Birth rates 'must be curbed to win war on global poverty'

The earth's population will approach an unsustainable total of 10.5 billion unless contraception is put back at the top of the agenda for international efforts to alleviate global poverty. A report by MPs released today challenges world leaders to put the contraceptive pill and the condom at the centre of their efforts to alleviate global poverty, tackle starvation and even help to avert global warming.

Gordon Brown has staked his future premiership on leading the world in tackling global poverty. And the report, by the all-party parliamentary group on population, development and reproductive growth, makes the point that the population surge presents a massive stumbling block for his ambition.

Since the 1970s, when coercion was used in India and China, family planning has become a dirty word among environmental and hunger campaigners. But the report warns that eight UN targets for reducing poverty in the developing world will be missed unless world leaders do more to stop the soaring birth rates.

The group says the UK will have to take on the religious ideology of the neoconservatives in the White House against contraception. The MPs call for an end to the so-called "global gag rule", that was reintroduced by President George Bush.

It has put non-governmental organisations outside the US "in an untenable position" and forced them to choose between carrying out their work safeguarding the health and rights of women or losing their funding from the US.

The Labour MP Christine McCafferty, who chairs the group, said there would be a 50 per cent rise in the world's population by 2050 unless family planning was made more freely available in the developing world, where 99 per cent of the growth is expected to occur.

The report says there is "overwhelming" evidence that the UN's millennium development goals will be missed if population growth is not curbed. The goals include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, combating HIV/Aids and ensuring environmental sustainability.

The report carries a graph illustrating the "bulge" in population growth in developing countries since the 1950s, while the birth rate in developed countries has stagnated. The worst-case scenario predicts that unless it is checked the earth's population could soar out of control to more than 36 billion over the next 300 years.

"Once population growth gains a certain speed it is hard to slow," says the report. "As a result of rapid population growth a generation ago, China has a growing number of young married women of childbearing age.

"In Africa, the diversion of attention from population and the stalled fertility decline has occurred just as population momentum was beginning to slow with extremely serious long-term implications."

The population explosion has led to an increase in the numbers in extreme poverty living on less than $1 a day. In 1990, 44.6 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa were living in extreme poverty and this grew to 46.4 per cent in 2001. Because of population growth, the number of people affected rose from 231 million to 318 million.

Many countries that lowered their birth rates, such as South Korea, have reduced poverty. But the MPs say: "Continued rapid population growth in today's poorest countries presents a serious barrier to meeting the millennium target of poverty reduction."

Richard Ottaway, the Tory vice-chairman of the group, said: "This is not the developed world telling the undeveloped countries what they ought to be doing. None of the poorest 50 countries think that their populations are too small and 80 per cent think they are too high."

UN goals in jeopardy

Reduce Extreme Poverty

Target: Halve by 2015 number of people who earn less than $1 a day

Report: "Rapid pace of population growth means... we are not even succeeding in keeping the numbers living in extreme poverty stable."

Universal Primary Education

Target: Ensure that by 2015 children will have a full primary schooling

Report: "The number of school-age children can double every 20 years - an extra two million school teachers per year are required just to stand still."

Gender Equality

Target: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005

Report: "The ability of women to control their own fertility is absolutely fundamental to women's empowerment and equality." So far, many lack it.

Combat HIV/AIDS

Target: Halt by 2015 and reverse the spread of HIV/Aids

Report: "Some progress... But population growth has a negative impact on gaining control over spread of HIV/Aid through increased urbanisation."

Reduce Child Mortality

Target: Reduce by two thirds by 2015

Report: "Evidence reveals at least two important causes of child mortality are directly linked to population growth: high fertility and reduced access to safe drinking water."

Improve Maternal Health

Target: Reduce by three quarters by 2015 the maternal mortality rate

Report: "High fertility strongly increases a woman's lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes."

Guard Environmental Sustainability

Target: Integrate principles of sustainable development into country policies

Report: "Reversing the loss of environmental resources cannot be achieved in the context of rapid or even moderate population growth without addressing the demographic factor."

Water Provision

Target: Halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to basic sanitation

Report: "As population grows, the UN estimates two thirds of the world's population will face moderate to high water shortages by 2025."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...