Afghanistan launch for State of the World Population Report 2009

7 Dec 2009

Afghanistan launch for State of the World Population Report 2009

KABUL - Press conference in Kabul by UN Agencies UNFPA and UNEP and Afghanistan's National Environment Protection Agency.


On 19 November 2009 the 2009 State of the World Population Report was launched at the global level and today we are doing the same here in Afghanistan while the negotiations leading up to the widely anticipated International Conference on Climate Change have just started in Copenhagen.

The State of World Population 2009 breaks new ground by shifting the debate on climate change from abstract and technical discussions about nations carbon emissions to the realities of how human beings – from individuals to the world’s population as a whole – both influence and are affected by the warming of the earth’s atmosphere.

In the cause and effect analysis of climate change the discussion has concentrated around production and consumption patterns and possible financial and technological implications and solutions. Very little has the discussion focused on population dynamics as an important variable in the complex equations causing climate change.

Regarding population dynamics, it seems logical to assume that greenhouse gasses would not have accumulated that fast if the number of earth’s inhabitants had not increased so rapidly. Imagine, we were only 1,250 million people in 1850 and 100 years later it doubled and reached 2.5 billion by 1950. After that the growth of the world population went into overdrive. Now, only 59 years later, the world population numbers 6.8 billion.

The rapid growth of world population has resulted in an increase of land in cultivation, water use and energy consumption, and loss of biodiversity and the world’s forest covers.

And population growth has necessitated changes in settlement patterns, especially in the last 50 years, enabling cities to grow explosively, resulting in more transport, per person, of resources, goods and people. Population growth not only leads to more consumption of the same, but has rather stimulated exponential consumption growth, having unprecedented impacts on the environment, causing land degradation, loss of biodiversity and climate change.

The world is facing multiple interrelated crisis, ranging from food, water, fuel and climate, and this will continue for some time to come. This has brought a new spotlight on population in a way that we have not seen before. Concerns about “overpopulation” are re-emerging and here I would like to emphasize the importance to keep the focus on protection and promotion of the human rights vision of the agenda of Cairo to which 179 countries committed themselves to in 1994, now 15 years ago. This vision emphasizes the need to ensure that couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children.

As the earth’s surface warms, weather patterns shift. Unreliable rains hamper food production. Melting ice in the Arctic is contributing to rising sea levels, endangering the lives of millions of people living in low-lying coastal areas around the world. Human-induced climate change threatens to cause shortages of fresh water for human consumption and agriculture. More frequent and severe storms are likely, and leading to devastating floods.

As an example of the possible consequences, the largest mass of ice in the Arctic covers the island of Greenland. In places, the ice sheet is three kilometres thick. If all of it melts, it will raise sea levels by an estimated six metres. In comparison, if current sea levels were to rise by 1 meter, over 100 million people in Asia alone would be driven from their homes in low lying coastal areas.

Most of the people affected by climate change will be poor because they are more likely to live in areas vulnerable to floods, storms and rising seas. And they are more likely to depend on agriculture and fishing livelihoods. When droughts strike, rains become unpredictable and hurricanes move with unprecedented force, they will be the ones to suffer most, and among the poor, women are especially vulnerable.

Women produce roughly half the world’s food according to the Food the Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and anywhere from 60% to 80% of food in most developing countries. Given women’s significant engagement in food production and preparation and the potential for land use to contribute to climate-change solutions in developing countries, the close connection between gender, farming and climate change deserves far more analysis than it currently receives.

Climate experts and Government officials from all over the world will convene in Copenhagen in these days, to hammer out a new international agreement that could lead to slowing and eventually halting the accelerated warming of the earth’s climate in the long run. Much of the focus will no doubt be geared towards finding appropriate mechanisms through which markets can become “greener” and on the right technologies to promote, as well as the amount of financial commitments to be made for more developed countries to support less developed countries.

However, in all the discussions on possible policies that will take place in run up to the Conference and in the hopefully binding agreements that may result from the Conference itself, it is hoped that these will be guided by the fact that climate change is about people. People cause climate change. People are affected by it. People need to adapt to it. And only people have the power to stop it.

And perhaps I can add that many of the other UN agencies like UNDP but also UNFPA and other agencies like UN Habitat, they also work with communities on sustainable livelihood and enhancing the capacity for people to work the land in a more environmentally friendly way and also to use the scarce resources like water in a more efficient manner so trying to enhance the quality of life while at the same time ensuring that environmental degradation is not occurring.

First of all, let me congratulate UNFPA for the launching of the State of World Population – 2009 report.

It is a very important report for outlining current and future challenges for Afghanistan development. The report covers three main challenging development issues: women, population and climate.

Today, I will not be talking on women and population rights, but I will focus on climate change issues globally and here in Afghanistan.

Climate change is becoming an important development issue in the world. The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has called “climate change the defining challenge of our time.”

Climate change is also becoming a critical issue in Afghanistan, due to Afghanistan’s geographical location (mountainous and in one of the driest part of the world).

Afghanistan doesn’t contribute significantly to global climate change (only 0.01 per cent of greenhouse emissions), but it is severely affected by it.

Whereas climate change is a global phenomenon, the effects are local. In Afghanistan, the impacts of climate change are likely to be particularly severe due to the arid/ semi-arid nature of the country, the importance of natural resources for rural livelihoods and the extreme poverty within which a large proportion of the Afghan population lives.

Key climatic hazards in Afghanistan include: periodic drought, floods due to untimely and heavy rainfall, flooding due to thawing of snow and ice, increasing temperatures, frost and cold spells, hail, thunder and lightning, and 120-day winds.

The compilation of a sensitivity climate change analysis indicated that droughts, floods due to untimely and heavy rainfall and rising temperatures present the greatest hazards to ecosystem services, livelihood activities and means of livelihood in Afghanistan.

Sectors identified as most vulnerable to climate change are: Water resources, Forestry and rangeland, and Agriculture.

In Afghanistan, climate change cannot only be considered as an environmental problem, but also as a significant threat to peace and stability, sustainable development and social stability.

The majority of Afghans (75 per cent) are entirely dependent on agriculture and livestock to meet their livelihood and survival needs. Small fluctuations in climate in Afghanistan can result in hunger periods, conflicts and long-lasting food insecurity. The predicted climate change scenarios for Afghanistan will result in dramatic circumstances if local and global measures are not urgently addressed.

Although it is possible to make some general observations concerning the impacts of climate change within the household, the most vulnerable members and the degree of the impact varies according to ethnic group.

Generally speaking, however, women are extremely vulnerable given their general immobility and dependence upon the male members of the household (this being an issue that extends well beyond climate change). It has been noted that, during periods of drought, young women and children may be sold into marriage so that their families can afford to eat. Children are also highly vulnerable to climate change, given that they are widely responsible for realizing small scale livestock herding and collection of firewood.

After having presented to you climate change threats in Afghanistan, let me focus on the international community response and action to address climate change globally.

Marking a historical event, the 15th Conference of the Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, popularly known as COP15, will convene on 7 December 2009, in Copenhagen, to respond to one of the greatest challenges facing humanity: climate change.

Reaching a deal by the time the COP15 meeting ends on 18 December will depend not only on the political negotiations but also on the public pressure from around the globe. Public support must be galvanized. To do this, the United Nations has launched “Seal the Deal”.

As you can see the logo of Seal the Deal Campaign at the back cover of the UNFPA’s report on State of World population 2009.

Seal the Deal! Is designed to mobilize everyone – political leaders, the business sector and civil society, including NGOs, women’s groups, and youth organizations – on an ambitious global scale to apply pressure for action on climate change

The campaign focuses on four elements that the UN considers vital for sealing the deal in Copenhagen. These elements are: Industrialized countries need to agree ambitious mid-term greenhouse gas reduction targets. Developing countries need to undertake nationally appropriate actions to cut their emissions beyond business as usual. Financing technical support for mitigation and adaptation efforts need to be scaled up significantly (especially most vulnerable countries): to include adaptation framework, incentives for reducing emissions from deforestation.

An accountable institutional mechanism and equitable governance structure to channel resources efficiently to developing countries.

The Climate Petition is one way people around the world show united to express their support for governments to seal the deal in Copenhagen.

Let me conclude by inviting all participants to sign this petition, and by keep raising awareness regarding climate change threats in Afghanistan. Our joint collaboration will ensure that Afghanistan is ready to face current and future climate change challenges.


As you heard from our colleagues here the philosophy for creation of the Convention on Climate Change was that the world, after a scientific research study, arrived at the conclusion that human interferences nature has become so destructive that is putting human beings in danger – so we need a global solution to it.

That solution was proposed under the “Convention of Climate Change”.

After that in order to find a global solution a mechanism was put in place to reduce green house gases called the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol binds states to appendix one of the Protocol which develops countries into commitments. The final goal of the convention is to keep the level of carbon in equilibrium in the atmosphere at a level where food security would not be in danger and sustainable economical development should be possible. And this needs a timetable.

The timetable is proposed by the Kyoto Protocol but countries were not able to implement it in time in order to reduce the concerns raised by this issue.

Now the Kyoto Protocol will be finished in 2012 and the world is again realizing, based on the problems my colleagues told you about, that either another mechanism should be put in place or the Kyoto Convention is replaced by the Copenhagen protocol.

But pessimism and optimism are both present for this upcoming conference. The well developed countries are already in a good developmental shape but those who are not there yet do not want to take responsibilities because they do not want their development rate to be slowed down.

So the world does not have any other chance other than to save our common home which is the globe.

What is the fault of those generations which do not have other choices than what we leave them? And we will either leave them with an earth that is alive or we will leave them an inert globe.

From Afghanistan’s side we have sent a high level delegation to start negotiations and to have a voice.

What is important for our office here in Afghanistan?

We have two important issues: public awareness about climatic changes in Afghanistan and the second is about public awareness on how to put back climate change in its previously good situation.

But this public awareness should be in three stages: We are not safe from climate change threats – people should know about global threats, regional threats and from those changes that affect the women and children of Afghanistan and those affecting the development of Afghanistan.

We do not have time for the sectarian effects of climate change. Women and children, sectors of transport, health, agriculture and energy are in real danger.

In conclusion our goal in Afghanistan is make all the preconditions ready for Afghanistan to combat climate change especially in the field of adaptation with the climate change.