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Sustainable development needs sustainable population

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SDG missing graphic
SDG missing graphic

On World Population Day 2019, Population Matters is launching our new petition calling on United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to turn the UN’s attention to the need for a sustainable population. Our message to him is simple: there can be no sustainable development without a sustainable population. We are also taking that message to three iconic cities worldwide, in our first ever international events for World Population Day.

Call on the UN to take population action

Ask UN Secretary-General António Guterres to speak out on population and develop a strategy to address it

PM goes global!

Today, Population matters is participating in events in London, Lagos and New York, to highlight population challenges and solutions across the world.

  • London – the global environmental impact of growing populations in high-consuming, high-emitting nations such as the UK
  • Lagos – the explosive population growth in sub-Saharan Africa, the principle driver of global population growth over the coming century
  • UN HQ, New York – the need for international frameworks to ensure equitable, just and effective measures to address population and demographic challenges globally
WPD Nigeria
WPD Nigeria


Population Matters will hand in a letter to the Department of International Development, calling on the UK government to include population considerations in its aid strategy and foreign relations, and to support the development of an international framework on population and demographics. It quotes a recent assessment by the UN itself, saying

“Meeting the demand for resources from a growing and more prosperous population, while protecting the environment and combating climate change, remains a central challenge for achieving sustainable development.”

The letter goes on: “We commend the UK government for its consistent support for family planning, women’s empowerment and education – but it is time for these actions to be integrated into a strategic, multilateral approach to our global population and demographic challenges, one that explicitly recognises the importance of achieving sustainable population everywhere, and that specifically promotes smaller families as a means of achieving theSDGs.”

The letter also notes that the UK’s high consumption and environmental impact means that the government should introduce a domestic Sustainable Population Policy.


Population Matters is partnering with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation to co-host a round table discussion on population and sustainability in Nigeria and beyond. The public meeting will feature contributions from leading Nigerian environmental NGOs and government agencies, addressing the challenges in meeting the SDGs and opportunities nationally and internationally. It will particularly focus on the environmental Sustainable Development Goals.  Nigeria is currently set to overtake the USA as the world’s third most populous nation by 2050, with a projected population of more than 700m by 2100.

United Nations in New York
United Nations in New York

New York

Population Matters will join with US organisation Having Kids, in an event outside UN HQ, calling on UN Secretary-General António Guterres to issue a statement supporting small families, and to examine opportunities for developing international action to address population. A letter sent to Mr Guterres yesterday and endorsed by a number of organisations, calls on him to recognise that the protection of future generations depends on a model of family planning that puts children and their future lives at its heart. A digital advertising van will circulate around the building and the strests of New York, bringing our message to tens of thousands. (See the video of our digital population counter in London on World Population Day 2018 below.)

Achieving better lives for all

Our director, Robin Maynard, says:

“There’s an ever-growing scientific consensus that population growth is a primary driver of climate change and biodiversity loss. The equation is simple: too many of us, taking too much (especially, but not uniquely in rich, developed countries) from a finite planet. This is a global problem, demanding global action. The Sustainable Development Goals are the mechanism through which the international community seeks to achieve a sustainable future – but unless the SDGs incorporate the goal of achieving a sustainable population, they will not succeed in that noble mission.”

Support the call

World Population Day 2018


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