Chapter 2: Examining the Connections Between Population and Security

from State of the World 2005

Authors: Lisa Mastny and Richard P. Cincotta

Over the past few decades, countries from every major political and religious background and in virtually every world region have experienced momentous change in their numbers and the structure of their populations. Yet the global demographic transition—the transformation of populations from short lives and large families to longer lives and small families—remains woefully incomplete. Roughly one third of all countries, including many in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and South and Central Asia, are still in the early stages of the transition, with fertility rates above four children per woman.

Studies show that these countries bear the highest risks of becoming embroiled in an armed civil conflict. Most are bogged down by a debilitating demographic situation: they are home to large and growing proportions of young people, many of whom are entering the ranks of the jobless or the underemployed; many are experiencing rapid urban population growth; and many face exceedingly low per-capita availability of cropland or fresh water. Meanwhile, the rising pandemic of HIV/AIDS is striking lethal blows to the basic services and government operations of several countries, mainly in Africa. Alone and in combination, these conditions act as “demographic risk factors” that can contribute greatly to the cycle of recurrent conflict and political deterioration inhibiting economic and social progress in the world’s weakest and most unstable countries.