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joint statement by fifty-eight of the world's scientific academies

Representatives of national academies of science from throughout the world met in New Delhi, India, from October 24-27, 1993, in a "Science Summit" on World Population. The conference grew out of two earlier meetings, one of the Royal Society of London and the United States National Academy of Sciences, and the other and international conference organized by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Statements published by two groups expressed a sense of urgent concern about the expansion of the world's population and concluded that if current predictions of population growth prove accurate and patterns of human activity of the planet remain unchanged, science and technology may not be able to prevent irreversible degradation of the natural environment and continued poverty for much of the world.

The New Delhi conference, organized by a group of fifteen academies, was convened to explore in greater detail the complex and interrelated issues of population growth, resource consumption, socioeconomic development, and environmental protection. We believe it to be the first large-scale collaborative activity undertaken by the world's scientific academies.

Population – joint statement signed by fifty-eight of the World’s Scientific Academies (1994)

Let 1994 be remembered as the year when the people of the world decided to act together for the benefit of future generations.

The Academies of the world call upon the governments and international decision-makers, especially those at the 1994 UN International Conference on Population and Development, to take incisive action now and adopt an integrated policy on population and sustainable development on a global scale.

The Problem

The world is undergoing an unprecedented population expansion. Within the span of a single lifetime, world population has more than doubled to 5.5 billion and even the most optimistic scenarios of lower birth rates lead to a peak of 7.8 billion people in the middle of the next century. In the last decade, food production from both land and sea declined relative to world population growth.

The relationships between human population, economic development and natural environment are complex and not fully understood. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the threat to the ecosystem is linked to population size and resource use. Increasing greenhouse gas emissions, ozone depletion and acid rain, loss of biodiversity, deforestation and loss of topsoil, shortages of water, food and fuel indicate how the natural systems are being pushed ever closer to their limits.

The developed world, containing less than a quarter of the world population, accounts for 85% of the gross world production and the majority of the mineral and fossil-fuel consumption. Both rich and poor countries add to environmental damage through industrial activity, inappropriate agricultural practices, population concentration and inadequate and inattentive environmental concern. Yet development is a legitimate expectation of less developed and transitional countries.

The Solutions

Our common goal is the improvement of the quality of life for all, both now and for succeeding generations. By this we mean social, economic and personal well-being while preserving fundamental human rights and the ability to live harmoniously in a protected environment. To deal with the social, economic and environmental problems, we must achieve zero population grown within the lifetime of our children.

These goals are achievable given time, political will, intelligent use of science and technology, and human ingenuity. But only if appropriate policy decisions are taken now to bring about the requisite social change.

How do we go about this task ?

We need:

  • equal opportunities for women and men in sexual, social and economic life so they can make individual choices about family size;
  • universal access to convenient family planning and health services and a wide variety of safe and affordable contraceptive options;
  • encouragement of voluntary approaches to family planning and elimination of unsafe and coercive practices;
  • clean water, sanitation, broad primary health care, and education;
  • appropriate governmental polices that recognize longer-term environmental responsibilities;
  • more efficiency and less environmentally damaging practices in the developed world, through a new ethic that eschews wasteful consumption;
  • pricing, taxing and regulatory policies that take into account environmental costs, thereby influencing consumption behavior;
  •  the industrialized world to assist the developing world in combating global and local environmental problems;
  • promotion of the concept of “technology for environment”;
  • incorporation by governments of environmental goals in legislation, economic planning, priority setting and incentives for organizations and individuals to operate in environmentally benign ways;
  • collective action by all countries.

Natural and social scientists, engineers and health professionals have their part to play in developing better understanding of the problems, options and solutions, especially regarding:

  1. cultural, social, economic, religious, educational, and political factors affecting reproductive behavior, family size and family planning;
  2. impediments to human development, especially social inequalities, ethnic, class and gender biases;
  3. global and local environmental change, its causes (social, industrial, demographic and political) and policies for its mitigation;
  4. improving education and human resource development, with special attention to women;
  5. family planning programs, new contraceptive options and primary health care;
  6. transitions to less energy- and material-consumptive economies;
  7. building indigenous capacity in developing countries in the natural sciences, engineering, medicine, social sciences, management and interdisciplinary studies;
  8. technologies and strategies for sustainable development;
  9. networks, treaties, and conventions that protect the global commons;
  10. world-wide exchanges of scientists in education, training, and research.

Signatories ...

Academy of Sciences of Albania

Australian Academy of Science

Austrian Academy of Sciences

Bangladesh Academy of Sciences

Academy of Sciences of Belarus

National Academy of Sciences of Bolivia

Brazilian Academy of Sciences

Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Royal Society of Canada

Caribbean Academy of Sciences

Chinese Academy of Sciences

Columbian Academy of Exact, Physical, and Natural Sciences

Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Cuban Academy of Sciences

Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters

Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, Egypt

Estonian Academy of Sciences

Federation of Asian Scientific Academies and Societies

Delegation of the Finnish Academies of Science and Letters

French Academy of Sciences

Conference of the German Academies of Sciences

Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences

Academy of Athens. Greece

Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Indian National Science Academy

Iranian Academy of Sciences

Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

Royal Scientific Society, Jordan

Kazakhstan National Academy of Sciences

Kenya National Academy of Sciences

National Academy of Sciences, Republic of Korea

Latvian Academy of Sciences

Lithuanian Academy of Sciences

Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Malaysian Scientific Association

National Academy of Sciences, Mexico

Academy of Sciences of Moldova

Mongolian Academy of Sciences

Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco

Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology

Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

Nigerian Academy of Science

Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

Pakistan Academy of Sciences

National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines

Polish Academy of Sciences

Romanian Academy of Sciences

Russian Academy of Sciences

Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Conference of the Swiss Scientific Academies

Third World Academy of Sciences

Uganda National Academy of Science and Technology

Ukrainian Academy of Sciences

Royal Society of London

National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

National Academy of Physics, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences of Venezuela

“The Family Group” sculpture reproduced on the printed version of this publication is by the kind permission of the Henry Moore Foundation.

 © Henry Moore Foundation 1947