Population Dynamics and Security: Public Policy Challenges Ninth Annual Research Conference of the Population Association of Pakistan

January 11, 2009

Talks & Interviews

Dr. Saeed Shafqat

: Brief Report on Conference Proceedings

The Ninth Annual Research Conference of Population Association of Pakistan (PAP) was held in collaboration with the Centre for Public Policy and Governance (CPPG), at the Forman Christian College (A Chartered University) Lahore under the theme of Population Dynamics and Security: Public Policy Challenges from December 2 – 4, 2008. The previous eight conferences had been held in premier universities and institutions in the major cities of Pakistan that included the Agha Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Islamabad, University of the Punjab, Lahore, the Agriculture University of Faisalabad, the University of Karachi, the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad and University of Peshawar. The conference was co-sponsored by UNFPA, USAID FALAH project and JSI- PAIMAN project, The David & Lucile Packard Foundation and other International social sector development partners.

The primary focus of the conference was to share knowledge and research that explored the linkages between population growth and security ramifications. In Pakistan, like many developing countries, population growth has led to an array of issues as diverse as poor social outcomes in education and employment, environmental degradation, food scarcity, unbalanced migration, social conflicts, etc. In the three days the conference held eight sessions in which 40 papers were presented followed by heated and stimulating discussions. Hopefully new research, fresh evidence and recommendations presented by the participants will help in informing future policy decisions.

The conference was inaugurated by Dr. M. Owais Farooqui, Chairman, Punjab Chief Minster’s Task Force for Environment and was concluded by Honorable Mrs. Neelam Jabbar, Provincial Minister Population Welfare Department Punjab.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Naushin Mahmood, President PAP informed that since its establishment in year 2000, PAP had held 14 regional seminars on different population issues in all provinces of the country and had eight successful annual conferences in collaboration with major universities in different cities of Pakistan. Over these years, she said, PAP has emerged as a strong and effective professional organization to take forward the population agenda. According to her, this year the theme of the conference Population Dynamics and Security: Public Policy Challenges was much broader in scope and complex in essence than what it appeared to be. Until recently, attention to population dynamics and related issues has primarily focused on studying the trends, consequences and reduction strategies of high fertility and mortality in terms of widening economic disparities, worsening environmental conditions, depleting natural resources and increasing conflict behavior within and between nations.

She argued the fact that demographic factors have far greater socio-economic and political implications than previously envisaged by either policy makers or academicians. It is thus increasingly becoming evident that investments made in population programs which go beyond immediate interventions in fertility and mortality have in fact enhanced prospects for sustainable human security, particularly with reference to mitigating poverty and improving food, health, education and livelihood security. Dr. Amy Coen, CEO & President, Population Action International, USA was especially invited as the Distinguished Key Note Speaker and she did set the tone of the conference. In her address, she highlighted world population trends, association of demographic trends and conflict, demographic security and the complex relations among urbanization, population growth and environment. She also emphasized the importance of education for girls, economic opportunities for women, and access to reproductive health for women.

Dr. Hafeez Pasha was the Guest of Honor. He focused on two areas of concern: the relationship of population dynamics and food security, and overall security in Pakistan in the context of militancy and adverse law and order situations. He appreciated the fact that the present government was cognizant of the situations and was providing agricultural incentives to improve agriculture yield in the country. On behalf of Dr. Peter Armacost, Rector, FC College (who was indisposed) the Welcome address was presented by Dr. Mary Lynda Armacost, wife of the Rector. The representatives of development partners (UNFPA, USAID, Packard Foundation) also spoke on the occasion.

The Closing session was chaired by Mrs. Neelam Jabbar, Minister for Population Welfare, Government of the Punjab. In her remarks she said that in order to provide civic amenities to every citizen, we needed to control the rapidly growing population and a comprehensive awareness campaign would be launched in the province soon. She was emphatic in pointing out the link between data collection and meaningful analysis, and suggested that the Population Department as well as NGOs must be trained in data collection and in conducting actionable policy research. Mrs. Jabbar went on to say that increasincreasing population affected our socio-economic conditions; as 40 million people were living below the poverty line, 58 million people had no access to safe & clean drinking water, 59 million people were living in one room house units whereas only 20% of the population had the facility of trained birth attendant.

She informed the participants that the provincial and federal governments were conscious about the implications of population growth and had launched programs with specific objectives that aimed to reduce the under five mortality rate to less than 65 per thousand live births by the year 2011 target 2015: 45/1000, to reduce the newborn mortality rate to less than 40 per thousand live births target 2015: 40/1000, to reduce maternal mortality ratio to 200 per hundred thousand live births by the year 2011 target 2015: 140/100,000 and to increase the proportion of deliveries attended by skilled birth attendants to 90% by 2015.

The excellent arrangements made by the FC College administration, support staff, student volunteers and most importantly the enthusiastic participation by the faculty and students of the University played a pivotal role in making the conference a resounding success. Over 600 participants from across the country participated in the conference, the sessions were very well attended and the discussions were lively. CPPG along with PAP remains indebted to all those individuals and institutions who contributed towards the success of the conference. A new beginning has been made at the University that clearly demonstrates that FC College has the human capital, managerial capacity and infrastructure to successfully hold international conferences.