31 of the 49 least developed countries in 2005 had fertility levels above five children per woman.  In 27 of those 49 countries, total fertility has dropped by less than one child since 1995 and in eight of those nations fertility has either remained virtually unchanged or increased."

"One of the most important things we can do for the future of the world," Ryerson noted, "is to educate and empower women.  The House of Representatives voted this week to do that by approving a foreign aid appropriations bill that increases funding for maternal health programs and boosts support for international family planning assistance by $103 million above current levels, a 19 percent increase."  

Ryerson also saluted the United Nations Population Fund.  "UNFPA," Ryerson said, "is to be commended on World Population Day for its leadership and its continuing commitment to women's empowerment, family planning and reproductive health services."

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