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Population / food / health

China's food security

European rural development

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Biographical Abstract

Gerhard K. Heilig is a demographer and social scientist who has worked in policy-oriented demographic research throughout his career.

In his latest position he was the Chief of the Population Estimates and Projections Section at the United Nations Population Division in New York. Since the early 1950s this section has the task of preparing two landmark publications of the United Nations: the World Population Prospects (WPP), and the World Urbanization Prospects (WUP). These population estimates and projections are used throughout the United Nations System and by hundreds of agencies and organizations worldwide, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNESCO, FAO, WHO and numerous academic institutions, as well as private economic research companies and the media. Between 2006 and 2013, Mr. Heilig was responsible for the preparation of the 2006, 2008 and 2010 Revisions of the World Population Prospects and the 2007, 2009 and 2011 Revisions of the World Urbanization Prospects. He also supervised and participated in the preparation of the first probabilistic population projections (PPP) of the United Nations in 2012. He presented the results of these three major publications to international agencies, academic conferences and the media. He also introduced major methodological and technical improvements in the systems for data collection, analysis and projection at the UN Population Division.

Before joining the United Nations Mr. Heilig was a Senior Research Scholar, and later Project Leader, at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria for more than 17 years. He was initially hired by the world-renowned Demographer Nathan Keyfitz and worked at IIASA’s Population Program. Later he joined IIASA’s Land-Use Change Program where he was responsible for a landmark study on China’s food security. His CD-ROM publication (“Can China feed itself?”) was widely discussed among Chinese experts and policy makers. Subsequently Mr. Heilig led the Institute’s Project on European Rural Development (ERD) and the Institute’s Research Activity on Sustainable Rural Development in China. Heilig was also a Guest Professor at the University of Vienna and a Guest Researcher at the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller Uni­versity, New York.

Trained as a sociologist and demographer in Germany Mr. Heilig has a Ph.D. in Sociology (Dr. phil.) and post-doctoral dissertation (Dr. rer pol) in Political Science with a specialization in Population Studies. His scientific work includes more than 50 papers on issues related to linkages between demographic change and economic development, policy decisions, (food ) consumption, land-use change and environ­mental risks.

Mr. Heilig has been developing specialized software and analytical models for research – including database tools and probabilistic models. These programs are now used at universities and research centers in more than 50 countries worldwide. He has also developed a Regional Analysis and Planning System (RAPS) for China and is author of several high-profile web sites.

Mr. Heilig has worked as a consultant for International Organizations, in­cluding the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Popu­lation Fund (UNFPA). He was invited for keynote speeches by various international think tanks, including the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, the U.S. Naval War College in Newport and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). Mr. Heilig also gave presentations at Kings Point Capital, Auerbach-Grayson LLC, the Morgan Creek Spring Investment Forum, and at the Strategas' Marco Conference.

Mr. Heilig was born in Munich, Germany and now lives near Vienna, Austria. He is married and has a daughter.


Riederberg, 17 April 2014

Copyright © 2012 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved.

Updated: 9 October 2013