B. Population, sustained economic growth and poverty

Basis for action

3.10. Population policies should take into account, as appropriate, development strategies agreed upon in multilateral forums, in particular the International Development Strategy for the Fourth United Nations Development Decade, 14/ the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the 1990s, 15/ the outcomes of the eighth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, Agenda 21 and the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s. 16/

3.11. Gains recorded in recent years in such indicators as life expectancy and national product, while significant and encouraging, do not, unfortunately, fully reflect the realities of life of hundreds of millions of men, women, adolescents and children. Despite decades of development efforts, both the gap between rich and poor nations and the inequalities within nations have widened. Serious economic, social, gender and other inequities persist and hamper efforts to improve the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people. The number of people living in poverty stands at approximately 1 billion and continues to mount.

3.12. All countries, more especially developing countries where almost all of the future growth of the world population will occur, and countries with economies in transition, face increasing difficulties in improving the quality of life of their people in a sustainable manner. Many developing countries and countries with economies in transition face major development obstacles, among which are those related to the persistence of trade imbalances, the slow- down in the world economy, the persistence of the debt-servicing problem, and the need for technologies and external assistance. The achievement of sustainable development and poverty eradication should be supported by macroeconomic policies designed to provide an appropriate international economic environment, as well as by good governance, effective national policies and efficient national institutions.

3.13. Widespread poverty remains the major challenge to development efforts. Poverty is often accompanied by unemployment, malnutrition, illiteracy, low status of women, exposure to environmental risks and limited access to social and health services, including reproductive health services which, in turn, include family planning. All these factors contribute to high levels of fertility, morbidity, and mortality, as well as to low economic productivity. Poverty is also closely related to inappropriate spatial distribution of population, to unsustain- able use and inequitable distribution of such natural resources as land and water, and to serious environmental degradation.

3.14. Efforts to slow down population growth, to reduce poverty, to achieve economic progress, to improve environmental protection, and to reduce unsustainable consumption and production patterns are mutually reinforcing. Slower population growth has in many countries bought more time to adjust to future population increases. This has increased those countries' ability to attack poverty, protect and repair the environment, and build the base for future sustainable development. Even the difference of a single decade in the transition to stabilization levels of fertility can have a considerable positive impact on quality of life.

3.15. Sustained economic growth within the context of sustainable development is essential to eradicate poverty. Eradication of poverty will contribute to slowing population growth and to achieving early population stabilization. Investments in fields important to the eradication of poverty, such as basic education, sanitation, drinking water, housing, adequate food supply and infrastructure for rapidly growing populations, continue to strain already weak economies and limit development options. The unusually high number of young people, a consequence of high fertility rates, requires that productive jobs be created for a continually growing labour force under conditions of already widespread unemployment. The numbers of elderly requiring public support will also increase rapidly in the future. Sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development will be necessary to accommodate those pressures.

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