Interview: World Population Day to celebrate census, right to be counted

11:49, July 10, 2010      

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On Sunday, the international community will observe a day devoted to raising awareness of population issues and the vital nature of census taking to global development and sound policy making.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) holds the World Population Day each year on July 11 in order to draw attention to various issues surrounding population, women, and children.

This year's theme is "Everyone Counts," and will bring people together in countries with UNFPA offices around the world for lectures, rallies, and other activities relating to data gathering about population. It will encourage the enumeration of minority groups that are sometimes left out of censuses in some countries.

"This timely theme builds on the ongoing 2010 round of censuses, " Christian Delsol of the UNFPA told Xinhua on Friday. "Analysis of census data can provide the links between population phenomena and human rights, gender equality, reproductive health and maternal mortality."

Countries that fail to take periodic censuses miss the opportunity to discover domestic trends in population fluctuations and movement, the economy, and fertility and morality rates. Without a census, governments may fail to realize if certain populations are being marginalized in government planning and services. Censuses have a major impact on nations' abilities to monitor progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets for international development that UN member states have agreed to reach by 2015.

"Progress is measured in numbers -- percentages, ratios and rates -- yet progress is about people. Nowhere is this link more direct than in the use of data to make informed decisions about policies and programs to advance human development," Delsol said.

In her official statement for World Population Day, UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid expressed a similar sentiment.

"This data is crucial as we strive for universal access to education, HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, and reproductive health and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals," she said.

Many countries that could benefit from taking a census have failed to do so for various reasons.

"In the 2000 census round, because of conflict, humanitarian crisis, natural disaster and the lack of funding, 24 countries failed to collect their censuses," Delsol said.

For example, several countries in Africa including Chad, Liberia, and Nigeria could not carry out censuses in 2000, but have done so successfully in this year's round. The accomplishment was particularly notable for Liberia, because it marked the first time in 30 years that statistics could be gathered on the nation.

"We are doing much better in the 2010 round," said Delsol. "Of these 15 African countries which failed in 2000, 10 of them have successfully completed their census by now."

In total, UNFPA helped a total of 77 countries carry out a population and housing census in 2009, and is helping many more do so in 2010. Assisting countries with data gathering for policy making is an important part of UNFPA's mandate and World Population Day will draw international attention to these efforts.

China is currently preparing for its sixth national census to begin in the fall of 2010. According to the UNFPA, the organization has been working with China to encourage counting of contributions made by women in unpaid employment in the new census and to help China prepare data that can be analyzed based on gender.

This year's census in China will also feature for the first time the enumeration of foreigners who are living and working in the country.

The importance of making "everyone count" will be highlighted with a UNFPA forum at the World Expo in Shanghai. The July 11 event at the UN Pavilion will feature the UNFPA and Chinese officials sharing information about population trends and goals for the upcoming national census.

Source: Xinhua


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