Challenges and Opportunities
"Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development" (Principle 2 of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development)
Changes in population size, structure and spatial distribution affect the economic, social and environmental situation of countries now and in the future. Each country in the region is at a different stage of the demographic transition. In the majority of countries, population ageing is rapid. In the few countries where fertility and population growth rates remain high, the number and share of young people continues to grow.
International and internal migration, including rural to urban migration are a prominent feature of population and development dynamics in most countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
With about 60 per cent of the global population residing in Asia and the Pacific, what happens to the region’s population affects global trends.
There are common population and development related challenges and opportunities, and many of them are closely related. Inequity in access to services, including reproductive health services; unmet need for family planning; high maternal mortality rates; gender inequality; large numbers of youth with limited access to health, education and employment opportunities; population ageing; rapid urbanization; internal and cross-border migration; environmental degradation; and vulnerability to natural disasters are some of the main challenges. Regarding opportunities, for example, lower mortality in old age allows older persons to contribute to society longer. Youth, at the same time, can then learn from older persons longer, and intergenerational relations improve. Migration often contributes to economic and social development in countries of origin, destination and transit. Greater access to education and lifelong learning improves health, economic prospects in the labour market and the opportunities for women to contribute to society. With adequate policies and programmes, these challenges can be addressed, and opportunities harnessed.
ESCAP, in collaboration with other United Nations entities and stakeholders, plays an important role in assisting countries regularly reviewing demographic trends and developments and formulate and implement population and development policies guided by the 2013 Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development, the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
ESCAP convenes annual Commission sessions, and since 1963 has held six Asian and Pacific Population Conferences. In 1967, the Commission decided to establish the Asian Population Conference as a statutory organ of the Commission, to be convened every ten years. Since the adoption of the Programme of Action, Asian and Pacific countries assess its implementation in the region on a regular basis. In 2013, members and associate members of the Commission adopted the 2013 Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development, and in 2020, the Commission adopted the Asia-Pacific Indicator Framework which allows its member States to assess the situation of their populations towards the implementation of the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.
From 15 to 17 November 2023, ESCAP, in collaboration with UNFPA, convened the Seventh Asian and Pacific Population Conference in Bangkok and online. The meeting outcome will inform the 30-year review of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development at the 57th session of the Commission on Population and Development in 2024.
As a regional forum for countries in Asia and the Pacific, ESCAP strives to increase understanding of population issues, challenges and opportunities. ESCAP supports tailoring of population policies through capacity-building for governments, inter-country research and analysis, dissemination of the latest population information, and the monitoring of international commitments as well as provision of technical support to ensure their implementation.
For many years, ESCAP published the Asia-Pacific Population Journal. In addition, ESCAP publishes the annual Population Data Sheet, a useful tool for reference by researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders. In 2019, it issued the report Population and Development in Asia and the Pacific which provides an assessment of progress made in implementation of the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development. It provides insights based on national reports from member States. The Asia-Pacific Population and Development Report 2023 is forthcoming.