World Population Day: What it Means in 2021

World Population Day is observed each year on July 11. This year, World Population Day offers an opportunity to reflect on world population, and all that means to us.

The first official World Population Day was established by the United Nations Development Programme in 1989 to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. The world’s population had recently surpassed 5 billion people, a milestone that garnered attention to population growth and its implications for society.

Today, world population is heading toward 8 billion people, and reflecting on the implications of population dynamics for society is more important than ever. Population trends – growth, age structure, urbanization, and migration patterns – are in a constant state of flux. Taking these trends into consideration as we plan for the future is essential as we seek to create a more sustainable, just, and equitable society for everyone.

But World Population Day also offers us an opportunity to more fully embrace the fact that the numbers we talk about are actually people – people with hopes, joys, challenges, and importantly, rights. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the past, and to acknowledge that a preoccupation with numbers has too often resulted in the suppression of reproductive freedom and the violation of human rights.

And it’s an opportunity to look to the future – to continue to fight for the health and well-being of people and the planet, while recommitting ourselves to the dogged pursuit of rights and choices for all. Evidence demonstrates that the realization of rights and choices for all would not only improve human health and well-being, but would also slow population growth rates in ways that could improve prospects for a more sustainable world.

We are living through a moment with expanding awareness of how, in effort to promote and protect our multitude of rights, challenges and opportunities merge and overlap with one another. This moment feeds our growing appreciation for the need to understand the whole, and to center the voices of those who have been marginalized.

World Population Day reminds us anew that to create the future we want, we need to do more to defend and realize the rights of people who are here today. Together, we can better understand our world and chart our collective path forward.