Nations around the globe marked World Population Day on Saturday — "a reminder of our common responsibility to build a more sustainable and just future," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.
The United Nations said the "unprecedented decrease in mortality" in the developed world in the 19th century that spread to other parts of the world in the 20th century was "one of the major achievements of humanity," resulting in a world population that grew from 1 billion in 1810 to 7 billion by 2012.
The theme for World Population Day this year is "Vulnerable Populations in Emergencies" and is intended to highlight the special needs of women and adolescent girls during conflicts and humanitarian disasters.
"With nearly 60 million individuals having fled conflict or disaster, women and adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "Violent extremists and armed groups are committing terrible abuses that result in trauma, unintended pregnancy and infection with HIV and other diseases. Shame and accountability rest squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrators who wage cowardly battles across the bodies of innocents."
Kerry said, "in a fragile world, where war and persecution are displacing record numbers of people, those with the least power need the most protection."
"We must enable women, adolescent girls and young people to play their full role in peace talks, peace building and recovery, and to ensure that governments comply with international law and bring perpetrators of sexual violence to justice," said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the U.N.'s Population Fund.
"By prioritizing health, rights and the full participation of women, adolescent girls and young people in public life, we increase our prospects for a more just, stable and peaceful world."