UNITED NATIONS, New York—Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, the new Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, today put forth his vision as the Fund’s leader, focusing on the challenges of a world population of 7 billion and the needs of the largest generation of young people.
In his first address to the UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board, Dr. Osotimehin described a world population of 7 billion in 2011 as “a major milestone in human history,” where “every person should enjoy human rights and human dignity, and have the opportunity to make the most of his or her potential.”
Dr. Osotimehin, who started his four-year tenure as UNFPA’s Executive Director a few weeks ago, noted that the world's population, which has doubled since 1967, is rising by about 78 million people each year, and is projected to reach 9 billion by 2045. For every 100 people added to the world’s population, he noted, 97 are in the less developed countries.
“A world approaching a population of 7 billion is marked by new dynamics to which UNFPA must support countries to respond,” said Dr. Osotimehin. The defining features are rapid urban growth in Africa and Asia, declining fertility with variance across regions—with Africa home to the highest birth rates—unprecedented ageing, and the world’s largest youth population.
“UNFPA will place a special emphasis on today’s large generation of young people,” said Dr. Osotimehin. There are an estimated 1.8 billion adolescents and youth in the world today, accounting for nearly a third of the world's population, he noted. Just below 90 per cent live in developing countries, and that proportion will increase during the next 20 years. “They need increased support, and they want freedom, participation and dignity,” he added.
“Investing in youth, their reproductive health and gender equality can help put countries on a path to accelerated economic growth and equitable development,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “This is the message that I will carry forward to Istanbul in May for the Fourth United Nations Conference of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).” He added that UNFPA will work with development partners to mobilize support for LDCs to increase investment in young people.
Advancing the right to sexual and reproductive health remains at the heart of UNFPA, said Dr. Osotimehin. “To garner greater progress, we will advocate for investments by countries and donors for a comprehensive package of integrated sexual and reproductive health services, as well as comprehensive sexuality education.”
Dr. Osotimehin re-affirmed UNFPA’s commitment to the core principles of the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, that “every person has the right to sexual and reproductive health, every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person has the education and services to grow up healthy, every girl is treated with dignity and respect, and violence against women should and can end.”
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