What’s in a Name? Everything.

By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, Apr 1 2019 – On March 19, 78 years old Nursultan Äbisjuly Nazarbayev unexpectedly announced his resignation as President of Kazakhstan, referring to the need for “a new generation of leaders”. The same day the speaker of the nation´s parliament was appointed as interim president, awaiting presidential elections scheduled for 2020.

Nazarbayev ruled his country for more than a quarter-century and since all influence on public administration rests securely with his Nur Otan Party it will undoubtedly once again win the elections. In 2015, Nazarbayev received 97.8 percent of the presidential votes. Why Nazarbayev resigned is open to speculations, though a common assumption is that he intends to yield power to his eldest daughter, Senator Dariga Nazarbayeva, and by resigning give her time to secure necessary support for a credible victory in the upcoming elections.

On March 20, the Kazakh Parliament unanimously decided to change the name of the capital from Astana to Nursultan, to honour the Elbasy, Leader of the Nation, Nursultan Äbisjuly Nazarbayev. The name change has raised questions and worries around the world. Is a name so important? Probably.

In 2014, Nazarbayev suggested that Kazakhstan should change its name to Kazakh Yeli since its current name associated his nation with other -stannations. He noted that Mongolia receives more investment probably because it is not considered to be a
-stancountry, even if it is in the neighbourhood of and not as stable and wealthy as Kazakhstan.

It might be true that Nazarbayev´s assumption is well-founded. Kazakhstan is probably worthy of more global attention. It is the world´s largest landlocked country and the ninth largest in the world. Rich in oil and minerals its economy grows at an average of eight percent a year, making it the first former Soviet Republic to repay all its debts to the International Monetary Fund. In spite of a muffled press and apparent corruption it is according to the World Bank a politically stable country, free of violence. It has furthermore, probably due it is growing wealth, advantageous relations and cooperation with nations as diverse as Russia, USA, Iran, Israel and Ukraine.

An ad for The Walt Disney Company once declared: “What’s in a name? Everything!” The name of individuals have become brands, synonymous with either good or evil. The mentioning of names like Hitler or Stalin may evoke fear and dislike, while other names are associated with quality and creativity, like the names of innovators used for prestigious companies – Friedrich Bayer, André-Gustave Citroën, Christian Dior, Gaspare Campari, William Colgate, King Camp Gillette, Soichiro Honda, Will Keith Kellogg, Max Factor, Henri Nestlé, Sakichi Toyoda, Werner von Siemens, Henry E. Steinway, Andreas Stihl, etc.

On the contrary to take the name away from someone is a way to obliterate her/him. Names were removed from concentration camp prisoners, they became things and could thus be exploited and annihilated. For example, during World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army’s Unit 731 was engaged in deadly experiments on human beings. Prisoners were injected with pathogenic microbes, exposed to different types of weaponry and subjected to other “experimental” atrocities. Victims were designated with numbers from 101 to 1,500. When all had been killed, the count restarted from 101. They were known as “logs”, maruta and deaths were reported as numbers of “felled logs”.

Conquerors have often taken away names of people and the places they inhabit, replacing them with their own. The Philippines are named after Philip II of Spain, while Zimbabwe and Zambia once were named Southern- and Northern Rhodesia after the white supremacist and billionaire Cecil Rhodes, who owned the investment company that controlled these territories. The capital of the Congo Free State carried the name Leopoldville after Leopold II of Belgium, the mass murderer who by foreign nations during the so called Berlin Conference 1885 had been given the immense territory as his personal domain. The capital of the neighbouring country still carries the name Brazzaville after Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, governor-general of the French Congo. The same is true of countless other places all over the world, renamed after foreign intruders.

Catchy and inspiring names may support rise to power. During his election campaign Donald Trump benefitted from the fact that he was not only a person, but a brand as well. The name Trump had become a product projecting what his company, The Trump Organization, wanted to represent – fame, success, glitz, glamour, wealth and power.

The success of, or repression by, political leaders is accordingly expressed by their names, their brands. Revolutionary leaders often choose striking sobriquets, like Nguyễn Sinh Cung who chose Ho Chi Minh, He Who Has Been Enlightened, which eventually became the name of a town as well. Ioseb Jughashvili chose Stalin, Man of Steel, and not only Stalingrad was named after him, but towns in all Soviet republics and satellites bore names like Stalino, Stalin, Stalinsi, Stalinogród, Stalinogorsk, Stalinsk, Stalinabad, while other towns were named after his henchmen, like Voroshilov, Kirov, Beria, Molotov and Kalinin.

If US citizens are surprised by the impudence of naming towns and capitals after living persons they might be oblivious of the fact that their nation´s capital was named after George Washington while he was still alive. There are even entire countries named after their rulers, like Saudi Arabia, which bears the name of the House of Saud, a dynasty founded in the18th century and still ruling that nation.

Names are signs of lasting power. If a ruler was despotic and his name attached to places it is generally taken away after his death. Like the tyrant Trujillo, who for more than thirty years ruled the Dominican Republic as his personal domain and had his nation´s capital and highest peak named after himself. These names were taken away after his death and when his son and heir had fled the country. However, Gabon´s capital is still named Bongoville after Omar Bongo, who died as one of the wealthiest heads of state, due to oil revenues and shameless corruption, while his son continues to rule the country.

We may hope that the renaming of Astana to Nursultan is not a sign of uncontrolled megalomania, like the one that befell Kazakhstan´s southern neighbour, Turkmenistan, where Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov, self-appointed Father to the Turkmen, Turkmenbashi, renamed the days of the week and the months of the year after himself and members of his family. He constructed a 120-metre-tall tower, crowned by a gold-plated, revolving sculpture of himself – his face is always directed towards the sun. Niyazov also decided that all libraries outside the capital would be closed, declaring that the only book worth reading was his own Ruhnama; mandatory reading for students, state employees and for those who aspire to obtain a driving license. When Turkmenbashi died in December 2006, he was followed by former dentist Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who named himself Arkadag, the Protector. It is maybe Berdymukhamedov’s odontological background that has made him love whiteness. Dark-coloured cars have since January 2018 been banned from the streets of the capital. Like his predecessor, Berdymukhamedov also likes gold. In 2015 he “humbly accepted” an equestrian monument. Covered with 24 karats gold Berdymukhamedov is now represented mounted on a horse on top of a 20 metres high, dazzlingly white, marble cliff. In February 2017, Berdymukhamedov was re-elected President of Turkmenistan with 97 percent of the votes in his favour, though his nation´s capital is still named Asischabad.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

The NPT & Conditions for Nuclear Disarmament

View of the Soviet delegation (left) and United States negotiating team (right) sitting together during Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) in Vienna, Austria circa 1970. Negotiations would last from 1969 until May 1972 at a series of meetings in both Helsinki and Vienna and result in the signing of the SALT I agreement between the United States and Soviet Union in May 1972. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON DC, Apr 1 2019 – Fifty years ago, shortly after the conclusion of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the United States and the Soviet Union launched the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT).

Negotiated in the midst of severe tensions, the SALT agreement and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty were the first restrictions on the superpowers’ massive strategic offensive weapons, as well as on their emerging strategic defensive systems.

The SALT agreement and the ABM Treaty slowed the arms race and opened a period of U.S.-Soviet detente that lessened the threat of nuclear war.

The size of U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles has decreased significantly from their Cold War peaks, but the dangers posed by the still excessive arsenals and launch-under-attack postures are even now exceedingly high.

Further progress on nuclear disarmament by the United States and Russia has been and remains at the core of their NPT Article VI obligation to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

But as the 2020 NPT Review Conference approaches (scheduled to take place at the UN April 29-May10), the key agreements made by the world’s two largest nuclear powers are in severe jeopardy.

Dialogue on nuclear arms control has been stalled since Russia rejected a 2013 U.S. offer to negotiate nuclear cuts beyond the modest reductions mandated by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

More recently, the two sides have failed to engage in serious talks to resolve the dispute over Russian compliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which will likely be terminated in August. Making matters worse, talks on extending New START, which is due to expire in 2021, have not begun.

Last year, Russia said it was interested in extending New START, but Team Trump will only say it remains engaged in an interagency review of the treaty. That review is led by National Security Advisor John Bolton, who publicly called for New START’s termination shortly before he joined the administration.

New START clearly serves U.S. and Russian security interests. The treaty imposes important bounds on the strategic nuclear competition between the two nuclear superpowers.

Failure to extend New START, on the other hand, would compromise each side’s understanding of the others’ nuclear forces, open the door to unconstrained nuclear competition, and undermine international security.

Agreement to extend New START requires the immediate start of consultations to address implementation concerns on both sides.

Instead of agreeing to begin talks on a New START extension, U.S. State Department officials claim that “the United States remains committed to arms control efforts and remains receptive to future arms control negotiations” but only “if conditions permit.”

Such arguments ignore the history of how progress on disarmament has been and can be achieved. For example, the 1969–1972 SALT negotiations went forward despite an extremely difficult geostrategic environment.

As U.S. and Russian negotiators met in Helsinki, President Richard Nixon launched a secret nuclear alert to try to coerce Moscow’s allies in Hanoi to accept U.S. terms on ending the Vietnam War, and he expanded U.S. bombing into Cambodia and Laos.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union sent 20,000 troops to Egypt to back up Cairo’s military campaign to retake the Sinai Peninsula from Israel. In late 1971, Nixon risked war with the Soviet Union and India to help put an end to India’s 1971 invasion of East Pakistan.

Back then, the White House and the Kremlin did not wait until better conditions for arms control talks emerged. Instead, they pursued direct talks to achieve modest arms control measures that, in turn, created a more stable and predictable geostrategic environment.

Today, U.S. officials, such as Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, argue that the NPT does not require continual progress on disarmament and that NPT parties should launch a working group to discuss how to create an environment conducive for progress on nuclear disarmament.

Dialogue between nuclear-armed and non-nuclear-weapon states on disarmament can be useful, but the U.S. initiative titled “Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament” must not be allowed to distract from the Trump administration’s lack of political will to engage in a common-sense nuclear arms control and risk reduction dialogue with key nuclear actors.

The current environment demands a productive, professional dialogue between Washington and Moscow to extend New START by five years, as allowed by Article XIV of the treaty; to reach a new agreement that prevents new deployment of destabilizing ground-based, intermediate-range missiles; and maintain strategic stability and reduce the risk of miscalculation.

Ahead of the pivotal 2020 NPT Review Conference, all states-parties need to press U.S. and Russian leaders to extend New START and pursue further effective measures to prevent an unconstrained nuclear arms race. Failure to do so would represent a violation of their NPT Article VI obligations and would threaten the very underpinnings of the NPT regime.

Bombardier Signs Firm Purchase Agreement for Six Q400 Turboprops

TORONTO, April 01, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — March 29, 2019    Bombardier Commercial Aircraft announced today that a customer, who has requested to remain unidentified at this time, has signed an order to acquire six new Q400 aircraft.

Based on the list price of the Q400 aircraft, the firm order is valued at approximately US$ 202 million.

The Q400 aircraft offers the perfect balance of passenger comfort and operating economics while maintaining its unmatched range and speed advantage versus other turboprops, € said Fred Cromer, President, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft. The demand for turboprop aircraft worldwide is tremendous and the Q Series aircraft are ideally positioned to meet the needs of regional airlines as they offer a unique ability to serve diverse and challenging environments. The Q400 offers the lowest seat costs amongst turboprops, with an enhanced passenger experience and a proven 99.5 per cent reliability. €

About Bombardier
With over 68,000 employees across four business segments, Bombardier is a global leader in the transportation industry, creating innovative and game–changing planes and trains. Our products and services provide world–class transportation experiences that set new standards in passenger comfort, energy efficiency, reliability and safety.

Headquartered in Montreal, Canada, Bombardier has production and engineering sites in 28 countries across the segments of Transportation, Business Aircraft, Commercial Aircraft and Aerostructures and Engineering Services. Bombardier shares are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (BBD). In the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018, Bombardier posted revenues of $16.2 billion US. The company is recognized on the 2019 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World Index. News and information are available at bombardier.com or follow us on Twitter @Bombardier.

Notes to Editors
An image of the Q400 aircraft is posted with this press release at www.bombardier.com.

For more information on the Q400 aircraft, visit http://news.commercialaircraft.bombardier.com/media–kit/

Follow @BBD_Aircraft on Twitter to receive the latest news and updates from Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.

To receive our press releases, please visit the RSS Feed section of Bombardier €™s website.

Bombardier, Q400 and Q Series are trademarks of Bombardier Inc. or its subsidiaries.

For Information
Nathalie Scott                                                                
Bombardier Commercial Aircraft                                  

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/17121c8f–f6f0–4e96–b712–977d46e0b998

Geneva Centre on status of Human Rights Council: Enhance status only with universal membership but enhance effectiveness and complementarity of UN human rights mechanisms

By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Apr 1 2019 (IPS-Partners)

(Geneva Centre) – The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“the Geneva Centre”) was invited by the Secretariat of the Human Rights Council (HRC) to participate in the first informal exchange of views on the issue of the 2021/2026 review of the status of the Human Rights Council.

Permanent Missions, national institutions, international organizations, NGOs, civil society organizations and human rights bodies were present at the informal consultative session.

The Geneva Centre attended the consultative session held at UNOG. In its statement, the Geneva Centre expressed its position on the reform proposals expressed in the Roadmap for 2019 and of the five fundamental questions raised by the President of the Human Rights Council Mr Coly Seck in his letter of 11 March 2019 addressed to Permanent Missions and civil society organizations in Geneva.

The initial part of the informal consultative session explored whether the Council could contribute to the General Assembly’s review of the Council’s status, what the Council’s contributions could take and the topics that should be addressed.

In this connection, the Geneva Centre stated that the Council could contribute to the review of its status and submit its recommendations to the UN General Assembly. It likewise recommended that the Council continue to remain a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly as the elevation of its status to a main body – reporting to the UN Security Council instead of the UN General Assembly – would have adverse impacts on the functioning of the Council.

In this regard, the Geneva Centre underlined that the endorsement of human rights resolutions would be limited to a restricted body within which five members have veto power. “This would therefore politicise human rights at a time when civil society organizations are exerting themselves to make values prevail over politics,” the Geneva Centre highlighted.

In addition, it was likewise remarked that the Council would lose its access to universality which it enjoyed through reporting to the UN General Assembly. This would in fact downgrade the impact of its work “unless the Council itself is enlarged to become a universal body.” The Geneva Centre therefore recommended that the question of making the Council a main organ of the UN should be discussed jointly with that of “broadening its membership to become a universal body.”

In relation to the possibility of reviewing the work and functions of the Council, the Geneva Centre highlighted that such a process would allow the Council to “enhance its moral authority worldwide” should it be conducted in an objective, transparent and pragmatic manner. It underlined that the review of 2010/2011 was too politicized and that pursuing a similar path, in the present context, would impede the ability of the Council to enhance its long-term efficiency and to fulfil its mandate.

In conclusion, the Geneva Centre suggested to the President of the Council that a review of UN human rights mechanisms’ methods of work and functioning could take place during 2021.

Sierra Leone: Bio Government’s First Year

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio. Courtesy: The Commonwealth

By Lahai J. Samboma
LONDON, Apr 1 2019 – If the government of Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio were to be graded on their first year’s performance in office, it is likely that their report card would read, “promising start, which they must surpass in the years ahead”.

Since taking office after his successful election last year, this retired brigadier general has made a promising start, beginning with a massive investigation into corruption and mismanagement under All Peoples Congress (the APC) government of ex-President Ernest Bai Koroma.

On the recommendations of that investigation, a judge-led public inquiry is now examining corruption allegations against former officials. Early scalps in this veritable war on graft include those of ex-Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh and former minister Minkailu Mansaray; they have both offered to return money they stole.

The issue of corruption hits a raw nerve here, a country that is desperately poor despite its wealth of natural resources and fertile lands, which in a parallel universe would guarantee a decent standard of life for every one of its 7.5 million citizens. Former government officials are also widely believed to have stolen resources meant for the victims of the Ebola and mudslide disasters which laid waste to thousands a few years back.

Freetown resident Levi Fofana captures the public mood when he says Bio came at the “right time”. “The people of Sierra Leone were lied to by the roguish APC, which created a bankrupt state in which swindlers dressed in suits and African robes abused power with impunity,” he said.

Although ex-President Koroma has called the anti-corruption drive a “witch-hunt”, ordinary people are enthused, urging the government on. They hope Koroma will find himself in the dock one day soon; they want to know how the former president and his close family and associates became “overnight millionaires”.

Bio was the leader of the former military junta who handed power to a democratically-elected government after organising elections in 1996. He has brought renewed hope to this coastal West African nation which suffered a devastating civil war in the 1990s that killed tens of thousands and devastated the economy – and which had to endure a decade-long APC hegemony characterised by corruption, economic decline, and drift.

He inherited state liabilities of 3.7 billion dollars. Simultaneously as he drove forward his anti-corruption campaign, the new President upon taking office established a consolidated account for all government revenues. The goal was to plug any potential “leakages” in his own administration.

According to T J Lamina, Sierra Leone’s High Commissioner to London, the policy has been a success, and is still in place one. Revenues collected have gone towards servicing the domestic debt and paying civil servants, who were now getting paid on time and without government having to borrow.

Ambassador Lamina told IPS: “It’s not like Sierra Leone is not generating revenue; the revenue is there but it was going into private pockets.”

Bio’s stewardship of the economy has won plaudits from the IMF, who have approved a new two-year support programme worth 172 million dollars. The World Bank has chimed in with support to the tune of 325 million dollars. Both Bretton Woods institutions’ relationship with the previous administration had been “increasingly difficult”, which saw the IMF suspending their programme in 2017. President Bio has said both institutions were “necessary evils”.

His ambitious, five-year National Development Plan, costed at 8 billion dollars, was unveiled in February and has been endorsed by the Bretton Woods double act. Its key pillars include the development of human capital and infrastructure, and increasing agricultural production, especially of the staple food, rice – which the country used to export up till the 1970s, but which is now sucks up valuable foreign exchange to import.

Inevitably with report cards, you eventually get to the bits that cause embarrassment or feelings of regret in the subject. In this case one of these has to be the alarming rates of gender-based violence against women and young girls. The available figures paint the story in vivid technicolour.

According to police statistics, there were 632 cases of rapes or sexual assaults in 2012. That figure rose to an astronomical 8,505 for last year alone. Over 70 percent of victims were girls under 15 years old. Although the government declared the crisis a state of emergency and speedily passed legislation making the “sexual penetration of minors” punishable with an automatic life sentence, it remains to be seen how effective this will be.

“Our commitment [to solving this problem] is beyond mere words and beyond mere acknowledgement of an obligation,” President Bio has said. “The protection and empowerment of our women and girls is critical to our existence and progress as a nation.”

While it is true that they inherited the problem, it would be a harsh indictment of President Bio’s “new direction” if, by this time next year, the incidence of egregious sexual violence remains at unacceptably-high levels.

Observers also expressed concern over last year’s arrest by police of a man who led a demonstration against the removal of subsidies from petrol and kerosene. He was later released without charge. Rights groups subsequently called on the government to respect the right of peaceful protest.

“The price of our fuel was hiked because the IMF told government to do it,” said protester Fatmata Bangura, adding that the move would put “more strain on a budget already under a lot of pressure”.

From an appraisal of the first year of President Bio’s government, two things are clear. The first is that he has entered into a marriage of convenience with the IMF and the World Bank; the second is that, if his government’s promising start is to be surpassed, or even sustained, he will need the skills of a master magician to keep both his people, as well as his “marriage partners”, happy.


Human Rights Defenders Need to be Defended as Much as they Defend our Rights

This article is part of a series on the current state of civil society organisations (CSOs), which will be the focus of International Civil Society Week (ICSW), sponsored by CIVICUS, and scheduled to take place in Belgrade, April 8-12.

Michel Forst is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and a speaker at the International Civil Society Week, 8-12 April 2019, in Belgrade, Serbia

By Michel Forst
GENEVA, Apr 1 2019 – They are ordinary people – mothers, fathers, sisters, sons, daughters, brothers, friends. But for me they are extraordinary people – the ones who have the courage to stand up for everyone else’s rights.

They are the human rights defenders.

Last year, according to reliable sources, 321 of them were killed, in 27 countries. Their murders were directly caused by the work they do to ensure the rest of us enjoy the rights we claim as purely because we are human.

The mandate on the situation of human rights defenders was established in 2000 by the Commission on Human Rights (as a Special Procedure) to support implementation of the 1998 Declaration on human rights defenders.

Countless others were tortured, raped and threatened, also for the work they do protecting their, and others’ human rights.

In fact, 2018 was deadliest year for human rights defenders since the UN began monitoring the challenges they face through the establishment of a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

It shouldn’t be like this.

Last year we marked 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 20 since the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The latter Declaration provides for the practical support and protection of human rights defenders as they go about their work.

It is addressed not just to states and to human rights defenders, but to everyone. It tells us that we all have a role to fulfil as human rights defenders and emphasises that there is a global human rights movement that involves us all.

This is a task we are not performing well.

Human rights should not need defenders, and human rights defenders should not need protection from the might of oppressive governments, corrupt multinationals and crooked legal systems. But this is an imperfect, human world.

Since 2000, when we UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders began our monitoring work, much progress has been made. There has been extensive discussion on how these courageous people should be protected, and there is a Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in a limited number of countries.

Sadly, it is often not properly implemented, or funded.

It is impossible to canvass each defender’s particular treatment or mistreatment by the authorities they face, or even that of communities of defenders. There are, however, trends.

On 23 October last year, Julián Carrillo, an indigenous rights defender from Mexico’s state of Chihuahua told a friend by phone that he believed he was being watched and that he was going into hiding. On the evening of 25 October, his body was found. He had been shot several times.

On 22 August last year, Annaliza Dinopol Gallardo, a Filipina land rights defender known to her community as “Ate Liza”, was shot dead outside Sultan Kudarat State University in Tacurong City. She had four children.

Mr Carillo’s murder is indicative of the largest trend. More than two-thirds – a full 77% – of the total number of defenders killed were defending land, environmental or indigenous peoples’ rights, often in the context of extractive industries and state-aligned mega-projects.

Ms Gallardo’s murder represents another trend – the number of attacks on women and girls who are defenders is increasing. In the recent report that I have presented to the UN Human Rights Council I have highlighted that, in addition to the threats experienced by their male colleagues, women human rights defenders face gendered and sexualised attacks from both state and non-state actors, as well as from within their own human rights movements.

This includes smear campaigns questioning their commitment to their families; sexual assault and rape; militarised violence; and the harassment and targeting of their children.

Changing all this is our task for the future. Protection Mechanisms for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists need to be properly implemented and funded, at national level.

We need to empower defenders and increase the abilities of those who are responsible for their protection to keep them safe. We also need to improve the accountability mechanisms these officials operate under.

To properly defend the defenders, we also need to recognise their diversity, and that each one of them faces challenges particular to their individual circumstances. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to ensuring each defender is able to do their work unfettered.

We need to acknowledge that defenders, just like all of us, live in this modern, interconnected world.

Protecting them means covering all aspects of their safety: physical, psychological and digital. It means doing so with flexibility. It also means that our protection needs to extend to their families, and the groups and organisations they belong to. We need to speak to them about what they need to feel safe.

In recent years the world has taken a worrying turn away from respect for human rights. Increasingly, groups are becoming inward-looking, and nations nationalistic. We need human rights defenders now more than ever.

They also need us.

2, 4, 8 and ? Billion People

Joseph Chamie is former Director of the United Nations Population Division.

By Joseph Chamie
NEW YORK, Apr 1 2019 – Two, four and eight billion people is the extraordinary doubling and redoubling of the world’s population that occurred in slightly less than a century. World population, which had grown to 2 billion by 1927, doubled to 4 billion by 1974 and will reach 8 billion by around 2023.

Source: United Nations Population Division.


Is that record-breaking demographic growth of world population likely to be repeated in the 21st century? The short answer is:  while a doubling of world population over the course of the 21st century is possible, its quadrupling is not in the cards.

In the late 1960s the growth rate of the world’s population peaked at 2.1 percent and has since declined to approximately half that level, or 1.1 percent. The annual addition to the world’s population also peaked in the late 1980s at nearly 93 million and is now about 82 million per year. The primary reason for lower levels of world population growth is the decline in fertility rates or the average number of births per woman.

At the beginning of the 20th century average global fertility was still about six births per woman. By 1950 world fertility had declined only slightly to five births per woman, with less than a handful of countries having rates below the replacement level. During the second half of the 20th century, however, birth rates dropped relatively rapidly across most countries, resulting in today’s world fertility level of about 2.5 births per woman (Figure 2).


Source: United Nations Population Division.


Powerful forces, which continue to operate today, brought about the declines in fertility primarily during the second half of the 20th century. Particularly noteworthy among those forces were lower mortality, increased urbanization, widespread education, improvements in the status of women and modern contraceptives.  Survival of the young, migration from rural areas to urban centers, education and employment of women contributed greatly to the desire of couples, especially women, to delay, space and limit childbearing.

Not so long ago, the attempts of women and men to time and limit their number of children were resisted, with some countries having laws preventing the distribution of contraceptive materials and information. Throughout the 20th century especially following the Second World War, public attitudes, government policies and personal behavior changed markedly regarding birth control and contraception.

In the early 1960s modern contraceptives, notably the oral contraceptive pill, became available to married women and subsequently to unmarried women. Today nearly two-thirds of women aged 15 to 49 years who are married or in a union are using contraceptives, with close to 60 percent of them using a modern family planning method. However, one in ten married or in-union women aged 15 to 49 years, or approximately 142 million women, want to stop or delay childbearing but are not using any contraceptive method to prevent pregnancy.

The availability of the oral pill and other modern contraceptive methods permitted couples to gain control over the number and timing of their births. The ability for both women and men to determine the timing and number of births is certainly a major achievement having enormous demographic, social, economic and political consequences.

Although mortality levels continue to play an important role in the growth of world population as it has throughout human history, fertility rates constitute the critical determinant of the future size of world population. If birth rates remain unchanged at current levels, a highly unlikely scenario given recent trends, the world’s population would reach 26.3 billion by the end of the century (Figure 3).


Source: United Nations Population Division.


If fertility rates continue their decline and move to the replacement level of about two births per woman, which is the United Nations medium variant, world population is projected to be 11.2 billion in 2100. A half child above and below the replacement level yields the United Nations high and low variants for world population of 16.5 billion and 7.3 billion, respectively, at the close of the century.

While world population is not likely to quadruple in the 21st century, the populations of approximately three-dozen countries, largely in sub-Saharan Africa, are projected to more than quadruple during this century according to the United Nations medium variant. Africa’s largest country Nigeria, for example, is projected to have its population sextuple over the 21st century, from 122 million at its start to 794 million at its close.

While world population is not likely to quadruple in the 21st century, the populations of approximately three-dozen countries, largely in sub-Saharan Africa, are projected to more than quadruple during this century

The country with the most rapid rate of projected population growth is Niger. Its population is expected to increase seventeen-fold over the 21st century, from 11 million to 192 million, again according to the medium variant. If fertility were to decline more rapidly, the low variant, from its current 7 births per woman to 4 births per woman by mid-century and to the replacement level of 2 births per woman by the century’s close, Niger’s population would increase nearly thirteen-fold to 144 million during the century. Moreover, even if its fertility rate were to fall immediately to the replacement level, the instant replacement variant, Niger’s population is projected to triple to 37 million over the 21st century.

In contrast to the countries with populations that are projected to more than quadruple, the populations of some 50 countries are projected to decline during the 21st century, according to the medium scenario. Moreover, 30 of those countries are expected to experience population declines of at least 20 percent over the current century.

Japan, for example, is projected to have its population decline by 34 percent over the 21st century, from 128 million to 85 million. China, the largest population among this group of countries, is expected to see its population of 1.3 billion in 2000 drop to 1.0 billion by 2100, a decline of 20 percent. The most rapid population declines during the 21st century of approximately 50 percent are projected for Bulgaria, Latvia and Moldova.

In terms of absolute numbers, ten countries account for 62 percent of the projected world population growth between today and the close of the century, which is approximately 3.5 billion according to the United Nations medium variant (Figure 4). Of those countries, the top five contributors to population growth in the 21st century are in sub-Saharan Africa: Nigeria (17 percent), Democratic Republic of Congo (9 percent), Tanzania (7 percent), Niger (5 percent), Uganda (5 percent), India (4 percent), Pakistan (4 percent), Angola (4 percent), Ethiopia (4 percent) and the United States (3 percent).


Source: United Nations Population Division.


World demographics of the recent past are explicit, detailed and straightforward. The 20th century was the most rapid world population growth in human history. Although dramatic declines in mortality and fertility levels have taken place, the growth of world population continues but at a slower pace than the recent past.

It is evident that world population will soon reach 8 billion and will continue to increase well after that demographic milestone. As described above, the future growth of world population will largely be a function of the path of future fertility, especially across the high fertility countries of Africa.

Of course, the future of world population remains uncertain and current demographic conditions, particularly mortality and morbidity levels, could change markedly for the worse as has occurred at various times in the past.

Nevertheless, population projections for the 21st should not be dismissed as merely demographic soothsaying. Demographic projections provide valuable insight into the most likely future course of population growth and what policies and programs may be needed to address changing demographic conditions and their consequences.

A world population of 8 billion people and possibly double that number by the century’s close poses a plethora of critical challenges for humanity as well as the planet’s flora and fauna. Prominent among those challenges, especially relevant for rapidly growing developing countries, are concerns about food, water, housing, education, employment, health, peace and security, governance, migration, human rights, energy, natural resources and the environment.

Unfortunately, in too many instances political leaders have chosen to address those critical challenges with the three D’s: Denial, Delay and Do nothing. In order to deal effectively with the many population related challenges of the 21st century, government policies and programs as well as the efforts of international and national organizations should be guided by the three A’s:  Acknowledge accurately, Analyze thoroughly and Act prudently.