Rethinking the Population Taboo

Rethinking the Population Taboo, by Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne.

On the origins of the slow response to the African demographics disaster:

The outrage evoked by Macron’s remark, however, appears to have little to do with its inaccuracy. Macron violated a taboo that has been in place since the International Conference on Population and Development, held under the auspices of the UN in Cairo in 1994.

The conference adopted a Programme of Action that rejected a demographically driven approach to population policies, and instead focused on meeting the reproductive-health needs of individuals, especially women. Population targets were out; rights were in.

That approach prevailed at several subsequent meetings. It influenced the outcome of the Millennium Summit, which set global development goals for the 2000-2015 period, and is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals, which set the agenda until 2030. Among its 17 goals and 169 specific targets, the SDGs include references to family planning and reproductive rights, in the context of women’s health and gender equality.

One searches in vain for any suggestion that it might be appropriate, or wise, to seek to influence the number of children women choose to have, let alone to consider whether continued rapid population growth in some regions may be incompatible with the goal of sustainable development. Since the Cairo conference, such proposals have been portrayed as colonialist and patriarchal, if not racist. White men should not be telling black women not to have babies. …

Population 1950-2010 Africa, ME, Europe