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Return To: 2021 Handbook

Commission on Population and Development (CPD) (Virtual)

Purview of the Commission on Population and Development Purview of the Commission on Population and Development

A functional commission of ECOSOC, the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) monitors and studies population trends and the interrelationship of those trends with development issues. Established in 1946 as the Population Commission and renamed in 1994, the CPD’s primary mandate from ECOSOC is the monitoring, analysis and follow-up of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). CPD is composed of 47 Member States elected every four years by ECOSOC.

In its review of the Programme of Action of the ICPD, the CPD directly reviews policies and implementation of the Programme at local, national and international levels. CPD is also tasked with arranging studies about and advising ECOSOC concerning the following: integrating populations with development policies, strategies and other programs; providing population assistance to developing countries and those economies in transitions upon their request; or addressing other population or development questions that arise from UN organs.

International migration and development International migration and development

International migration and its relationship to development touches all countries of the world, yet the connection between the two is often oversimplified by the international community. The commonly-held perception is that migrants leave their home countries primarily to escape development failure, supported by the high level of international migration from less developed countries to developed ones since the 1950s, even resulting in a net decrease in population among the former and a net increase in the latter. While development failures are a factor, the positive correlation between development and overall emigration levels is driven by many variables, such as differences in employment opportunities in different countries and likelihood that rising education levels affect both the ability and desire to emigrate and can cause brain drain. The causes of international migration can be broadly split into “push” factors—aspects that encourage people to leave, such as conflict, poverty and natural disasters—and “pull” factors that invite people to immigrate, such as high wages, available employment and education opportunities. The prevalence and inevitability of migration as an outcome of economic development gives rise to the central question of how countries should regulate migration flows, including the implementation of policies that adapt to both the positive and negative economic effects of migration.

Many of today’s goals for international migration and development started in the framework created by the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). From the Conference came the ICPD Programme of Action, a comprehensive 20-year action plan adopted by the 179 participating Member States intended to focus global thinking and United Nations action on population and development toward a people-centric approach. While previous population conferences had mostly focused narrowly on family planning, the ambitious ICPD Programme of Action, which the General Assembly extended indefinitely in 2011, contained wide-ranging recommendations on health, development and social welfare, with reproductive health playing a central role. The Conference recommended the creation of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) as a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The CPD plays a key role in maintaining databases on migration, development and population trends, as well as monitoring and reviewing progress toward the ICPD Programme of Action.

The ICPD Programme of Action recognized the positive and negative economic impacts of international migration, however, it did not set actionable objectives for United Nations Member States to better manage the challenges and benefits of migration and development. With the rise of international migration in recent decades, experts as well as United Nations agencies and Member States have begun to shift their attention toward the migration-development nexus, where migration can act as a vehicle to foster development. The High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development was the first United Nations dialogue focused solely on the linkages between migration and development. In 2006, this dialogue created the Global Forum on Migration and Development as a consultative forum for both civil society and governments to better grasp the development-migration nexus. The Secretary-General also formed the Global Migration Group, comprising 18 agencies, to promote inter-agency cooperation and the wider application of international practices, legal instruments and norms on migration. Notably, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the General Assembly in 2015, contains several targets for protecting the labor rights of migrant workers and implementing well-planned and well-managed migration policies.

Since the implementation of the Program of Action by the ICPD, there has been a need for a technical forum to reach the goals laid out in the framework. During the 49th session of the Economic and Social Council in 2016, the CPD was recognized as an organization that could fulfill this role. In 2016, ECOSOC highlighted the need for the CPD to act as a technical forum for Member States to discuss the challenges that come with international migration and solutions that can meet these challenges. Additionally, the Council called upon the CPD to streamline its agenda by using the Programme of Action and Sustainable Development Goals as a mechanism for coordinating future action. By doing so, the CPD can act as a forum for Member States to discuss specific strategies to meet these goals for migration and development.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognized for the first time the contribution of migration to sustainable development and the important role of data in implementing strategies to meet the challenges posed by international migration and development. Data allows a better understanding of trends and how strategies can affect those trends. During its 50th session, the CPD produced the International Migration Report 2017 for ECOSOC, referencing United Nations Migration Data and migration data from the International Labor Organization (ILO). The report covers four main themes: levels and trends in international migration, net international migration, legal instruments on international migration, and the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants. The accomplishments of this body have manifested in the United Nations Global Migration Database (UNGMD), which tracks the inflow and outflow of international migrants, studies trends in international migration, and tracks statistics on foreign populations. This work has shown how important data is for tackling global issues such as international migration and development. While this data has already helped influence policies, challenges remain. In order to help Member States and partner agencies make use of this data, the CPD and the United Nations will need to consider how to make this data accessible and how to provide the expertise, where needed, to interpret trends found in the data.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted all forms of human mobility, including international migration, forcing the return of migrants to their places of origin and stranding millions of others abroad. The widespread loss of employment among many migrants also has a direct yet disproportionate impact on remittance income—money transfers from people working abroad, often to their families, that are a lifeline for development. While several regions continued an upward trend in remittance flows despite the pandemic, flows to East Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa declined by 7.9 percent, 9.7 percent and 12.5 respectively. The system of international migration government has few instruments for dealing with the migration and development challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most agreements on migration are designed to help people on the move and Member States in managing movement, yet this pandemic has been characterized more by immobility than movement. Among the most recent additions to the suite of international agreements on migration, the 2018 Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration has offered States useful guidance amid the pandemic. Some of the Compact’s 21 objectives have helped States prioritize cooperation during the crisis while others could prove instrumental as the international community seeks to restore the link between migration and development and recover from the pandemic.

Questions to consider from your country’s perspective:

  • What unique challenges do Member States face when addressing international migration and development? How can the United Nations and the international community support Member States in addressing these issues?
  • How can the CPD continue to use data to bridge the gap between international migration and development? How can the CPD make this data more accessible to Member States and partner agencies?
  • In what ways can the CPD continue to build upon the ICPD Programme of Action, Sustainable Development Goals, and other past work to bridge the gap between international migration and development?
  • How can Member States use the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration to aid interstate cooperation and support the speedy restoration of international migration, especially in regions where there have been disproportionate impacts? How can the Global Compact be supplemented to address the unanticipated consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic to increase preparedness for a future pandemic?

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Bibliography Bibliography

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Adolescents and youth Adolescents and youth

Some 1.2 billion youth aged 15–24 years make up 16 percent of the world’s population, as of 2019. The full empowerment of adolescents and youth in each country around the world as they transition into adulthood is key to the future of social change, economic development and technological innovation. The actualization of young people requires their full participation at the international, regional, national and local levels, but in many places they are held back by deficiencies in access to education and health and social services. Youth from disadvantaged groups—including women, the impoverished, rural populations, persons with disabilities and migrants—are even less likely to have access to these essential services; however, disadvantaged youth often benefit the most from the creation of new opportunities. The Commission on Population and Development (CPD) and the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) of the United Nations are tasked with assisting Member States to meet the challenges and opportunities of population development.

The Population Division has conducted several studies to better understand the changing populations of different regions around the globe. Some countries, predominantly developing countries, can exhibit a “youth bulge” in which adolescents and youth temporarily make up the majority of the population as high fertility rates decline. As the relative number of children decreases, the youth bulge grows older together as a cohort until the highest proportion of the total population is the elderly population. This trend presents challenges to States for population development. For example, if youth within a country are impoverished or cannot find employment to earn an acceptable income, all else being equal, then the youth bulge may become a source of social and political instability, referred to as a demographic bomb. On the other hand, this trend presents an opportunity: If youth are employed and paid well, then per capita income should increase and social order upheld—a demographic dividend. Most of the time, however, all else is not equal, and States must therefore implement a mix of policies and programs as part of population development efforts. The record number of youth in developing countries presents States with an opportunity to unlock rapid economic growth, but demographic dividends could be hindered by lack of access to healthcare, education or employment opportunities.

The quality of life of adolescents and youth is greatly improved through fair access to healthcare. The 1995 World Programme of Action for Youth acknowledged that poor health among young people is often caused by a lack of support systems that encourage positive behavioral health, inadequate or inappropriate health services, and an unhealthy environment. The CPD annual meeting in 2012 focused on a framework for action on the health and human rights of adolescents and youth. Member States agreed to strengthen health systems, provide social and health services without discrimination so youth and adolescents everywhere may enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and prioritize youth access to universal sexual and reproductive health information and services. These improvements in health and mortality tie into the  central goals of the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action tracked by CPD since 1994; however, progress has historically stagnated due to Member States lacking the political will and resources to implement the initiatives.

Employment opportunities for young people are essential for States to capitalize on the demographic dividend, reduce social unrest and support sustainable development. However, young people are nearly three times more likely than adults to be unemployed. The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced this reality by severely affecting labor markets around the world, causing youth employment to fall by 8.7 percent in 2020 relative to 2019, compared to 3.7 percent for adults. The Secretary-General noted in a 2021 report to the CPD that rural youth, especially rural women, are more likely than adults to be unemployed due to a lack of access to resources such as education, training, information, land, infrastructure, capital, credit, technologies and markets. Further, the lack of resources and opportunities for young people in both rural and urban areas could lead to disruptive impacts, such as unsafe migration and social unrest. To the extent to which unemployment causes social problems affecting youth, the report encouraged Member States to pay special attention to policies and programs that provide skills development and create job and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people. 

From healthcare access to employment and beyond, much of the current work of CPD and DESA recognizes that the needs of adolescents and youth are best addressed when they are involved in designing and implementing solutions. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations agency aimed at improving reproductive and maternal health worldwide, launched its new global strategy for adolescents and youth in 2019: My Body, My Life, My World (Youth Strategy). The Youth Strategy works at all levels to increase access to integrated sexual and reproductive health services for all adolescents and youth, address the determinants of adolescents’ and youths’ health and well-being so that they can thrive and exercise autonomy in their transition to adulthood, and ensure the systemic and meaningful participation of adolescents and youth in policies and programs responsive to their needs at all levels: local, national and global. Two years later, the UFPA initiated an evaluation process to inform the continued implementation of its Youth Strategy. Just as with the Youth Strategy itself, UNFPA is exploring ways to engage young people throughout the process, in roles such as sources of information, evaluators, advisors and decision makers. For CPD, quality education, accessible healthcare services and opportunities to participate in the labor market are key contributors to the development of adolescents and youth. Member States can make major contributions to the lives of young people by implementing policies and programs that give them a chance to reach their full potential, yet a lack of resources or political will has led to many challenges and setbacks in implementing and formulating these programs. From their active participation, young people can unlock national and international solutions that will support their growth into adults, enable their success in the workforce, and allow them to contribute to societal welfare and thrive.

Questions to consider from your country’s perspective:

  • How can Member States navigate and adapt to the challenges and opportunities that arise with a youth bulge? How can the United Nations help States with implementing programs and policies that address conditions that may hinder the full empowerment of adolescents and youth?
  • How can Member States address youth unemployment? In what ways can they prepare for changes in their workforce?
  • How should the United Nations best engage young people as both a resource and part of the solution to issues affecting adolescents and youth?

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Bibliography  Bibliography 

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