A milestone of mammoth proportion

A milestone of mammoth proportion


It’s official! Leading United Nations officials have marked yesterday, October 31st 2011, as the day the global population reached a staggering seven billion.

However, the UN wasn’t celebrating and has taken the opportunity to call world leaders to action to meet the challenges that a growing population poses, from ensuring adequate food and clean water to guaranteeing equal access to security and justice.

“Today, we welcome baby 7 billion.” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a press event at UN Headquarters.

“In doing so we must recognise our moral and pragmatic obligation to do the right thing for him, or her.” he said.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stating that the 7 billionth child is, by virtue of birth, a permanent holder of rights, with an “irrevocable” claim to freedom.

“But she or he will also be born into a world where some people, given the chance, will trample on those rights and freedoms.” Ms Pillay said in a statement.

“If she was born a girl, she will have fewer choices. If born in the developing world, she or he will have fewer opportunities.”

“But he or she has also been born at a time of great hope,” Ms Pillay added,

She noted that demonstrations of civil society seen in 2011 “serve as a warning to those who might be inclined to deprive this child, like many others, of his or her birthrights.”

The Secretary-General stated, “I am one of 7 billion. You are also one of 7 billion. Together, we can be 7 billion strong, by working in solidarity for a better world for all.”

Mr Ban noted that only 13 years ago in 1998 the world’s population reached 6 billion.

It is expected to grow to 9 billion by the middle of this century or possibly earlier; by 2043.

Mr Ban said “today, this Day of 7 Billion is not about one newborn, or even one generation; this is a day about our entire human family.”

Mr Ban said today’s world is one of “terrible contradictions.”

He noted that there is plenty of food but 1 billion people go hungry.

Many live in poverty but a select few live lavish lifestyles.

Billions of dollars are spent on weapons to kill, instead of keeping people safe, and in spite of huge advances in medicine, mothers die every day in childbirth.

The President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, said today’s milestone is a reminder of how the world’s poorest are considered vulnerable with little or no access to basic needs.

“Seven billion people face, almost on a daily basis; with varying degrees of severity; the consequences of environmental challenges, increasing poverty, inequity, wars and economic instability,” he said.

“But with each of these challenges comes an opportunity; 7 billion opportunities in fact,” he added, noting opportunities can be harnessed to invest in youth and women, reach global anti-poverty targets, and to re-think the approach to sustainable development.

The Executive Director of the UN Population Fund Babatunde Osotimehin remarked on some of the challenges of a growing population that need to be addressed.

“We must ensure that, in areas of the world where population is growing fast, we raise the status of women and young girls to be able to access education and make choices for themselves,” he said.

He also highlighted the need to give ageing populations in many parts of the world a life of dignity, and to tackle the rapid urbanisation and migration, which many countries have to face.

While reaching this milestone is a momentous event, the question remains; how do we divide earth’s precious resources among 7 billion and counting.