APA Inaugural Speech

Inaugural Address by Dr Mohammad Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi at
The First Meeting of Establishment Committee of the Asian Population Association,
1 December 2007,
Delivered at Amir Kabir Hall, University of Tehran


Distinguished Members of the Establishment Committee of the Asian Population Association
Honoured Members of the Population Association of Iran
Excellencies UNFPA and UNHCR Representatives
Honorable Parliamentary Deputies
My Dear Fellow Colleagues and Students
Ladies and Gentlemen


It is a great honour for me to address this session on the auspicious occasion of the first meeting of the Establishment Committee of the Asian Population Association. It is a pleasure to host this important event at the University of Tehran with more than seventy years of history, and at its Department of Demography with more than 35 years of experience in teaching and research at the national and international levels. I would like to extend a warm welcome to all participants at this significant and historic meeting.

This meeting has brought together distinguished guests from countries in the Asian region, and can best represent our fruitful collaborations which will flourish and bring invaluable benefits to all Asian demographers and population experts.

The inauguration of the Asian Population Association marks a major development in demographic studies. Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent. With almost four billion people, it is home to more than 60% of the world's current population. Asia includes the two largest national populations, China and India ? demographic billionaires in their own right. It is also the centre of some of the fastest sustained economic growth rates in the world as well as some of the most intractable problems of poverty. Asia is home to several language families and many language isolates. Indeed, Asia is both diverse and dynamic in terms of population growth trends. Some countries in the region have fully completed the demographic transition to low rates of fertility, mortality and growth. Others are still struggling to reduce infant and child mortality, and have to deal with continuing large family sizes. Thus, there are many emerging population issues posing significant impacts on the future of the world?s population as they pose major challenges to communities and local governments across the region.

Demography offers an array of methods and techniques to understand the many dimensions of problems of economic inequality, social inequity and cultural diversity. There are many demographic and population institutions around Asia with a very long history of demographic teaching and research. Population experts in Asia have established national associations in many countries including Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, India, Indonesia, Iran, and Pakistan. These associations have provided the platforms by which accumulated knowledge and experiences have been shared among Asian demographers at national levels. However, while population experts in other parts of the world have established their regional associations (i.e Demographic Association of Southern Africa, European Association for Population Studies, and Union for African Population Studies), an Asian Population Association had not been formed. Today we are moving to do so.

Let me brief you on the efforts that have been made and brought us together at this meeting to celebrate the foundation of an Asian Population Association. The idea of the establishment of the Asian Population Association had been raised by several Asian demographers or Asian Population experts in the past. In November 2004, Asian population experts discussed the possibility of the Asian Association at a meeting on ?Strengthening Institutional Capacity in Population and Health Research and Training in the Asian Region? which was hosted by Mahidol University in Bangkok. A year later, the idea of the foundation of the Association was further discussed at a side meeting at the Six Conference of the Population Association of Pakistan during 29 November and 3 December 2005 where scholars from sixteen Asian countries attended the conference in Islamabad.? This was followed by another presentation at the international conference on ?Emerging Issues in the Asia Pacific Region: Challenges for the 21st Century? which was held in Mumbai, India in December 2006.

Based on these discussions an internet forum was organized during 5-11 September 2007 where many demographers and population experts joined the discussion and expressed their views on the model, name of the association, and future activities of the Asian Population Association. It was then that College of Population Studies at the Chulalongkorn University offered to host the association in its initial stages. More importantly, many distinguished scholars, associations and institutions across Asia and other countries including the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP), Population Association of America (PAA), Population Division of the United Nations, Asia Meta Center have expressed their support for the association. In addition, six Asian scholars, Moneer Alam, Mehtab Karim, Baochang Gu, Terence Hull, Bhassorn Limanonda, and myself were nominated as the members of the Establishment Committee of the Asian Population Association.? John Cleland and John Casterline have also been nominated as International Advisors to the Committee.

I am delighted that the idea has been materialized and the APA will soon be established. The association aims to foster research, enhance collaboration, and safeguard and upgrade key data collection efforts. It will also provide a broad forum for Asian scholars, promote greater awareness of the diversity of research across the region, and build new collaborations and ties. Through this Association we will apply our professional skills to gain deeper understanding of the various social problems our countries face. Our discussions and debates will guide our research results to practical policy directions, and our collaborations will ensure that the science we use will be shared across the region, for the common good.

The members of the association will all be people with skills and commitment to carry out scientific studies of population. They are welcome to join and participate in the activities of the association without any barriers based on gender, race, ethnic identity, religion or political affiliation.

Maintaining an active and dynamic association is not an easy task as the association needs financial support, hard work and collaborations of all its members over the years to come.? We are thankful that the Department of Demography of the University of Tehran, in collaboration with the Population Association of Iran, and the UNFPA in Tehran will host the first meeting of the Establishment Committee between 1-4 December 2007. Over the next few days the Establishment Committee will discuss the constitution, governance, and future activities of APA, including the first conference to be held.? We will also implement a workshop on the emerging issues in Asia which will mark the first scientific activity of the Association.

With this, I would like to thank you all for your participation at this significant event in Asian demographic history and urge you to join the APA to ensure you will be able to fully participate in all the activities to come.