It is possible to control population growth

Eleven years after the era initiated in Cairo in 1994 in the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), we must highlight the direct correlation between poverty and women’s rights, as well as the universal access to reproductive health through programs of family planning and risk free maternity. But the insufficient resources, gender prejudice and the deficiencies in the services to the poor and to adolescents are calling for a greater step in a moment when problems become aggravate.

The program, approved by 179 countries in Cairo 10 years ago, aspired to balance world population and the world’s resources, to improve the living conditions of women and to watch over  the universal access to services of reproductive health and even family planning. The starting point was the premise that the size, the growth and the distribution of the population are closely related to the development perspectives and that measures in those fields reinforce the actions in other ones. But given the pressure of Islamic countries and the Vatican in an unheard-of alliance, the Consensus in Cairo gave priority to invest on human beings and to expand their opportunities instead of reducing population growth.

That is the greatest threat hanging on humanity: demographic explosion. To face it, we can only guarantee women’s education and their access to jobs that belong to them in order to assume a responsible motherhood.

But there is a lot left to do to guarantee reproductive health and rights, including those of the 1.3 billion adolescents in the world, to promote a risk-free maternity and to stop the expansion of HIV.

Ten years after Cairo we face these shuddering numbers: more than 350 million couples still lack access to a complete variety of services of family planning.

Pregnancy complications and childbirth continue to be an important cause of death and disease for women: each year, more than 500,000 lose their lives to largely preventable causes.

In 2003, 5 million more people became infected with HIV; women constitute almost half of all the infected adults and almost three fifths of the people that live South of Sahara.

World population will increase from the actual 6.4 billion to almost 9 billion in 2050; the 50 poorest countries will multiply by three their population up to 1.7 billion.

The eleventh anniversary of the ICPD presents an opportunity for governments and the international community to renew their commitment and find the means to repair the problems that still persist. Especially in these moments in which leaders of the 7 richest countries plus Russia – the G-8 – get together. With a decision by this group, world hunger could be eradicated in ten year’s time, the necessary primary education and sanitary assistance could be offered, as well as to guarantee women’s reproductive health that will allow them to assume a responsible maternity. Just like all the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) reports have demonstrated since the beginning of the 1990’s. It is feasible to end these plagues that devastate humanity and endanger its survival and that of planet Earth.

It’s not about futurist fantasies, these are real dangers discussed by scientists and world experts. Why don’t we do it if it is in our hands? For the exact same reasons why wars, aggressions to the natural environment, the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, weapon and drug trade were not prevented, along with the modern slavery of children enlisted in armies and prostituted in so many parts of the world, holocausts of every kind with the forced displacement of entire communities. But this will also affect the dominating classes in power with the implacable degradation of the planet. Due to the selfishness and the irrational blindness of some people who can be qualified not only as inhumane, but also as criminal.

This is why we must extend through all the available means that the solution is in our hands: in every developed and democratic country where women have reached access to education and to the job market that belong to them, which are the same as those that belong to them as a minimum, demographic curves have been controlled and even reduced to worrying levels. The solution is clear: education, responsibility and freedom to administrate maternity and paternity that belongs to each human being.

* Professor of Political Thought (UCM) and CCS Director
   Translated by Carlos Miguélez