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Did Stanley Johnson’s report for the UN initiate the US depopulation policy and The Kissinger Report?

Did Stanley Johnson’s report for the UN initiate the US depopulation policy and The Kissinger Report?

In 2018, long-time environmental campaigner Stanley Johnson said on BBC Newsnight that he had called for limiting population growth to become government policy in the past.  But historically, has he only called for “limiting” population growth or has he called for depopulation?

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On BBC Newsnight in 2018, Johnson was challenged that the UK Conservative Party would always choose economic growth over the environment.  He responded that the number of people in the UK was the real problem.

“One of the problems in this whole area, one of the reasons were forcing ourselves down the economic growth route, is, of course, the constantly expanding population of this country and you can’t ignore that,” he said.

In 2015, Johnson published an article on the Conservative Home website arguing why Britain needs a population policy.  He concluded his article:

The harsh truth is that, in vast areas of the globe, birth rates remain much too high and per capita incomes ridiculously low. The ‘push’ factor (escaping poverty, disease, unemployment) may be as important as the ‘pull’ factor (seizing better opportunities abroad). Distinctions between refugees and migrants are in such circumstances largely theoretical.  You’d need to be blind to fail to see the connection between high rates of population growth, mass poverty, environmental degradation, and political instability.

Tackling the population problem – whether at home or abroad – is not easy.  Some politicians, such as Mrs Gandhi, who courageously sought to bring family planning to the over 300,000 villages of India, ended up unexpectedly on the funeral pyre. But at least she tried.

Stanley Johnson: Why Britain needs a population policy, Conservative Home, 9 September 2015

In 2012, Johnson spoke to the Guardian‘s environment editor John Vidal about his fifty years as an environmental campaigner.  In an article that included some comments from this interview, Vidal noted that Johnson, who in the 1970s drafted the first EU legislation on nature protection, called on the government to introduce a population policy. During the interview, Johnson said:

“If you have a declining population, which is what I would aim for, then of course even a stable economic growth situation will give you an increase in per capita income. So that’s where I stand on that.”

Johnson was then asked if he had a sense of what the carrying capacity of Britain would be or for the world as a whole.  He responded:

“Well, Britain I put it at 10 or 15 million. I think that’d be absolutely fine. I mean that would do us really splendidly. At a limit of 20/25 [million].”

Further resources:

Who is Stanley Johnson?

Stanley Johnson is a British author and former Conservative Party politician who was a Member of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1984. A former employee of the World Bank and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, he has written books on environmental and (de-)population issues.  His six children include former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

According to his biography on Knight Ayton Management, which represents the “cream of television and radio broadcasters,” Johnson is a former Conservative Member of the European Parliament (“MEP”) where he served (1979-1984) as Vice Chairman of the Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection. He has also worked in the European Commission (1973-1979) as Head of the Prevention of Pollution division and (1984-1994) as Senior Adviser to DG Environment and as Director of Energy Policy. Before joining the Commission, Johnson served on the staff of the World Bank and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Johnson has been an adviser to Price Waterhouse Coopers, a director of ERM, an environmental consultancy, a trustee of the Earthwatch Institute and Plantlife International and an environmental adviser to Jupiter Asset Management. According to Knight Ayton, he is currently the Honorary President of the Gorilla Organisation and an ambassador for the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).  However, his biography could be a little outdated as the Gorilla Organisation website shows Johnson as a patron, not president, and CMS’ website shows him as a former ambassador.

Among many others, he has had eleven books published dealing with environmental issues, including Politics of the Environment, Earth Summit and Environmental Policy of the European Communities.

In 1984 he was awarded the Greenpeace Prize for Outstanding Services to the Environment and in the same year the RSPCA Richard Martin award for services to animal welfare. In 2014, he received the WWF Silver Medal, and in 2015 he also received the RSPB Medal and WWF-International’s Leader of the Living Planet Award for his work on the EU Habitats Directive and Natura 2000, the Europe-wide network of protected areas.

Further reading:  

Johnson, John D. Rockefeller and the US Depopulation Policy

The biography above did not give details about what Johnson did before 1979. It states he left Oxford University in 1963 and was awarded a Harkness Fellowship to the United States in 1963.  But the next mention is Johnson as MEP starting in 1979.  There are 16 odd years of details missing from his biography.  His biography on The Polar Connection is the same, a 16-year odd gap between 1963 and 1979.

So, what was he doing during those years?  A 2015 article published by the University of Massachusetts provides some information.

In October 2014 as a guest speaker in the transdisciplinary Coasts and Communities graduate programme, Johnson shared his insights on the milestones in 40 years of environmental policy with the Associate Professor of global governance and co-director of the Centre for Governance and Sustainability Maria Ivanova.  The article published in the University’s Global Leadership Dialogues the following year was a transcript of Ivanova’s interview with Johnson.  Johnson said:

I joined the World Bank in the early 1960s. I had been working in Washington, and I was invited to come to New York in April 1968 to work with John D. Rockefeller III … John D. III was particularly renowned for his work in philanthropy: he founded the Asia Society and also the Population Council. 

In 1968, [Rockefeller] was appointed by the United Nations Association [“UNA”] of the United States to chair a National Policy Panel on World Population. The panel was asked to consider the role of the UN in helping the world to come to grips with the population problem. You see, at the end of the ’60s, as now, we were faced with burgeoning populations around the world. It was such an incredibly impressive panel. Blue ribbon throughout, really. For example, the vice chairman was George D. Woods, who had just resigned from being president of the World Bank. It also had David Bell, who was the president of the Ford Foundation.

Anyway, I was invited by UNA to serve as Rockefeller’s chief of staff for that panel. I travelled around the world – I think I visited 18 countries to see what was going on in population and family planning. The main outcome of the panel was a report which said the UN should establish a Population Agency and that it should be run by a high-level appointee. We actually used the words “commissioner of population,” which is not the term they finally chose. They chose “executive director” of the UN Fund for Population Activities, or UNFPA. The report also recommended that funding for the agency should start off at a minimum of $100 million per year. I was the main author of the report. I included the whole report at the end of my first non-fiction book, which was called ‘Life without Birth: A Journey through the Third World in Search of the Population Explosion‘.

And, now, to give Richard Nixon credit – he was President at the time, of course – within days of our publishing the report, he sent a message to Congress called the Presidential Message on Population, where he said he was encouraged by the “scope and thrust” of the Rockefeller Report and that the United States would put every effort into funding the UNFPA and supporting its work. And really within days, the UNFPA was established. It was the United Nations Fund for Population Activities in those days; now it is just called the United Nations Population Fund. It was budgeted at the level of $100 million, and it received $100 million. So that was extraordinary … And all credit should go to the United States for the leadership role it played in setting up the UN Population Fund. Of course, what’s happening now is another story. There has been something of a sea change in the United States on population issues. I don’t need to go into that now, because you asked about my own milestones. [Emphasis our own]

Naturalist and Novelist: Stanley Johnson (Vol 2. Issue 1), Global Leadership Dialogues, University of Massachusetts Boston, 2015, pgs. 2-3

In the event the University of Massachusetts article above is removed from the internet, we have attached a copy below.

What Johnson is describing above relating to the UNFPA, has eerie similarities to a meeting held in June 1973.  During this meeting, General Taylor, General Draper and his colleagues presented their views on a memorandum that the population explosion in developing countries was not only a threat to US interests in the economics and in the development of those countries but also, more fundamentally, presented a danger to the United States’ politico-military interests.

The meeting concluded with General Draper stating that he would urge the House Foreign Affairs Committee to earmark $125 million for population programmes.  What followed was, under the direction of President Nixon, the preparation of the National Security Study Memorandum (“NSSM”) known as ‘The Kissinger Report.  It laid out detailed plans for population reduction in many countries.  These plans became official US policy in 1975.

Unfortunately, we can’t find a copy online of the report Johnson wrote for the UNA to make a comparison to The Kissinger Report.  However, the timing of Johnson’s report, the people involved on the UNA panel, the sums of money required for population programmes and that Johnson praised the US for its “leadership role” provide tantalising evidence that – if it didn’t form the backbone of the US depopulation policy – Johnson’s report, at the very least, was a precursor to it or initiated the 1973 meeting which led to The Kissinger Report.

Further reading:

Chronological List of Books by Stanley Johnson

As mentioned above, Johnson has written numerous books.  A list of his books can be found on Goodreads HERE, Google Books HERE or Johnson’s website HERE. Below is a list of some of the books written by Johnson with a brief description of the book where one is available.  The source of the book descriptions is noted at the beginning of the paragraph.  Where there is no short description to be found, we have simply noted the title and the publication date.

Life Without Birth: A Journey Through the Third World in Search of the Population Explosion (1970)

Google Books: Study of the economic implications and social implications of population growth in Latin America, Asia and Africa – covers problems of poverty, malnutrition, housing, illiteracy, environment and air pollution, etc., and includes government policies and birth control programmes, international cooperation, views of the Church, activities of the UN and specialised agencies, etc.

Note: This is the book that Johnson said contained the whole report of the UNA panel on which he served as Rockefeller’s chief of staff.

The Green Revolution (1972)

Google Books: This book is about aspects of agricultural development, including new high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat. It is also about the men and women who work on the land or fish in the sea, and the “experts” and scientists who are striving to revolutionise their living conditions.

A Population Policy for Britain – Old Queen Street Paper (1972)

The Politics of Environment – The British Experience (1973)

Internet Archive: Part Five of the book is titled ‘The Future’ and includes two subtitles: ‘Population Control as part of Environmental Planning’ and ‘Stockholm and Beyond’.

The Population Problem (1974)

Google Books: Stanley Johnson edited The Population Problem (1974).

World Populations and the United Nations: Challenge and Response (1987)

Google Books and Goodreads: This book is about the challenge posed by the unprecedented growth of the world’s population and the response that has been made to that challenge by the United Nations and its system of agencies. It focuses in particular on the creation, in 1969, of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (“UNFPA”) as the principal instrument for the United Nations’ population programmes and on the work undertaken by the United Nations and its specialised agencies, including the World Bank, in this field. A substantial part of the book is devoted to discussing the actual achievements, in terms of demographic policies and falling birth rates, which have been realised in different parts of the developing world. At a time when there is a good deal of criticism of the United Nations and its agencies, this book makes it clear that here at least is one area where the world organisation is continuing to make an important contribution towards the solution of the most important problem of our time.

The Environmental Policies of the European Communities (1989)

Ulster University: This three-volume compilation, containing 200 documents, reproduces the most important environmental declarations (i.e., resolutions, guidelines, decisions, recommendations, and drafts) of the principal relevant international organisations (especially UNO/UNEP, ECE, OECD, Council of Europe) and of the recording bodies (International Law Association).

The Marburg Virus (1992) and The Virus (2015)

Goodreads: How do you stop an invisible killer?  When a young woman in New York City dies mysteriously after a trip to Europe, top epidemiologist Lowell Kaplan identifies the cause of death as the Marburg Virus – a fatal strain that has surfaced only once before in history. Determined to trace the source of the disease, Kaplan follows a trail of intrigue from the labs of Germany to the jungles of Central Africa. But powerful forces are conspiring against him, determined to keep the secrets of the virus’s origin deliberately under wraps. And with a global pandemic on the rise, Kaplan must go to unimaginable lengths to stop a deadly scheme and save mankind.

Google Books: Initially published in 1982 as The Marburg Virus, Johnson’s The Virus reveals uncanny parallels with the current coronavirus: the outbreak of a mysterious and deadly disease, the origins of which are traced to a medical student infected by a green monkey. It features an epidemiologist as its hero and a desperate search for a vaccine.

The Earth Summit: the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) (1993)

Goodreads: The United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (“UNCED”) drew over 100 governments together in Rio de Janeiro (3-14 June 1992) to agree action and legal bases for future protection of the environment. This book elucidates both the UNCED process and the Conference itself by assembling the key documents, including the final version of Agenda 21, and using them to recount how UNCED began, developed and finally, in Rio, came to fruition. Each document is preceded by analytical and highly informative commentary which renders large and sometimes technically complicated material accessible and places it in its correct perspective. This in turn is amplified by an excellent introduction, and a comprehensive index.

World Population – Turning the Tide (1994)

Google Books: This work recounts the successful story of national and international approaches to the population question from the 1960s to the present, and examines the progress made in reducing rapid rates of population growth and high levels of fertility. It describes the evolution of national population policies by governments, their aims, successes and shortcomings, and explores the emergence of international agencies seeking to reinforce and underpin those commitments.

The Politics of Population: The International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo 1994 (1995)

Google Books: The International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994 represented a remarkable watershed. Not only did it produce an unprecedented degree of agreement among the 179 countries and thousands of non-governmental organisations taking part, but it also created a wide-ranging Programme of Action which for the first time offers real chances of progress, by putting population policies at the heart of the struggle for social development. This book recounts what actually happened in Cairo and how it was achieved. The early chapters look in some detail at the preparations for Cairo, in the context of over three decades of attempts to integrate population, development and environmental issues. Focusing on the key controversial questions, including abortion, contraception and adolescent sex, it examines the ways in which attempts were made to reconcile opposing positions. Setting the discussion in a much wider context, it argues that Cairo witnessed a “quantum leap” in the way the population issue is seen, and the need to give them control over their own lives – central to the discussion about population, resources and development. The Programme of Action which emerged from the conference, particularly the parts dealing with gender issues (included here in appendices), is the most forward-looking ever adopted. As a whole, the Programme is probably one of the most important social documents of our time. This book captures both the drama and the details of its creation.

Amazon: This is an account of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development and of its significance. From the Conference emerged a programme of action which aims to tie population policies to development and the role of women and to reduce the rate of population growth. The book recounts what actually happened at the Conference, focusing on the central issues and the way in which attempts were made to reconcile opposing positions so as to achieve consensus on an effective programme of action. It also takes a much wider perspective on the whole population debate, arguing that the Cairo conference represents a “quantum leap” in the way that the population issue is now seen.

UNEP The First 40 Years: A Narrative (2012)

Stanley Johnson: To mark its 40th anniversary, the United Nations Environment Programme (“UNEP”) has sponsored a new book detailing the history of the Nairobi-based organisation over the last four decades. Written by award-winning conservationist Stanley P. Johnson, the book charts the evolution of UNEP from its inception at the landmark Stockholm conference of 1972 to its position today at the heart of the global environmental movement. Entitled: ‘The First 40 Years; A Narrative‘, the book – which is not an official UN history but the view of its world-acclaimed author – explains in depth UNEP’s role at the forefront of efforts to protect the environment and is stuffed with interesting facts and figures.

Read more: Interview: Stanley Johnson on the green agenda, UNA – UK, 21 October 2013 and UNEP: The first 40 years – A Narrative by Stanley Johnson

Relevant World Events

Earth Summit: Agenda 21 (14 June 1992)

A comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organisations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.

International Conference on Population and Development 5-13 September 1994, Cairo, Egypt

More than 180 States participated in the conference, at which a new Programme of Action was adopted as a guide for national and international action in the area of population and development for the next 20 years. This new Programme of Action placed emphasis on the indissoluble relationship between population and development.

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015)

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets were announced in September 2015 and demonstrated the scale and ambition of “this new universal Agenda … to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what these did not achieve.” The Goals and targets were to stimulate action over the next fifteen years.

The UN’s shared principles and commitments included:  “We reaffirm the outcomes of all major UN conferences and summits which have laid a solid foundation for sustainable development and have helped to shape the new Agenda. These include the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development; the World Summit on Sustainable Development; the World Summit for Social Development; the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing Platform for Action; and the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+ 20”).”

World Economic Forum and UN Sign Strategic Partnership Framework (13 June 2019)

The World Economic Forum and the United Nations signed a Strategic Partnership Framework outlining areas of cooperation to deepen institutional engagement and jointly accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

World Economic Forum and OECD Sign Strategic Partnership Framework (23 January 2020)

“A socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economy that improves opportunity for all is the key to humanity’s collective future. Managing the transition to such an economy will be the critical challenge of this decade. The strategic partnership framework with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is designed to leverage the collective power of both of our organisations and advance this vision,” said Klaus Schwab, World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman.

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