AS the world population officially reached 7 billion at the end of October, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for global solidarity to address pressing problems of climate change, economic crisis and inequality in order to make the world a better place for current and future generations.
The UN marked the global population reaching 7 billion with a call to action to world leaders to meet the challenges that a growing population poses, from ensuring adequate food and clean water to guaranteeing equal access to security and justice.
Called the 'Day of 7 Billion', 31 October 2011 was officially designated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as the approximate day on which world's population will reach seven billion people.
However, as discussed in this Globe and Mail article by Doug Saunders, the true day that the world's population reaches 7 billion could have happened a year ago or some time in the next couple of years.
"We really have no idea how many people are born in any country, never mind the whole world, in any given year or day," the article points out, adding that October 31 is a symbolic date, based on interpolated data from estimates prepared by the UN Population Division.
Mr Ban noted that the world's population reached 6 billion in 1998, only 13 years ago, and it is expected to grow to 9 billion by the middle of this century, or possibly by 2043.
Mr Ban said today's world is one of "terrible contradictions," noting that while there is plenty of food, 1 billion people go hungry; huge advances in medicine but mothers die everyday in childbirth; and billions spent on weapons to kill people instead of keeping them safe.
"I am one of 7 billion. You are also one of 7 billion. Together, we can be 7 billion strong – by working in solidarity for a better world for all," the Secretary-General said.
The President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, said today's milestone is a reminder of how the world's poorest – the so-called 'bottom billion' – are rendered vulnerable with little or no access to basic needs.
"Seven billion people face, almost on a daily basis – with varying degrees of severity – the consequences of environmental challenges, increasing poverty, inequity, wars and economic instability."
Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said the challenges of population growth were formidable, with new pressures on land, energy, food, infrastructure and services such as education and health.
In response to what governments and the United Nations could do to cope with population growth, Mr Osotimehin said raising awareness of serious challenges such as rising inequality and extreme poverty, food insecurity and high death and birth rates in the poorest countries was as a matter of priority, adding that and to address them comprehensively through sustainable development