The BBC News website recently featured a quiz based on Hans Rosling’s TV show, The Truth about Population. Judging by the results, people in Britain have a relatively poor understanding of how much life expectancy has increased over the last few decades. At present, average life expectancy in the world is approximately 70 years. However, 56% of respondents thought that it was 60 years or lower. And 76% of university graduates thought it was 60 years or lower. Only 30% of respondents, and only 20% of university graduates, gave the correct answer of 70 years.
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.