UNITED NATIONS, New York—The 2011 Population Award was presented last week to Professor Mohammad Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi, Chairman of the Division of Population Research at the University of Tehran, and L’Institut de Formation et de Recherche Démographiques (IFORD). The two laureates were chosen from an international pool of candidates in recognition of their contributions to population issues and human welfare.
Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Asha-Rose Migiro, presented the award to the laureates during a formal ceremony at the UN. The event also featured Maged A. Abdelaziz, Egypt’s Ambassador to the United Nations and Chairman of the Award Committee and Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, who is the Committee’s Secretary. A number of diplomats, population experts and representatives of civil society, the private sector and the press attended the ceremony.
Both laureates have a distinguished history in the population field. Professor Abbasi-Shavazi, who is also Future Fellow at the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, has a long career in teaching, demographic research and advisory services, and has contributed to the understanding of the dynamics of fertility decline in Iran. IFORD has been the leading institution for training, research and technical assistance in the field of population, serving 26 countries in Africa and the Indian Ocean.
Ms. Migiro noted the special resonance of this year’s award, as it coincides with world population reaching seven billion. “The impending population milestone has rightly triggered important discussions on managing the balance between people and resources, on fertility, population and development, and on how to help people in the least developed countries rise from poverty,” said Ms. Migiro. This year’s laureates, she added, “are helping us to address these key issues of the world’s present and future collective well-being.”
In his acceptance statement, Dr. Abbasi-Shavazi focused on the demographic transition and the youth bulge in the Middle East and North Africa, noting that today’s youth are better educated than their parents, are better linked to the rest of the world, and have higher aspirations. That is why, he concluded, it “is important to understand that old policies do not match new demands. It is the responsibility of all of us to develop an updated and “youthful” vision of the future to help guide change in our societies.” The voices of the new generation should be heard, added Dr. Abbasi-Shavazi, and population policies should be formulated within society-specific contexts and based on current needs.
Speaking on behalf of IFORD, Jean Tabi-Manga, Rector of the University of Yaoundé II, described the award as “an international recognition of nearly 40 years of efforts supporting the development of francophone African countries.” It also underscores the relevance of IFORD’s three core missions, he added, which are to train African teams in the field of population and development; to define and conduct research in member countries; and to provide technical support to member states and partners in its field of expertise.