The Royal Society
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: The Royal Society
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Science (1 hits),

Full Submission

Royal Society submission to Rio+20 consultation


The Royal Society welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the preparatory process of the Rio+20 meeting. The Society believes that Rio+20 is a critical milestone for reinvigorating international political commitment and catalysing action for meeting the challenges the world now faces.

The Royal Society Science Policy Centre (SPC) has undertaken work on a wide range of issues relevant to sustainable development, most recently completing reports on Nuclear Fuel Stewardship1, the Governance of Solar Radiation Management methods of Geoengineering2, Geoengineering the Climate3 and Ground-level Ozone4. The Society has also been central to the development of interacademy statements5 ? at both G8+5 and global (through the IAP global network of academies6) levels: these have set out clear consensus among the international scientific community on wide-ranging issues, such as global health, energy security, climate change, ocean acidification, tropical forests and water and sanitation. Currently the SPC is preparing a report entitled People and the Planet, which considers the dual contribution of population and consumption to sustainable development.
The Society?s submission to the Rio+20 consultation is based exclusively on the content of the People and the Planet report which is expected to be published in early 2012.

This submission contains the following key messages:

The zero draft document must recognize the fundamental importance of population and consumption to achieving sustainable development. A failure to consider the close interactions between the two when identifying goals, desired outcomes and delivery mechanisms for Rio+20 will compromise efforts to achieve sustainable development. Unsustainable population growth, lack of access to reproductive health-care and continuing degradation of environmental services will compromise development and poverty eradication efforts across the world. Demographic changes present challenges and opportunities for sustainable development, and will influence the achievement of a global green economy. Planning for a transition to a green economy must take these dynamics into account.

Population and Consumption and Rio+20

The Rio+20 meeting provides a critical opportunity for reinvigorating international efforts to achieve sustainable development; for lifting the 1.4 billion people who live on less than $1.25 a day out of poverty; for addressing the unsustainable consumption of natural resources and the environmental degradation that results; and for enhancing the health and wellbeing of all citizens around the world.

Since 1992 the progress made in achieving sustainable development has been limited despite previous statements of high-level political support, identification of goals, targets and action plans. Rio+20 must do better.

It is the Society?s view that there are two main reasons for the poor progress made to date:

1. the reluctance of global leaders to integrate population dynamics and sexual and reproductive health rights into sustainable development strategies and mechanisms for delivery; and

2. the failure of market economies to confront the environmental and resource pressures created by an economic model based on the continual expansion of consumer demand, to capture the full value of environmental goods and services, and to address global disparities in the distribution of incomes, consumption levels and access to environmental resources.

Unless Rio+20 addresses each of these issues the Society is concerned that the transformation to a just, equitable, low carbon and environmentally resilient planet is unlikely to be realized.

In the hope that the Rio+20 Green Economy theme will address point 2 above, the emphasis of this submission is on point 1, as the Society is concerned by the low profile of population matters in the preparatory process to date. However, it is the Royal Society?s view that both consumption and population are of fundamental importance to achieving sustainable development and must be addressed together in an internationally co-ordinated and politically integrated fashion.

Economic, social and environmental systems are all strongly influenced by population, especially rates of growth and demographic changes such as urbanisation, migration, and age structure change. The economic and environmental outcomes arising from population growth and demographic change are directly or indirectly a consequence of consumption of resources. Population and consumption are therefore inseparable factors in sustainable development. These linkages have been recognized by the international sustainable development community in the past ? in the 1992 Rio Declaration and Agenda 21, the 1993 Population summit of the World?s Scientific Academies, the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (ICPD POA) and key actions subsequently agreed at ICPD+5, +10 and +15 (see Appendix 1). Although stabilization of global population growth was identified as important for achieving sustainable development in the report of the Secretary-General to the May 2010 Preparatory Committee7, population issues have otherwise had a notably low profile in the lead up to Rio+20. This is despite the known implications of population growth and demographic change for a world with finite natural resources, the obvious social equity implications for the many millions of women around the world without access to reproductive health care including contraception and safe abortion, and the social and economic development implications of high fertility levels in the poorest regions of the world and the rapid ageing of societies, which is now occurring in both developed and emerging economies.

In late October the global population reached 7 billion people. It is now larger, more urban and older than ever before and is characterized by gross disparities in rights, opportunities and standards of living. In some of the world?s poorest countries high fertility rates hamper development and perpetuate poverty, while low fertility rates in both the richest countries and some of the emerging economies are raising concerns about prospects for economic growth and social security. Globally, current levels of consumption are unsustainable, and yet billions of people currently consume too little to meet their basic human needs. These economic, social and environmental interactions are expressed through the life choices made by individual people and communities, and are likely soon to limit the wellbeing potential of many more people in all parts of the world.

For these reasons it is difficult to see how progress can be made if the challenges and opportunities presented by population growth and demographic changes at the global, regional and national level for the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development, are overlooked.

To ensure that population is considered alongside consumption at the Rio+20 meeting and subsequent activities, the Royal Society would like to propose that the Principles, Objectives and Key Actions of the 1994 Cairo ICPD POA and subsequent ICPD meetings (see Appendix 1) be reflected in the zero draft document. The POA built on the actions and objectives agreed in Agenda 21 in relation to the interrelationships between population and development, and captured key issues which are just as relevant today as they were in 1994; for example; the important influence of population growth and structure on human wellbeing, the need to recognize reproductive rights and improve access to reproductive health care, to improve gender equality, equity and empowerment of women, to recognize the links between population, economic growth and poverty and population and environment, and the need to integrate population and (sustainable) development strategies.

In terms of specific expectations the Royal Society would like to see the dual importance of population and consumption reflected in any goals, targets and/or programmes of action to come out of the Rio+20 discussions. In this context the Royal Society is supportive in principle of the Colombian Government proposal for the development of Sustainable Development Goals and agrees that Agenda 21 provides a good starting point for identifying the key issues requiring action. However, any new goals developed must address population and consumption together in an integrated way, and should reflect the 1994 Cairo ICPD POA and actions agreed at subsequent ICPD meetings.

In the same context, the Royal Society agrees that the Green Economy concept should provide a useful mechanism for helping to achieve sustainable development, in particular through decarbonising consumption, reducing the other environmental impacts of consumption, and reducing consumption inequalities. However, the Society would like to see explicit consideration given to the challenges and opportunities presented by population size, growth rates, structure and distribution in these discussions. For example, how can the green economy agenda be used to ensure countries have the appropriate conditions in place (e.g. health and education infrastructure) to enable them to realize their potential demographic dividend as they approach this stage in their demographic transition? How can the green economy be applied so as to ensure that as countries grow economically they do so equitably and in a low-carbon and environmentally-sustainable way? How can current patterns and trends for increasing international migration be managed to support the growth of a green economy for the benefits of all? What are the implications of the rapid population growth forecast in some parts of the world for the delivery of their green economy, and what are the implications of population decline in areas with low fertility rates? What are the opportunities and challenges presented by an ageing population for a green economy? And, how can the green economy agenda be used to deliver patterns of urbanisation that meets sustainable development objectives? To this end the Royal Society strongly encourages the UN Rio+20 secretariat to work closely with its colleagues in the UN Population Division, UN Environment Programme and UN Development Programme and appropriate national authorities to develop these themes.

Finally, in terms of specific outcomes, the Royal Society would like to see Rio+20 result in a clear statement of intent and commitment to achieving sustainable development by global leaders. This must be accompanied by:

1. Outcome driven goals and measurable targets, based on the 1992 Rio Principles, Agenda 21 and the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (and subsequent ICPD meeting agreed actions). These should complement and significantly strengthen the Millennium Development Goals;

2. Political commitment for the development of an international programme of action for enabling the delivery of the goals. This must contain challenging targets that reflect the size and urgency of the challenge. It should reflect the fundamental importance of population and consumption to sustainable development, the need for improved integration of economic, environmental and social policy making, the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, and the respective roles of the public and private sectors. This should not be an action plan aimed only at achieving the transition to a green economy, or, aimed only at increasing the profile of environmental sustainability. It must facilitate the integration of the three pillars of sustainable development.

3. Firm commitments from governments and the private sector to invest financially in the delivery of the action plan.

The Royal Society would be happy to provide assistance to the Rio+20 secretariat on the issues listed above, or on any of the other matters mentioned in the Introduction to this submission. Please contact

Rachel Garthwaite,

Senior Policy Advisor, Environment and Climate Change, The Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London,

SE1Y 5AG, +44 207 451 2669.

1 November 2011.


The implementation of the recommendations contained in the Programme of Action is the sovereign right of each country, consistent with national laws and development priorities, with full respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of its people, and in conformity with universally recognized international human rights. International cooperation and universal solidarity, guided by the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and in a spirit of partnership, are crucial in order to improve the quality of life of the peoples of the world.

In addressing the mandate of the International Conference on Population and Development and its overall theme, the interrelationships between population, sustained economic growth and sustainable development, and in their deliberations, the participants were and will continue to be guided by the following set of principles:

Principle 1

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Principle 2

Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature. People are the most important and valuable resource of any nation. Countries should ensure that all individuals are given the opportunity to make the most of their potential. They have the right to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing, housing, water and sanitation.

Principle 3

The right to development is a universal and inalienable right and an integral part of fundamental human rights, and the human person is the central subject of development. While development facilitates the enjoyment of all human rights, the lack of development may not be invoked to justify the abridgement of internationally recognized human rights. The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet the population, development and environment needs of present and future generations.

Principle 4

Advancing gender equality and equity and the empowerment of women, and the elimination of all kinds of violence against women, and ensuring women's ability to control their own fertility, are cornerstones of population and development- related programmes.

The human rights of women and the girl child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights. The full and equal participation of women in civil, cultural, economic, political and social life, at the national, regional and international levels, and the eradication of all forms of discrimination on grounds of sex, are priority objectives of the international community.

Principle 5

Population-related goals and policies are integral parts of cultural, economic and social development, the principal aim of which is to improve the quality of life of all people.

Principle 6

Sustainable development as a means to ensure human well-being, equitably shared by all people today and in the future, requires that the interrelationships between population, resources, the environment and development should be fully recognized, properly managed and brought into harmonious, dynamic balance. To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate policies, including population-related policies, in order to meet the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Principle 7

All States and all people shall cooperate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better meet the needs of the majority of the people of the world. The special situation and needs of developing countries, particularly the least developed, shall be given special priority. Countries with economies in transition, as well as all other countries, need to be fully integrated into the world economy.

Principle 8

Everyone has the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States should take all appropriate measures to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, universal access to health-care services, including those related to reproductive health care, which includes family planning and sexual health. Reproductive health-care programmes should provide the widest range of services without any form of coercion. All couples and individuals have the basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information, education and means to do so.

Principle 9

The family is the basic unit of society and as such should be strengthened. It is entitled to receive comprehensive protection and support. In different cultural, political and social systems, various forms of the family exist. Marriage must be entered into with the free consent of the intending spouses, and husband and wife should be equal partners.

Principle 10

Everyone has the right to education, which shall be directed to the full development of human resources, and human dignity and potential, with particular attention to women and the girl child. Education should be designed to strengthen respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including those relating to population and development. The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his or her education and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with the parents.

Principle 11

All States and families should give the highest possible priority to children. The child has the right to standards of living adequate for its well-being and the right to the highest attainable standards of health, and the right to education. The child has the right to be cared for, guided and supported by parents, families and society and to be protected by appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sale, trafficking, sexual abuse, and trafficking in its organs.

Principle 12

Countries receiving documented migrants should provide proper treatment and adequate social welfare services for them and their families, and should ensure their physical safety and security, bearing in mind the special circumstances and needs of countries, in particular developing countries, attempting to meet these objectives or requirements with regard to undocumented migrants, in conformity with the provisions of relevant conventions and international instruments and documents. Countries should guarantee to all migrants all basic human rights as included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Principle 13

Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. States have responsibilities with respect to refugees as set forth in the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

Principle 14

In considering the population and development needs of indigenous people, States should recognize and support their identity, culture and interests, and enable them to participate fully in the economic, political and social life of the country, particularly where their health, education and well-being are affected.

Principle 15

Sustained economic growth, in the context of sustainable development, and social progress require that growth be broadly based, offering equal opportunities to all people. All countries should recognize their common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development, and should continue to improve their efforts to promote sustained economic growth and to narrow imbalances in a manner that can benefit all countries, particularly the developing countries.

2. Key Actions for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action of the ICPD -- ICPD+5 (1999)

Progress and challenges in the first five years of implementing the Cairo agreement were the focus of a series of meetings leading up to special session of the United Nations General Assembly (ICPD+5) in June 1999. The session identified Key Actions for the Further Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action, including new benchmark indicators of progress in four key areas:

1. Education and literacy

Governments and civil society, with the assistance of the international community, should, as quickly as possible, and in any case before 2015, meet the Conference?s goal of achieving universal access to primary education; eliminate the gender gap in primary and secondary education by 2005; and strive to ensure that by 2010 the net primary school enrolment ratio for children of both sexes will be at least 90 per cent, compared with an estimated 85 per cent in 2000 Governments, in particular of developing countries, with the assistance of the international community, should: ... Reduce the rate of illiteracy of women and men, at least halving it for women and girls by 2005, compared with the rate in 1990"

2. Reproductive health care and unmet need for contraception

"... Governments should strive to ensure that by 2015 all primary healthcare and family planning facilities are able to provide, directly or through referral, the widest achievable range of safe and effective family planning and contraceptive methods; essential obstetric care; prevention and management of reproductive tract infections, including sexually transmitted diseases, and barrier methods (such as male and female condoms and microbicides if available) to prevent infection. By 2005, 60 per cent of such facilities should be able to offer this range of services, and by 2010, 80 per cent of them should be able to offer such services."

"Where there is a gap between contraceptive use and the proportion of individuals expressing a desire to space or limit their families, countries should attempt to close this gap by at least 50 per cent by 2005, 75 per cent by 2010 and 100 per cent by 2050. In attempting to reach this benchmark, demographic goals, while legitimately the subject of government development strategies, should not be imposed on family planning providers in the form of targets or quotas for the recruitment of clients."

3. Maternal mortality reduction

"By 2005, where the maternal mortality rate is very high, at least 40 per cent of all births should be assisted by skilled attendants; by 2010 this figure should be at least 50 per cent and by 2015, at least 60 per cent. All countries should continue their efforts so that globally, by 2005, 80 per cent of all births should be assisted by skilled attendants, by 2010, 85 per cent, and by 2015, 90 per cent."


"Governments, with assistance from UNAIDS and donors, should, by 2005, ensure that at least 90 per cent, and by 2010 at least 95 per cent, of young men and women aged 15 to 24 have access to the information, education and services necessary to develop the life skills required to reduce their vulnerability to HIV infection. Services should include access to preventive methods such as female and male condoms, voluntary testing, counselling and follow-up. Governments should use, as a benchmark indicator, HIV infection rates in persons 15 to 24 years of age, with the goal of ensuring that by 2005 prevalence in this age group is reduced globally, and by 25 per cent in the most affected countries, and that by 2010 prevalence in this age group is reduced globally by 25 per cent."


Review and appraisal of the progress made in achieving the goals and objectives of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development 22-26 March and 6 May 2004.

Resolution 2004/2: Follow-up to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development* 6 May 2004, New York * E/CN.9/2004/9 The Commission on Population and Development,

Bearing in mind that 2004 marks the tenth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo in 1994, and of the adoption of its Programme of Action,

Concerned that, based on current trends, many countries may fall short of achieving the agreed goals and commitments of the Programme of Action,

Reaffirming the United Nations Millennium Declaration2 and the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained therein,

Reiterating the call to implement fully and build further on the commitments made and agreements reached at the International Conference on Financing for Development,

Recalling General Assembly resolution 57/270 B of 23 June 2003, Bearing in mind the goals and objectives on population and development of the other major United Nations conferences and summits, and their reviews,

Welcoming the decision of the General Assembly to commemorate at its fiftyninth session the tenth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development,

Taking note of the report of the Secretary-General on the review and appraisal of the progress made in achieving the goals and objectives of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development,

Taking note also of the report of the Secretary-General entitled ?Flow of financial resources for assisting in the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development: a 10-year review?,

Noting that the current levels of financing, including levels of official development assistance, are still well below those needed to achieve the internationally agreed development goals, including the goals contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration,

Stressing the importance of population and reproductive health for development, Bearing in mind the report of the International Conference on Population and Development and on the key actions for the further implementation of the Programme of Action,6 in their entirety,

1. Reaffirms the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development1 and the key actions for its further implementation;

2. Stresses that the implementation of the Programme of Action and the key actions makes an essential contribution to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration;

3. Recalls that it has been estimated that, in the developing countries and countries with economies in transition, the implementation of programmes in the area of reproductive health will cost, in 1993 United States dollars, $18.5 billion in 2005 and $21.7 billion in 2015,7 and that it is tentatively estimated that up to two thirds of the costs will continue to be met by the countries themselves and approximately one third from external resources;

4. Reiterates that increased political will from all Governments and reaffirmation of the commitment for mobilization of international assistance, as agreed in Cairo, are urgently needed to accelerate the implementation of the Programme of Action, which will in turn contribute to the advancement of the broad population and development agenda;

5. Also reiterates that Governments should continue to commit themselves at the highest political level to achieving the goals and objectives of the Programme of Action, inter alia, through the integration of the Programme of Action in programmes and national policies for poverty eradication;

6. Recognizes that the effective implementation of the Programme of Action will require an increased commitment of financial resources, both domestically and externally, and in this context calls upon developed countries to complement the national financial efforts of developing countries related to population and development and intensify their efforts to transfer new and additional resources to the developing countries, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Programme of Action, in order to ensure that population and development objectives and goals are met;

7. Urges donor countries to fulfil their commitments with regard to their official development assistance for population assistance;

8. Calls upon both donors and developing countries to make every effort to strengthen their commitment to meet the estimated costs of the Programme of Action;

9. Encourages Governments, international organizations, including those of the United Nations system, international financial institutions and other relevant stakeholders to assist developing countries in implementing the Programme of Action through technical assistance and capacity-building activities to accelerate the implementation of the Programme of Action;

10. Reiterates that international cooperation in the field of population and development is essential for the implementation of the Programme of Action and the key actions for its further implementation and for the attainment of its goals by 2015, and calls upon the international community to continue to provide, both bilaterally and multilaterally, support and assistance for population and development activities in the developing countries;

11. Emphasizes the importance of building and sustaining partnerships among Governments and relevant civil society stakeholders, in accordance with section V of the key actions, so as to strengthen the capacity of developing countries for the successful implementation of the Programme of Action and the key actions for its further implementation, and invites all Governments and relevant organizations of the United Nations system, as well as the private sector and nongovernmental organizations, to continue to support these activities;

12. Calls upon the United Nations Population Fund to continue to play a crucial role, within its mandate, in helping recipient countries to achieve the goals and targets contained in the Programme of Action, the key actions for its further implementation and the United Nations Millennium Declaration, recognizing the strong and widespread support for the activities of the Fund.
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