Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations


World Population Day 2017


Twenty-eight years ago, the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) proposed that the 11th of July be recognised by the international community as World Population Day. Since then, the date has been celebrated globally as an opportunity to focus attention on the growing population issues. These include, but are not limited to, unsafe family planning, inaccessible reproductive healthcare, widespread poverty and gender inequality.

I was born in a world with less than 3  billion people. Today, the world has grown to 7.5 billion, more than twice the population my generation got introduced to. According to the United Nations, the global population is expected to reach 8.5 billion in 2030. By 2050, it will top 9.8 billion, and, finally, in 2100, 11.2 billion . Our growing populations not only means growing needs, ambitions and aspirations but also strain on resources.

In January, 2016, seventeen ideals were outlined by the United Nations (UN) in its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Population challenges rooted in poverty lie at the heart of the SDGs’ agenda. Ending hunger, providing quality education and reducing inequality globally are only a few examples. The end goal: a sustainable planet for the human race. The continued population growth and the higher portion of them that will live in cities, will require a holistic approach to achieving the SDGs.

This year’s World Population Day heralds the theme “Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations”. It is an occasion to not only focus on the challenges facing the citizens of the planet, but also on the future generation’s right to life. This year, World Population Day coincides with the Family Planning Summit, the second meeting of the Family Planning 2020 initiative (FP2020). The initiative aims to make voluntary family planning accessible for 120 million underprivileged women by 2020. Access to medical services and to safe family planning are basic human rights. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) stresses that the latter is central to gender equality and women’s empowerment, a key factor in reducing poverty to achieve SDG #1.

Population issues cannot be discussed without taking a country’s development into account. China and India, the two most populous nations in the world, are also two of the fastest growing economies.  They are testimony that it is possible to combine large population with development.  It is about time to discuss population issues in terms of opportunities and not challenges, human resources as assets not burdens.


The United Nations Country Team (UNCT) in UAE sees much potential in the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) youth, who make up over half the region’s population. The UNCT has been working with players in the governmental and private sectors on the population portfolio and related issues affecting the area.

World Population Day is a date to remember. We share this planet and all its resources and potential are ours to cherish and protect. We should spare no effort working towards a world where every mother is healthy and safe, and every child has an opportunity to grow up in peace on a planet in balance.


Frode Mauring

United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. and UNDP Resident Representative a.i. to the United Arab Emirates (covering the states of Oman and Qatar)

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