Much attention has been given to the subject of population growth since the 1960s. At the time, large-scale so-called family planning programmes were set up. These programmes were called into question in the 1980s, among other reasons because women and men were being forced to use contraceptives.
This led to the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), organised in 1994 in Cairo, being very controversial. Despite this, the parties present at the conference, who had earlier opposed each other on this issue, reached an agreement.
A new attitude arose in relation to population programmes. The emphasis moved from looking for solutions to big issues in relation to rapid population growth to individual Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
Because of this, attention to the subject of population declined for some time. However, in drafting the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, the UN highlighted the importance of this subject again on the agenda.
Worldwide, 214 million women need modern contraception but have no access to this – the so-called unmet need. If women could choose, they would often oft for less children. Family planning not only contributes to their development, that of their children, but also to stability and economic growth in their country. Research shows that for every dollar invested in better access to contraceptives, 120 dollars is yielded through improved health and less pressure on the environment. Therefore, investment in Sexual and Reproductive Health not only makes an important contribution to families, but also contributes to sustainable development in countries.
Worldwide population growth is one of the most important challenges facing us today. It has huge consequences for economic growth, political and social (in)stability, education, migration and the climate. Rutgers organizes, among other things, meetings with experts in order to investigate how to improve collaboration in relation to development issues, specifically on the theme of population. These experts are from various sectors: sexual health and rights, population growth, education, economics, migration and climate. In this way, we want to use the knowledge that we have gained for the development of policy, projects and research.
Population growth touches on many Sustainable Development Goals drafted by the UN. Therefore, Rutgers has put the subject on the political agenda again, with a focus on human rights. We want to convince governments of the importance of access to sexual and relational education within education.
We also aim to encourage them to improve equality between men and women and to improve access to contraception.
Annually, Rutgers organizes the launching of the State of the World Population Report in collaboration with the United Nations Family Planning Association (UNFPA). This report records the most important results in relation to population growth. The report is presented to policy makers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Towards the end of this century, the world population will have increased to 11.2 billion, an increase of 50% compared to 2017. This breath-taking growth will not take place at an even pace: where some countries expect decline, the population in the least developed countries will quadruple.
Free choice is crucial: it is important that women who want to use contraceptives are given the possibility to do so. This means investing in sexual education, ensuring access to contraception and working towards gender equality.