October 15th, 2009 | Posted in PRB News
by Bill Butz, PRB president
Those of us at PRB who attended this year’s IUSSP International Population Conference had an enlightening, exciting, and wonderful time in Marrakesh. We also had a first-hand lesson in what happens when local political realities meet international population data gathering and reporting.
Sunday morning of the conference brought a shock to us. Representatives of the host government of Morocco had removed all the publications from PRB’s exhibit booth because two of our data sheets included estimates for Western Sahara, the focus of territorial dispute for decades. The Moroccan government considers Western Sahara part of the Kingdom of Morocco. Other organizations’ materials were also removed for the same reason. We retrieved our publications after agreeing not to distribute publications with the Western Sahara estimates.
But the World Population Data sheet is our most well-known publication, and many visitors to our booth asked for it expressly. In the end we did distribute the data sheets with the Western Sahara lined blacked out so that these unique resources could eventually be posted on office and classroom walls around the world. Many participants also took our CD-ROM containing more than 80 recent datasheets and publications in English, with many also in French, Spanish, or Arabic.
In the end, the important thing is that participants from NGOs and academia were able to get our publications with our objective data and analysis, while we also respected the wishes of the host government.