DAVE did not spend all of last week brawling with back-benchers in Westminster corridors; he also found time to look in at the Family Planning Summit in London, co-hosted by his government and billionairess Melinda Gates, and say some encouraging words.
This jamboree attracted an array of African presidents and Asian and European politicians, along with major pharmaceutical companies.
The conference aimed to raise $4 billion to promote birth control in developing countries; in the event it netted $4.6bn. The Gates Foundation agreed to raise its contribution to $1bn over the next eight years and big-hearted Dave trumped that by pledging £1.4bn of British taxpayers’ money over the same period (Recession? What recession?). The conference was part of Melinda Gates’ “No Controversy” campaign to sanitise the image of family planning of its association with population control, compulsory sterilisation and abortion. In keeping with this anodyne approach, the UK government’s Department for International Development published a feel-good video featuring Mwanasha, a 21-year-old mother of two from Malawi, who expressed optimism about her future now that she will have access to contraception (remember those Soviet films of smiling Ukrainian peasants with more state-of-the-art tractors than they knew what to do with). The Department for International Development, however, did not show a video of Rekha Wasnik, the wife of a poor labourer in Madhya Pradesh, India, pregnant with twins, who bled to death after a crude sterilisation operation that was part of a programme funded to the tune of £166m by the UK government.
India’s Supreme Court recently heard evidence of coercive mass sterilisation in appalling conditions under a programme funded by Britain since 2005. Men and women were herded into makeshift camps to be sterilised without being told the purpose of the operation. Women were bribed with the equivalent of less than £5 and a sari; others were threatened with the loss of their ration cards. Clinics received bonuses if they processed more than 30 operations a day; one surgeon performed 53 in two hours, in premises without running water or facilities for cleaning instruments.
Yet in 2010, the Department for International Development recommended continued support for the Reproductive and Child Health Programme Phase II; its chief reason for doing so was to address climate change – having fewer people would reduce greenhouse gases. Last week, David Cameron told the Family Planning Summit: “We have the moral argument.” His advice on combating those who opposed the campaign on moral or cultural grounds was to “rely on the force of our arguments”. Such as “Here’s a sari” or “Do you want to lose your ration card?” does he mean?
The tragic irony of this neo-colonialist bullying and killing of people in developing countries – supposedly for their own good but actually to maintain Western lifestyles – is that not only is it founded on an obvious myth such as “man-made climate change”, but the Malthusian panic over population growth is also mythical. Of course there are more people on the planet, but the population growth rate, once the initial increase slows down, is dangerously diminishing. A new phrase is entering the population lexicon: “demographic winter”. For example, it is widely assumed that Muslim countries have a high fertility rate. This is false.
In Policy Review last month, Nicholas Eberstadt and Apoorva Shah surveyed 48 of the 49 countries with Muslim-majority populations. Over the past three decades these nations experienced a 41 per cent decline in fertility rate; in 22 of them the decline exceeded 50 per cent or more; in Iran it was over 70 per cent. The source of these statistics was the UN Population Division and the authors expressed puzzlement that population specialists were not discussing this problem. There is an obvious explanation: there would be no handouts for pharmaceutical companies, governments and NGOs at a conference that told the world: “There is no problem – go ahead and do what comes naturally.”
Globally, there has been a fertility drop of 1.3 children per woman; in the developing world it is a drop of 2.2 children. Demented anti-fertility policies in China and India have dangerously upset the gender balance. A manpower crisis looms, alongside an ageing population. Grotesque rates of abortion, of which more than 40 million reported annually are a misleading underestimate, aggravate the problem. Developing nations must reject Western demographic imperialism that degrades their people with the methods of the stockyard, as they have already forced a retreat on US and UK attempts to make aid contingent on legalisation of homosexuality. Someone has to break the news to Dave and the Department for International Development: the Raj is over. “No Controversy”? In your dreams, Mrs Gates.