The world is home to 7 billion people, but how far have we come?
The population milestone is a reminder that there is much work to do on sexual and reproductive health and HIV if we are to meet the millennium development goals by 2015. This statement by Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, appeared in The Guardian on 31 October 2011.
The world's population reaching 7 billion on Monday is an occasion to take stock of how far humanity has come in promoting the right to the highest attainable standard of health. As a key strategy to accelerate progress, the international sexual and reproductive health and HIV communities are increasingly joining forces and reaching out to the most vulnerable and under-served populations.
It is critical that sound policies are in place to support comprehensive approaches, whether on providing women with family planning services, delivering sex education for young boys and girls, preventing child marriage, eliminating gender-based violence, managing sexually transmitted infections, ensuring access to condoms for dual protection, or providing antiretroviral treatment alongside cervical cancer screening.
The millennium development goals cannot be achieved without ensuring human rights and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. These are joint goals that will contribute to – and cannot be achieved without – gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Most new HIV infections are sexually transmitted or associated with pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. The risk of HIV transmission may also be further increased by other sexually transmitted infections. This means that efforts to improve the health of women and their children, including eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV, require a joint commitment.
Sexual and reproductive ill health and HIV have the same root causes. These include economic inequality, limited access to appropriate information, gender inequality, harmful cultural norms and social marginalization.
The interventions needed to address HIV and other sensitive sexual and reproductive health issues often face the same challenges: lack of trained staff and management skills, and shortages of supplies, equipment and facilities.
People in poor countries typically receive only piecemeal information and services – even though they may have urgent concerns regarding HIV and other sexual and reproductive health issues.
The opportunity to get better health for the money – which is ever more important in the current economic climate – lies in strengthening integrated services. Forging partnerships between the sexual and reproductive health and HIV communities, including with networks of people living with HIV, is essential to reap sustainable benefits.
By integrating services, we can improve their quality and accessibility, which means more people will use them. In turn, this improves health and behavioural outcomes, including condom use, and people's knowledge about HIV. Other benefits include reducing HIV-related stigma and discrimination, since addressing HIV will be part of normal core services within a facility.
Healthcare systems must meet people where they are and offer a package of services under one roof. This is the best way to meet people's needs and protect their right to health.
All of these interventions are part and parcel of improving people's health and empowering them. It is crucial that these efforts have strong country leadership, underscoring the Paris and Accra principles that will also be the focus of the aid conference in Busan, South Korea, in November.
The world's new population milestone is a reminder that there is still much work to do to improve people's lives and meet the millennium development goals by 2015.
In a world of 7 billion people, every person should enjoy equal rights and dignity. And as our numbers grow in the years ahead, it is critical that we take action to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and that every young person is free of HIV and Aids.
A Global Agenda for seven billion
NEW YORK – Late next month, a child will be born – the 7th billion citizen of planet Earth. We will never know the circumstances into which he or she was born. We do know that the baby will enter a world of vast and unpredictable change – environmental, economic, geopolitical, technological, and demographic. This statement by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, appeared in Project Syndicate on 28 September 2011.
The world’s population has tripled since the United Nations was created in 1945. And our numbers keep growing, with corresponding pressures on land, energy, food, and water.
The global economy is generating pressures as well: rising joblessness, widening social inequalities, and the emergence of new economic powers.
Read the full statement.
These trends link the fate and future of today’s seven billion people as never before. No nation alone can solve the great global challenges of the twenty-first century. International co-operation is a universal need.
The 66th session of the UN General Assembly is a renewed opportunity for the countries of the world to set aside narrow, short-term interests and commit to co-operative efforts to address humanity’s long-term imperatives.
At a time when all nations are experiencing individual challenges, we need to forge a worldwide common agenda that can help to ensure that the seven billionth baby and future generations grow up in a world characterized by sustainable peace, prosperity, freedom, and justice.
To help create this future, I am focusing my second term as Secretary-General on five global imperatives – five generational opportunities to shape the world of tomorrow by the decisions we make today.
The first and greatest of these imperatives is sustainable development. We all must understand that saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, and advancing economic growth are one and the same fight.
We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security, and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.
In the next five years, we need to create a new economic vision for sustainable development and forge global consensus on a binding climate change agreement.
Fostering economic growth, realizing the Millennium Development Goals, and combating climate change will all depend on creating a new energy system for the twenty-first century and extending it to every person on the planet.
Prevention as a framework for international co-operation is a second opportunity. This year, the UN peacekeeping budget will total $8 billion. Think of what we could save by avoiding conflicts – by deploying political mediation missions, for example, rather than troops. We know how to do this. Our record proves it – in Guinea, Kenya, and Kyrgyzstan.
A third imperative is building a safer and more secure world. In this effort, we must be courageous in standing up for democracy, human rights, and peace. This year was one of signature achievements in restoring and securing peace – in Côte d’Ivoire, Darfur, Egypt, and elsewhere.
But hatred and bloodshed still stand in the way of our vision for peace.
In the Middle East, we must break the stalemate. Palestinians deserve a state. Israel needs security. Both want peace. A negotiated settlement can produce these outcomes, and the UN is a platform for forging such a peace.
So, too, will we continue our efforts to foster democratic governance in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone. And, in the name of all of humanity, we will continue to push forward on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, in service of realizing a world free of nuclear weapons.
The fourth big opportunity is supporting countries in transition. This year’s dramatic events in North Africa and the Middle East inspired people around the globe. Let us help make the Arab Spring a true season of hope for all.
In Libya, we are deploying a new UN support mission to assist the country’s transitional authorities in establishing a new government and legal order, consistent with the aspirations of the Libyan people.
Syria is a special concern. For six months we have seen escalating violence and repression. The government has repeatedly pledged to undertake reforms and listen to its people. It has not done so. The moment to act is now. The violence must stop.
Last but not least is the imperative of working with and for women and young people.
Women hold up more than half the sky and represent much of the world’s unrealized potential. We need their full engagement – in government, business, and civil society.
The UN has placed a high priority on promoting women at all levels of the Organization and this year, for the first time, UN Women is operating to promote the interests and rights of women all over the world.
Seven billion people now look towards the United Nations for solutions to the world’s great global challenges. They hold different religions and backgrounds but common dreams and aspirations.
Our global future depends on bringing these individual talents and universal rights together in common cause. Let our common agenda begin.