Actor to highlight broken U.N. promises on day of 6 billion (OCT)

10 October 1999

Media Releases 1999

Actor John Howard of Sea Change fame will compere a rally in Canberra on Tuesday 12 October, organised by Australians for an Ecologically Sustainable Population, to protest over Australia’s failure to fully live up to its promise to help the U.N. curb global population growth.

Howard, who plays pro-development Pearl Bay mayor Bob Jelly in the popular TV series, will appear in character during the rally, to be held at Garema Place in Canberra City from 12.30 – 1.30.

“Australia should be fully supporting the program the U.N. has mapped out, with the agreement of 177 participating nations, to stabilise world population,” he said.

October 12 has been chosen by the U.N. to symbolise the occasion when the world’s population passes 6 billion.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has called on developed nations to increase their financial support for population stabilisation, asking “what could be more important than the chance to help the world’s people control their numbers?” (see attachment)

In 1994, Australia signed the U.N. Programme of Action on Population and Development in Cairo, pledging to spend $148 million a year directly on population-related foreign aid, but spending has been running at around $37 million a year, only a quarter of the required amount.

Other speakers at the rally will include:

  • Father Paul Collins, Catholic priest and author God’s Earth, Religion as if Matter really Mattered, which criticises the church’s failure to face environmental problems including overpopulation;
  • Mark O’Connor, poet and author of This Tired Brown Land, which, among other things, highlights the failure of the media to adequately inform the public of the environmental and economic consequences of population growth (Mark has just been selected by the Australia Council as the “Olympic poet”);
  • Clive Hamilton, Director of the Australia Institute;
  • Julia Richards, an executive member of the ACT Conservation Council;
  • Gordon Hocking, National President of Australians for an Ecologically Sustainable Population.

Attachments: Extract from UN press release – Sept. 22, 1999; Kofi Annan UN address June 30, 1999

Further information: Paul Collins Ph: +61 2 6232 9442; Mark O’Connor Ph: +61 2 6247 3341;
Tom Gosling, Ph: +61 2 6231 6428 [ ]

Cairo Population Plan Needs More Funding to Sustain Progress

Extract from UN press release – September 22, 1999

A fifth-year review of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) shows that countries are making progress in carrying out their 20-year action plan to improve living standards, promote gender equality and sustainable development, and stabilize population growth.

However, increased funding, especially by donor countries, is needed to sustain the progress, according to The State of World Population 1999 report just released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

At the Cairo Conference, policy emphasis shifted from a narrow focus on contraception towards a broader development agenda, and to providing better women’s health care and empowering women and girls. It was acknowledged that improved services and wider choices, free of coercion, would lead to smaller families and slower population growth. Governments agreed to take action to provide universal primary education and reproductive health care, including family planning, by 2015, and to reduce the death rates of infants, children and mothers.

However, for some countries and regions, progress has been limited, and in some cases setbacks have occurred. Women and girls continue to face unnecessary discrimination. HIV/AIDS has caused death rates to rise, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Far too many women in poor countries die or become ill as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. Young people remain particularly vulnerable to unwanted sex and pregnancy, STDs and sexual exploitation. And millions of couples and individuals still lack access to reproductive health information and services including quality, voluntary family planning.

Achieving the goals set out in Cairo in 1994 and in New York at the fifth-year review will require greater political commitment, development of national capacity, increased international assistance and increased domestic resources. There is also a strong need to further develop effective, transparent partnerships with NGOs, religious groups, parliamentary leaders, educators and the private sector. In Cairo, governments agreed that $17 billion a year would be needed by the year 2000 for population and reproductive health activities. Of this, two thirds, or $11.3 billion, was to come from developing countries themselves and the remainder, $5.7 billion, from donor countries.

The developing countries, which now commit some $7.7 billion, are about two thirds of the way to their target, although spending is concentrated in a few large countries. The donor countries, however, have reached only about one third of their target, or $1.9 billion.

The shortfall in international assistance is a threat not merely to the ICPD Programme of Action, but to global stability and security. Unless funding increases substantially, it could spell continued high rates of female illiteracy, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, maternal and child deaths, and an even faster spread of HIV/AIDS.

Kofi Annan address to Special Session of UN General Assembly – June 30, 1999

“The stakes could hardly be higher. If only we could implement the Cairo programme in full, we could make a tremendous difference to human rights, to hopes of prosperity, and to the sustainable use of natural resources. We must do it. But we cannot do it without funds. In Cairo, everyone agreed on the need to mobilize new financial resources – from within developing countries, and also from the international community. Since then, developing countries have proved their commitment. But they are cruelly limited in what they can achieve without outside help. I know, it’s easier said than done. Even rich countries contain many poor people, and their governments face many competing claims. But what could be more important than the chance to help the world’s people control their numbers through greater prosperity and wider choice?”


Media Releases 1999
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