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7,000,000,000 Challenge

Politics, Health

7,000,000,000 Challenge

It is more than just a number but a challenge when at the end of the month, the world population is expected to reach 7 billion. It presents an opportunity to chart a new path forward for humanity and a call to action for a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable world.

The United Nations (UN) Population Fund’s (UNFPA) latest State of World Population entitled “People and Possibilities in a World of 7 Billion,” says with planning and the right investments in people, a world of 7 billion can have thriving sustainable cities, productive labour forces that fuel economies, and youth populations that contribute to the well-being of their societies.

At a recent interview at the UN headquarters in New York, head of UNFPA Babatunde Osotimehin noted that within the 7 billion “1.8 billion are young people” and “90 percent of them are in the developing world.”

On food security and the need to invest in agriculture, Osotimehin recommended that these young people should be given “the tools, the skills and the opportunities and the financing to be entrepreneurs of the green revolution going forward.”

Given that the world population is expected to grow even further to 8 billion by 2025, a green revolution, one that utilizes land more effectively and encourages sustainable agricultural methods and systems, will guarantee more food security as well as economic development.

Currently parts of the world that account for less than one fifth of global economic output are expected to see 73 per cent of the world’s expected population increase by 2050. This includes Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Another challenge associated with population growth is rapid and unsustainable urbanization. Today about one in two people lives in a city and in 35 years, that will increase considerable to two out of three. By mid-century, the world’s urban population will likely be the same size as the world’s total population was in 2004.

“There will be a need to think more creatively about sustainable cities,” said Osotimehin highlighting the need to put better social systems and infrastructures in place to sustain that kind of population.

Most cities in the developing world will double in size by 2025 and by then the world will have eight more mega-cities with Asia gaining another five, Latin America two and Africa one. Today, the Tokyo metropolitan areas is the largest, with 36.5 million people.

As the case in Japan, urbanization also accelerates the trend toward smaller families and offers more opportunities for women and young people.

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development’s Programme of Action provides the foundation for the way forward, and the 7 billion milestone is a reminder that individuals, especially women in developing countries, need to be empowered and equipped to make their own reproductive decisions.

Today some 215 million women in developing countries lack access to family planning and are not able to exercise their reproductive rights. Moreover, too many women give birth too young, too often or with too little time between pregnancies to survive.

Osotimehin said “the ability of women to go to school, to be able to be skilled, to have economic empowerment, to participate in the political space actually makes a whole difference.”

Educating women and allowing better access to family planning can not only continue to promote the trend towards smaller families but also help to reduce maternal and child mortality rates. A recent analysis published in The Lancet concluded that half the reduction in child mortality over the past 40 years can be directly attributed to better education for women.

Around the world, but especially in East Asia and Europe, women are choosing to have fewer children. In those same countries, the aging population is also growing.

UNFPA’s State of the World Population report highlights that the record population size can be viewed in many ways as a success for humanity because it means that people are living longer and more of our children are surviving worldwide. But not everyone has benefited from this achievement or the higher quality of life that this implies. Today, great disparities continue to exist between and within countries. Disparities in rights and opportunities also exist between men and women, girls and boys.


Language: English

Year of Production: 2011

Length: 2 mins

Country: United Nations


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  • Muhamed Sacirbey (UNTV-UNFPA)


  • Susan Sacirbey (UNTV-UNFPA)