World Population - Adjournment Speech
Before I begin I would like to acknowledge the speech made earlier this evening by Senator Fisher and to acknowledge that five years ago today, in this very spot, Senator Jeannie Ferris made her last contribution in this place. I think it was really timely for Senator Fisher to draw that to our attention so we could remember with fondness and respect the contribution that Jeannie Ferris made to so many things in this chamber.
Tonight I want to talk about the fact that last year in October the world population reached seven billion. In that same month the UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, released its annual State of worldpopulation report. The UNFPA is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. The UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programs to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect. The UNFPA believes that everybody on our planet does count.
This year's State of world population report took the theme of people and possibilities in a world of seven billion. In fact, the recently appointed Executive Director of UNFPA, Mr Babatunde Osotimehin, who had previously been the health minister in Nigeria, took the theme 'seven billion people with seven billion possibilities'. The report uses a snapshot from across world, this year from the countries of China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, India, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Working with people on the ground and using proven data, this report shows us the dynamics of what is happening on our planet.
There are no easy answers. There are successes and there are areas where we must and can do better. Certainly the personal stories in the report shed light on the real life challenges we face in a world of seven billion and growing. In conversations with people living and working in countries, it does not take long to discover that no population issue can be seen unconnected to another. In some parts of our planet, we have people who are ageing very rapidly and their areas are faced with shortages of support for people who are getting older, with fewer young people coming through. In other areas we see population rates continuing to grow. But for all of us there is a worldwide challenge.
There is much to celebrate in the world population trends over the last 60 years, especially in the area of life expectancy, which rose from about 48 years in the early 1950s to about 68 years in the first decade of our new century. Importantly, many people have been working through UN processes and national programs to put a real focus on issues around infant mortality. Infant deaths have plunged from about 133 in 1,000 births in the 1950s to 46 per 1,000 births in the period from 2005 to 2010. One of the key aspects of that change which we can be very proud of is the rise of immunisation programs. Our own country, working with AusAID in numbers of areas, has been very effective.
We have a series of challenges. I think it is important that we look at what has occurred. In the UN State ofworld population report, there is always an index calculated on known data that examines where we are winning-it is called a scorecard-where we are losing and where there is uncertainty. These things are calculated by looking at historical data so that there is clear evidence-there has to be that process-and there are 28 variables that can be measured and put into a projection so we can trace our progress year by year.
The areas where there has been genuine progress, where we must celebrate and learn, are areas like improved water activity. We know that people are getting better access to fresh water across our planet. The literacy rate has risen across many countries so that now there is a real advance in the literacy area and in school enrolment. We see an actual attempt at reducing world poverty. We can see that the things about which I am speaking reflect the Millennium Development Goals. It is no secret that, where there is combined action, concerted funding and real commitment, there can be change. When we see on the index areas where there has been improvement, we can see the link with the Millennium Development Goals process and achievements.
Women in parliament is something that is most dear to my heart. It is an area in our own part of the world in the Pacific where we are not doing well. Worldwide there has been an increase. These things give us hope but they are not generally accepted across the world. People need to see where there has been progress, work out what has ensured that progress, and then have continued focus on where we can do better. This report is available to everybody on the web. Some of the areas in the same index where we need to do better are things like carbon dioxide emissions across the planet and people voting in elections. In some countries fewer people are using their democratic rights. One of the things that is most worrying-and I know many people talk about it-is the level of corruption in many governments across the planet. The international Corruption Perceptions Index is being studied closely and there have been improvements and changes. Nonetheless there continues to be a lack of trust and a lack of stability in some of the governments.
There has been much discussion in this place about the number of refugees. Worldwide there has been a great increase in the number of people who find themselves homeless and seeking refuge for reasons over which they have no control. That has been exacerbated by both man-made disasters, with a horrible range of insurgencies and war in the last years, and the awful tragedies from geographic disasters. We have seen tsunamis covered in the media as well as awful droughts and floods which have impacted on our world. These natural disasters show us all the challenges that we have. These are certainly issues which we have to face moving into the future.
At this stage, the Millennium Development Goals process needs to be finalised by 2015. The world is moving to that, including by doing this report which comes out every year. The report gives us some markers about how we are going and where we can do better. The new Executive Director of the UNFPA sees that there is much more hope than despair. The life stories in this document, which looks at a world facing an ever-growing population, show that these opportunities are there for us to learn from. The report states that:
… our world of 7 billion can have thriving, sustainable cities, productive labour forces that can fuel economic growth, youth populations that contribute to the well-being of economies and society, and a generation of older people who are healthy and actively engaged in the social and economic affairs of their communities.
This is where we are moving to. Through the annual reports we are able to see where our country can be part of the international response. We know that we have a stake in the future of humanity and we know that every individual, every government, every business is interconnected.
We have seven opportunities for a world of seven billion people. We can reduce poverty and inequity and we can slow population growth. We can unleash the power of women and girls and we can accelerate progress on all fronts. We can have energetic and open new technologies which young people can use to transform global politics and culture. We can ensure that every child is wanted, every childbirth is safe and we can have smaller and stronger families. All of us depend on a healthy planet, so we must protect our environment. No. 6 is promoting the health and productivity of the world's older people. No.7 is that the next two billion people will live in cities, so we must plan for them now.