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Population conference for 1994 gains momentum


FEBRUARY 28, 1993

Population conference for 1994 gains momentum

Expert groups identify key Cairo topics


UNITED NATIONS—The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has decided that the next preparatory meeting for the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development will take place from 10 to 21 May 1993 in New York.  Scores of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are expected to turn up for the session, according to officials of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The Conference is scheduled to be held in Cairo in September 1994, and preparations are well underway. The UNFPA is the main organizer of the decennial event.  The first meeting of the Cairo Conference’s Preparatory Committee was held last year in India, and the final preparatory meeting is expected to be held in New York in Spring 1994.  Previous population conferences were held in Bucharest in 1974, and Mexico City in 1984.

In addition to the preparatory meetings, the UN has sponsored a number of “expert group” sessions in connection with the 1994 Conference.  The most recent such meeting, on “Population Distribution and Migration,‘ was held in late January in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  The meeting was hosted by the Government of Bolivia, Corporation Regional de Desarrollo de Santa Cruz (CORDECRUZ) and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation.  One of the major themes of the meeting was how to meet the challenges of an urban-based world of the future.

Jyoti Shankar Singh, director of UNFPA’s Technical and Evaluation Division, said “For a long time experts and policy makers who dealt with the subject of urbanization treated it as an evil phenomenon, something that needs to be controlled.  Now it has dawned on them that urbanization is an irreversible process and that by the end of this century, more than half of the world’s population will be living in urban areas.  It creates problems but free movement is an essential element of a productive economy.”

The UN estimates that by 2010 the combined urban population of developing countries will have more than doubled to over three billion people.

The Bolivia meeting, which was attended by officials from 13 countries, also examined the cause and effect of international migration and the relation between population distribution, economic growth and sustainable development, UNFPA’s executive director, Nafis Sadik, said: “Formerly self-sufficient rural population have been forced into a downward spiral of poverty and hunger, partially because of degradation of the land in which they live.  If migration is a problem today it is because of he scale of the potential movements, and because there is nowhere obvious for migrants to go.  There are no more Americans or Australians and the likelier direction of migrants now is from South to North.”

Sadik said that most international migration takes place between developing countries themselves.  Of the 100  million or so total migrants, some 35 million are located in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 15 million in Asia and the Middle East.  By contrast , Western Europe and North America accounted for 13-15 million migrants each.

She said that population distribution policies should be an integral part of development policies.  Governments should adopt multi-pronged strategies such as encouraging the growth of small and medium-sized urban centers and at the same time promoting the sustainable development of rural areas.