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Social Development

Population and Development

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. 

In many countries, a combination of economic development and internal migration drive urban population growth, including the expansion of megacities. International migration is a prominent feature of population and development dynamics in most countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

These are common trends and challenges related to population change inequity in access to services, including reproductive health services; unmet need for family planning; high maternal mortality rates; sex ratio imbalances at birth; gender inequality; gender-based violence; 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.

Our Response

ESCAP, in collaboration with other United Nations entities and stakeholders, plays an important role in assisting countries to formulate and implement population and development policies guided by the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

Our Work

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 Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development. In 2020, the Commission adopted the Asia-Pacific Indicator Framework

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. Currently, if focuses on population ageing and international migration. It has mainstreamed youth in its work programme.

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.