`Meeting People's Needs ... Key to Achieving Population Stabilization'

By Mbuya, Judith | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 13, 1997 | Go to article overview

`Meeting People's Needs ... Key to Achieving Population Stabilization'


Mbuya, Judith, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Alene H. Gelbard is the director of international programs at the Population Reference Bureau. She spoke with reporter Judith Mbuya about world-population issues.

Question: You project that by the year 2025, the population for the developed countries will be 1.2 billion and the population for less-developed countries will be 6.9 billion. That's more than a 5 to 1 difference. How do you account for this discrepancy? Answer: About 95 percent of the growth that we are seeing till the year 2025 and beyond is taking place in these developing countries. And the biggest reason is that the majority of people in these countries don't enjoy the same benefits that developed countries enjoy in terms of being able to manage health and other factors that affect the number of children they have and the number of children they have who die.

Q: Developing countries have been suspicious of Western motives to control population growth. Until recently, the focus of population programs had been fertility reduction. What measures can be taken to reduce the population without interfering with individual freedom?

A: In 1994, there was an international conference on population and development. And the consensus that came out of that meeting stated very strongly that meeting people's needs as they define them is the key to achieving population stabilization, that all of this can be done without coercion.

We see, for example, in countries throughout the world that less-educated women have more children than they often want.

It's not a question of convincing women to have fewer children or to space them so that they would have healthier children, it's a question of making sure that they know that there are means to do that.

Q: So, population issues are really closely related to women's issues?

A: They are. They are closely related to development issues and environmental issues. And we've reached the point where we now see them integrated.

You can't address population growth or reduce population growth by itself. It's part of a package of things that are closely related to improving the quality of life everywhere, and it's heavily linked to improving human development, especially development of women.

Q: Would it be fair to place the blame for environmental degradation on Western industrialized nations' patterns of consumption? …

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