New PSN briefing on population and fragile states
10 April 2012
PSN has a new briefing setting out the links between population dynamics and fragile states.
Guns are prevalent in the drought prone Karamoja area of East Africa where conflict is frequent amongst pastoralists.
© Khristopher Carlson/IRIN
Setting out the links
Population Dynamics and Fragile States is a new briefing from PSN exploring the ways that population dynamics can influence and contribute to state fragility and conflict situations.
The interaction of factors that contribute to the fragility of states is complex and context-specific, but frequently encompasses political, socio-economic and environmental factors, including population dynamics, environmental degradation and resource scarcity, and inequalities. Population pressure on resources such as land or water and basic services, high levels of unemployment among predominantly young populations, and rapid urbanisation are among the demographic elements that have contributed to conflict in developing countries since the 1990s. Environmental degradation, climate change and scarcity of natural resources, can precipitate conflict, especially when combined with rapid population growth.
The briefing argues therefore that addressing unmet demand for voluntary family planning and sustainable environmental management should be prioritised, to ease demographic and environmental pressures contributing to conflict.
Key policy recommendations from the briefing:
- Integrated Policy: Population dynamics, including population growth, urbanisation and migration, need to be integrated into approaches to aid fragile states, in order to ease pressures on the state and demand for resources, and promote environmental sustainability. Effectively responding to population pressures includes ensuring increased access to voluntary family planning programmes that respect and protect human rights. Integrated approaches must also encompass environmental strategies to promote sustainable and equitable management of natural resources.
- Family Planning and Reproductive Health: Provision of voluntary family planning and reproductive health services is a highly cost-effective way to address demographic pressures. There is a large unmet demand for these services, which would also reduce maternal and child mortality, significantly improve health outcomes, reduce environmental pressures and contribute to poverty alleviation at household and national levels. By preventing unplanned pregnancies, family planning eases demand for public services and for natural resources, thereby alleviating pressures on the state and other factors contributing to instability.
- Poverty Alleviation: Grievances resulting from poverty and social inequalities are frequently key factors underlying or triggering violent conflict. Strategies to alleviate poverty and address social inequalities have the potential to mitigate grievances that threaten both national and international security. Rapid population growth and high population density undermine poverty alleviation efforts. Incorporating voluntary family planning programmes within poverty reduction strategies maximises beneficial outcomes.
- Environment: Environmental pressures are strongly associated with population dynamics, including population growth and migration. Slowing population growth would reduce environmental degradation and contribute to sustainable use of natural resources such as land and water conservation. This would limit competition over resources, thereby decreasing potential social instability, particularly in fragile states.
- Economic: If population growth is slowed, fewer resources would be diverted into basic sustenance needed for a fast growing population and more would be available for investment in per capita output, productive employment, education, and healthcare.
Read the briefing
Providing facts and figures, case studies and policy recommendations, the paper contributes to a series of briefings from PSN communicating to audiences and policy makers from the development, environment, health and other sectors, the significance of population dynamics to key global development challenges.
PSN is grateful for the financial assistance received from the European Union to produce the briefings.
The briefings are available to download in the Resources section.