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Leaders Listen, Trouble-Makers Tell: Important Voices on A Small Planet

December 18th, 2014

Global Population Speak Out takes a planetary view of population issues, hoping that as humanity continues to evolve, peace and goodwill will quickly come to dominate international relations, such that all nations can eventually collaborate to act as thoughtful stewards of our magnificent Earth — and thereby take collective actions to preserve, conserve, and nourish ecosystems and the other species that make them up.

No doubt it is this underlying hope that compels people and organizations from all over the world to take part in Speak Out. After all, when humanity has learned to get along and value each other as brothers, sisters, friends, and relatives, not only will our ability to care for each other be greatly strengthened — our ability to be conscientious participants in the rich tapestry of life will be greatly enhanced as well.

One of the most rude and misinformed criticisms levied by people who refuse to acknowledge human population size and growth as key aspects of the human presence on Earth is the facile refrain that population activists are “telling other countries what to do” — as if advocates for human rights, human health, family planning and sharing accurate information were just imperialist stooges who have never stopped to consider the broader implications of their efforts.

Actually, the problem is just the opposite. Too few of these arm-chair critics are listening to what various countries around the world are saying.

For example, as of 2011, 46% of governments of developing countries viewed their population growth as too high. An even larger percentage of least developed country governments expressed concern about the high rate of population growth in their countries — 80% viewed their population growth as too high in 2011, up from 73% in 1996. Africa remains the region with the highest percentage of governments viewing population growth as too high. In 2011, about 65% of governments in Africa were concerned that their rate of population growth was too high. (UN PDF).

Let’s add to this just a small sampling of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations around the world working on population issues, and the kangaroo-court charge of “telling others” what to do becomes even more lame.

How about:

  • Partners in Population and Development (PPD): an intergovernmental initiative whose purpose is expanding and improving South-to-South collaboration in the fields of reproductive health, population, and development. PPD was launched at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), when 10 developing countries from Asia, Africa, and Latin America formed an intergovernmental alliance to help implement the Cairo Program of Action (POA). Oh, by the way, the Cairo Program of Action is endorsed by 179 nations!
  • The Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD): is a regional non-governmental organization based in Bangkok, Thailand. AFPPD functions as a coordinating body of 26 National Committees of Parliamentarians on Population and Development to champion policies on population and development. AFPPD educates, motivates, involves, and mobilizes parliamentarians on the linkages between increasing population and development issues such as reproductive health, family planning, food security, water resources, sustainable development, environment, ageing, urbanization, migration, HIV/AIDS, and gender equality.

Or maybe we should take a look at country specific organizations? Are these groups telling “others what to do?”

How about Mulat Pinoy in the Philippines, a youth social media initiative staffed by young Filipinos that conducts regional youth forums, workshops, online discussions, and new multimedia content such as articles, videos, infographics, and podcasts. This group is a leader not only in advocating for reproductive health, but also in understanding how Philippine population dynamics impact human development in that country.

Finally, what about the people of the world – the individuals who are concerned about biodiversity conservation or who want to access contraceptives so they can limit their family size? Who is “telling” people like this what to do?

Nobody, that’s who.

If anything, activists and advocates acting in the spirit of Global Population Speak Out are simply listening to what the voices of the planet are saying — both north and south; both rich and poor; both men and women; both children and adults; both human and non-human. All these voices matter, all these voices count.

People who do not consider population size and growth as crucial social and environmental issues have a right to their opinions, but not their facts. And the fact is that millions of people around the world recognize and care about human population size and growth as a legitimate area of concern needing collaborative and cooperative action. In this alone, the population issue is always-already a legitimate social issue — and always will be. For it is clearly the spirit, will, and autonomous intellects of human beings themselves, all over the world, in various cultures and social milieus, that naturally ponder population issues and dare dream of a better future for themselves, their brethren, and this beautiful Earth.

Global Population Speak Out

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