Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Critics of United Nations family planning policies call a new United Nations Population Fund report "flimsy" and "highly ideological." The report on the state of world population says access to "reproductive health" services is essential if global population growth is to be reined in.
One group used the opportunity to urge Washington to cut funding to the UNFPA, while another said the report contradicted credible research, even from other U.N. agencies.
And in an unrelated development, the Vatican has slammed another U.N. document - on reproductive health for refugees - saying it promoted irresponsible sexual relations and abortion.
Earlier this week, the UNFPA released its 2001 population report, entitled Footprints and Milestones, warning that the world population could reach 10.9 billion by 2050 if women in developing countries do not get better access to education and health care, including "reproductive health care."
U.N. agencies and pro-abortion non-governmental organizations generally include access to contraception and abortion in their definition of reproductive health.
The new report seeks to draw a link between depletion of the earth's resources and environmental degradation, and population growth.
"Increasing population and consumption, propelled by new technologies and globalization, are altering the planet on an unprecedented scale," it says.
"Achieving equal status between men and women and guaranteeing the right to reproductive health, including the right to choose the size and spacing of the family, will also help to slow population growth, reduce the future size of world population and relieve environmental stress."
The report cites three projections of the size of the world population by 2050 - a "high" one of 10.9 billion, a "medium" projection of 9.3 billion and a "low" one of 7.9 billion.
Which of these is reached, it says, will depend on two things - success in ending poverty, and success in "ensuring women's right to education and health, including reproductive health."
The Virginia-based Population Research Institute slammed the UNFPA report, challenging the view that there is an urgent need to reduce birthrates among the poor.
"The most realistic population projections indicate that world populations will begin to decline very shortly," PRI's Scott Weinberg said Thursday.
He noted that a 1980 "low" projection of the world's population by 2000 had turned out to be around 200 million too high. Based on that, the "low" projection for 2050 - 7.9 billion - "is the most accurate projection and may also be even slightly too high."
"By 2050," he claimed, "the world's population will be in a state of collapse."
Weinberg said PRI had surveyed hundreds of men and women in the developing world. "The vast majority simply do not and will never place reproductive health services central to their lives. They want the basics: good government, economic freedom, basic health, clean water and many healthy children.
"Global governance by the U.N. of a few rich over the sterilized poor is not a paradigm based on freedom," he said, "The U.S. must cut all funding for UNFPA."
Meanwhile the U.N.-based Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute said the UNFPA report directly contradicted other research on the subject, including a recent report published by another U.N. body, the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Unlike the UNFPA, said the institute's president, Austin Ruse, the Population Division was "non-ideological." According to its website, the Population Division's role is to provide the international community with "up-to-date and scientifically objective" data on population and development.
Ruse said the Population Division report, World Population Monitoring 2001, disagrees with the UNFPA in a number of areas, including the claim that food resources are scarce. "Even for the period up to 2050, recent studies forecast food production keeping pace with demand," the Population Division report says.
It also disagrees with UNFPA's claims that hunger is caused by population growth, citing a 1996 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization - another U.N. body - as saying: "the inability to achieve environmentally sound and sustainable food production is primarily the result of human inaction and indifference rather than natural or social factors."
The Population Division also contradicts the UNFPA argument that population growth leads to environmental degradation.
"In general, population growth appears to be much less important as a driving force of such problems than is economic growth and technology," it says, and adds that even in those countries that have a rapid population growth and environmental problems, slowing the population growth would not necessarily contribute significantly to resolving the environmental issues.
Ruse charged that the UNFPA report makes it clear the agency hopes to turn a major U.N. conference on "sustainable development" in Johannesburg, South Africa next year into "a population control and abortion conference."
The 2002 conference marks the 10th year since the Earth Summit in Rio.
The Vatican Thursday released a detailed and critical response to the U.N. refugee agency's field manual on the reproductive health of refugees.
Aimed at Roman Catholics who work among refugees, the document said the UNHCR manual offended people's dignity, by including "proposals regarding the limitations of births, an idea of irresponsible sexual relations, and even abortion."
It also accused the drafters of the manual of presenting the morning-after pill as an emergency contraceptive rather than a chemical abortion. The Vatican said the manual took a "nonjudgmental" attitude towards extramarital sexual relations and homosexual relations, practices opposed by the church.
UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski was quoted as saying in response: "We cannot impose a moral solution. We're just trying to save lives and protect people, trying to make their lives less miserable."