The UN Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs recently published the 1998 Revision of the World Population. Estimates and Projections. This document confirms what the most authoritative demographers have been announcing for years and what the "Malthusian" circles are now forced to admit: the growth rates and the fertility rates of the world population are going down; the population is aging; in many countries, a replacement of the generations is no longer ensured.

In 1965-1970, the world population was growing by 2% per year; the rate today is 1.3%. In 61 countries, representing 44% of the world population, the total fertility rate (the average number of children by women in fertility age) is below replacement level. And we know that it takes an average of 2.1 per woman to replace a population. These rates are actually 1.2 and 1.15 respectively in Italy and in Spain; by 2050, these countries will have lost 20% of their present population force. Let us mention in passing: this is where the rejection of Humanae Vitae is leading... The general decline of the fertility rate is universal and is the reason for the drop in the birth rate and for the aging of the world population. As for the "median age", which separates the population in two equal groups, it was around 23.5 years in 1950. By 2050, it should be 37.8 for the world population as a whole; it could however reach 45.6 in the developed countries!

Finally, the 1998 Revision estimates that in 2050 the world population would reach 8.9 billion. In previous years, the figures given by the well-known Population Division were considerably higher: 9.4 billion (1996 Revision, published in January 1998!); 9.8 billion (World Population 1994); 10.0 billion (Population Projections, 1992).

The demographers of the Population Division remain discreet concerning the causes of this decline. One could namely point out the fact that marriages are less frequent and that people are older when they do get married. One should mention in particular the anti-life techniques: contraception, abortion, sterilization. As for the consequences, the Revision points out depopulation: by 2050, 56 countries will have a negative growth rate. Among the 61 countries with an insufficient replacement rate, 30 will have a declining population by 2050. The general increase of life expectancy will indeed continue to be the main cause of population growth; this phenomena will be particularly apparent in the Third World. However, it will be accompanied by an aging of the population: from 1998 to 2050, the population of 60-year-olds will be multiplied by 9 in the under-developed countries! One should also mention other consequences of the decline: unbalances in the age structures between different countries; uncontrollable migrations; a collapse of social security and education systems; conflicts between the younger and older generations, etc.

With its customary sobriety of language, the 1998 Revision is seriously calling out to the international community. The message is essential: if nothing changes, the survival of humanity could be in jeopardy. Coming from one of the most respected authorities of the UN, this document carries therefore an invitation directed at several agencies of the UN itself at the time when it is working on the ICPD+5 review of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development.

What emerges from this document is in fact that one must radically reevaluate the 20-year plan of action developed at Cairo in view of controlling at all costs the growth rate of the world population. The alarmist remarks about the danger of "overpopulation" must not only be denounced as scientifically untenable, but also be suspected of ideological intoxication. It is not the sovereign nations which must be pressed by the UN to account for what they have been doing "to fulfill the commitments of Cairo". It is the UN agencies that must account for their sponsoring –in the name of a suspect "consensus" or even induced by conditioned aid- of hefty programs of population control. Those are the very agencies that must be invited to explain whence these "messianic" impulses are coming from that prompt them to make, for example, of abortion, sterilization, repudiation, etc. so-called "new human rights", and to reduce the family to a simple case, among others, of precarious pact of cohabitation.

The UN Population Division therefore has reasons to be concerned about the perverse use sometimes made, within the UN itself, of scientific data from her own scientists. The decline of the world population, which the Population Division analyzes with care, has one of its main causes in the misappreciation, by several UN agencies, of data from the science of population, or in unacceptable interpretations of these data. The cause can also be found in what presents itself as a "new ethics" which, undermining the family, ruins natural solidarities and corrupts the fabric of human society. At the level of these two causes, the responsibility of the UN is seriously committed and its credibility mortgaged.

Salvation must stem from two sources. First of all, every agency involved must take into account the truths brought to light by a science of population which is not in the pay of any one person, nor of any private group or government. One must then return to the moral principles which justified the creation of the UN and which alone can continue to legitimate its mission.