Observing contemporary demography trends one might be forgiven for thinking that no previous times have been as radical and fast changing as ours. Demographers have noted with amazement the pace of Iran’s fertility decline in recent years, and we are witnessing unprecedented population ageing and are advised to prepare for radical changes in the welfare states of “old” Europe. When looking to a more distant European past we may find no less amazing societal and demographic changes.
The twentieth anniversary of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) is approaching. As a strategic meeting around world population issues is in preparation (ICPD beyond 2014), this is a good time to review past achievements and define new challenges. The UNECE countries of Europe, Central Asia, and North America constitute a globally relevant laboratory in which much can be learned about population trends and the relationship between policies and outcomes that may subsequently play out in other parts of the globe.