Public Symposium: 7 Billion People | 7 Billion Actions
Reflecting on a world of 70 billion people
According to the UN World Population Prospects (2010), the world population reached 70 billion on October 31, 2011. In the lead up to this, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Tokyo Office, Japanese Council on Population, and JOICFP held a public symposium entitled “7 Billion People | 7 Billion Actions” on October 27 at United Nations University in Tokyo.
The event also received cooperation from the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA), NPO 2050, Nihon University’s Population Research Institute, the Asian Urban Information Center of Kobe, and Japan Family Planning Association Inc.
So how should we understand this world of now 70 billion people? The symposium saw the gathering of 120 participants to look at population issues afresh, bearing in mind this new number.
In 1987, the world population stood at 50 billion, increasing to 60 billion in 1999, and 12 years later today, there are 10 billion more. If it continues at this rate, the UN Population Division estimates the number reaching 80 billion in 2025 and 100 billion in 2083.
Population phenomena vary with country and region (Japan, for example, has had a declining population since 2005, with a low birth rate and rapidly aging population), but the world population is growing steadily.
As we think about the future of humankind on this planet with finite resources, it is crucial to address population issues. This symposium was an attempt to probe more deeply into such issues and come up with actions we can take to address them.
The symposium began with an opening speech by Junko Sazaki, incoming head of the UNFPA Tokyo Office (appointed from November 1). She expressed the strong commitment of the UNFPA in dealing with the task at hand.
Dr. Makoto Atoh of Waseda University’s Faculty of Human Sciences then explained the UNFPA’s 2011 State of World Population Report, “People and Possibilities in a World of 7 Billion,” praising it as well-balanced in analyzing and discussing both macro and micro perspectives – dealing with food supplies, natural resources and energy, as well as development, poverty and investing in women and youth. Atoh pointed out that although it was important and timely for the perspective of women to be emphasized at the 1994 Cairo Conference (UN International Conference on Population and Development), this must not be the only focus in dealing with population issues, and that macro perspectives are also important.
The discussion session used the theme “7 Billion People | 7 Billion Actions” to reflect on what each individual should and can do to make a difference. Mitsuhiro Yokoyama (Head of UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Tokyo Office) raised long-term responsibilities and suggested effective agricultural investment. Masahiro Sugiyama (Chief Researcher at Central Research Institute of the Electric Power Industry’s Socio-Economic Research Center) provided various analyses from the perspective of climate change and energy policy, emphasizing the need for further innovation in energy solutions.
Tokutaro Hiramoto (Vice-Chief Consultant at Nomura Research Institute) suggested building a BoP (“Base of the Pyramid”) business model for the poor, numbering 40 billion. HASUNA CEO Natsuko Shiraki commented, based on her experience launching a fair trade jewelry business, that there must be more we can do to make a difference. To this end, she encouraged people to participate more in the various actions being implemented.
Kyoko Ikegami, head of the UNFPA Tokyo Office, coordinated the discussion smoothly to create a participatory symposium where all 120 people in attendance were able to present action declarations and think about contributing towards a solution.
These declarations will be published on the UNFPA Tokyo Office website in the near future.
Yasushi Akashi, chair of the Japanese Council on Population and former UN under secretary-general then summed up the points raised in the symposium. He stressed that it was important to deepen awareness of the important role Japan has to play in international society, and also expressed hope that Japan will demonstrate more leadership in the future, strongly warning against any further ODA reduction.
The symposium was brought to an end with Ikegami’s call for participants to disseminate the ideas for action that had been generated.
As we commemorate reaching a population of 70 billion, we should take this opportunity to remember that we are all aboard Spaceship Earth together and can each play a part in guiding it into future.
Ryoichi Suzuki, JOICFP Executive Director and Secretary General)