The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is taking advantage of the upcoming Rio+20 conference in June to re-brand population control and market it as the backbone of sustainable development, particularly in the developing world.
In a recent interview with IPS titled “The Road to Rio Goes Through Cairo”, Michael Herrmann, an Economics Adviser to the UNFPA and their spokesman for the Rio +20 negotiations, stated, “for sustainable development, it quite simply matters how many people we are, where we live, how we live and what we want from life.”
Concerned about the strain the world’s growing population is putting on the environment and its natural resources, the UNFPA has started marketing its population control policies under new rhetoric, which includes the catch phrase “demography is not destiny”. This phrase established itself firmly in the UNFPA lexicon earlier this year when the UN agency convened a group of academics and international organizations to “explore the links between population and water, energy and food security” at the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Future demographic trends are not destiny. Whether the world population is more likely to grow to 11 billion or to 9 billion by mid-century depends on today’s policies: Investment in human capital, access to reproductive health and education will contribute to the empowerment of young women and will allow them to make informed choices about their families and future, and they will reduce fertility and population growth.
But the focus for the UNFPA is not on investment in human capital. Instead, its main focus is the latter part of the paragraph highlighted in bold which, according to Herrmann’s interview, includes “rights based policies which address population dynamics” and “requires universal access to sexual and reproductive health”.
In UN speak this means that the more regions like sub-Saharan Africa (with characteristically low levels of contraception use) grow in population size, the more it is important that access to contraception and reproductive health services, which often include abortion, are available to help to curb population growth.
The insertion of “population dynamics” into their new rhetoric is also disconcerting. In biology, it describes “the ways in which population densities fluctuate—increasing, decreasing, or both over time“. The problem is when the term is associated directly with reproductive health rights and services, then it becomes neo-Malthusian.
That’s because where the terms are placed together only one conclusion can be drawn: contraception, sterilization, and abortion are a country’s most effective tools in combating population growth, the root cause of poverty and the main obstacle to sustainable development.
During negotiations, the UNFPA has consistently lobbied during negotations for the outcome document to include both terms together. The first countries to put it in draft on behalf of the UNFPA were the United States along with Switzerland, New Zealand, and Norway, and there it remains.
Here is an example, taken straight from the draft yesterday afternoon:
We reaffirm our commitment to gender equality and the right of women, men and adolescents to decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexual and reproductive health including affordable, acceptable and accessible family planning methods. We agree to promote health systems that provide safe, effective and affordable modern methods of family planning, which are essential for women’s health and for advancing gender equality, and will also influence population dynamics, contributing to poverty eradication and sustainable development.
The UNFPA has chosen a rights based approach to population control because it cannot implement its ideology by force. It has already been down that path, most notoriously through its funding of a forced sterilization under the Dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori in Peru in the 1990′s, and its reputation still suffers because of it.
The first Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, finalized in 1992, does not include a single mention of the word “population” because of the negative association that the word has with development. Developing countries know that when the word population is used in relation to development it usually means population control, or at the very least calls for developing countries to reduce their populations in order to achieve development.
It is the terms negative connotation and its association with the UNFPA’s history of population control, that is really behind their new “rights based” approach to sustainable development. In their minds, if access to reproductive services is a right, it magically becomes something positive and can be used, without anyone crying foul, to encourage individuals freely choose to regulate their own fertility. It’s all in the marketing.
However, it is not so much the emphasis on rights alone that completes their strategy. Another key component is the use of scare tactics that emphasize the impending disaster of a population explosion and the shaming the developing world where population growth is the most exponential into the self-regulation of their own population.
What’s worse, as Mr. Herrmann points out in his article, they claim that such an approach to sustainable development is “human centered”.
The phrase human centered is key in Rio negotiations and refers to Principle 1 of the 1992 Rio Declaration:
Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development
This was made the first principle of the declaration precisely because the developing world understood the human person as the protagonist and main beneficiary of development, not the environment. The UNFPA has taken the term and perverted it to its own ends, placing the human at the center of sustainable development not as a beneficiary but as the main obstacle in its achievement.
For the UNFPA, when it comes to the goals of Rio +20, the human person is not a resource but a problem, and population control is the solution.
That is why Herrmann, in his interview states that “improving the well-being of a large and growing population, while promoting the sustainable use of essential natural resources, calls for a two-pronged approach” countries need to shift towards sustainable production and consumption they must implement the “appropriate policies to address demographic changes”.
Those “demographic changes”, if the UNFPA has its way during negotiations, will not mean an investment in infrastructure, health, employment and education, it will mean investment in population control under the guise of “rights” and the freedom to choose to eradicate the poor in order to eradicate poverty.
In the words of Herrmann himself “Demography is not destiny. The difference between these two population projections of the United Nations is half a child per woman, on average. Individual choices and opportunities culminate in population dynamics, and population dynamics can be addressed by enlarging, not restricting, individual choices and opportunities.”
LifeNews Note: Timothy Herrmann writes for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. This article originally appeared in the pro-life group’s Turtle Bay and Beyond blog and is reprinted with permission.