Rhein on Energy and Climate

Global population keeps rising at an annual rate of about 75 million people per year¸ which is absolutely unsustainable. Continuing at this rate global population will require 30 percent more food and water by 2030, while agricultural land and fertility are coming under increasing pressure from urban growth, economic infrastructure, soil erosion and climate change. Not surprisingly, the UK Government Chief Scientist projects the “perfect storm” to happen in 2030.

It remains therefore as urgent as ever to stabilise global population at the earliest possible date. Sub-Sahara Africa is the region with the highest fertility (five children per woman) and fastest growing population. Its population is expected to double to 1.7 billion by 2050, which is too fast for creating the necessary jobs.

At the 2005 World Summit universal access to reproductive health and family planning was declared to be critical to achieving the millennium development goals. But the solemn declarations have not translated into political will and financial resources that are needed to address the unmet needs for reproductive health.

As the primary donor to sub-Sahara Africa the EU has never attributed the necessary priority to reproductive and maternity health, tough this is a very effective method of reducing unemployment and poverty. It is not too late to rectify the lack of focus on population. The EU should, indeed, revise its spending priorities and attribute a substantial higher share of its development assistance to help African countries slow down the rate of population growth. Considering the sensitivity of such programmes for some member states and its inadequate expertise in the field the EU should use the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA as the most appropriate conduit for its funding.

The issue is even of sufficient political and economic importance to raise it at the forthcoming EU-Africa Summit. But this seems to be wishful thinking.

Brussels 19.10.10 Eberhard Rhein

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