UNFPA State of World Population 2004
UNFPA State of World Population 2004
Ten Years on,
UNFPA Reports Uneven Progress in Implementing Landmark Population and
Development Consensus; Funding Gap Imperils Efforts to Reduce Maternal Deaths,
Prevent HIV/AIDS and Ensure Reproductive Rights.Source: UNFPA Report, London,
On 13 September 1994 in Cairo, after nine days of intense debate, the
International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) adopted a
wide-ranging 20-year action plan that delegates and commentators hailed as
opening a “new era in population”.
Underpinned by a commitment to human rights and gender equality, the Cairo
agreement called on countries to ensure reproductive health and rights for all
as a critical contribution to sustainable development and the fight against
poverty, which the ICPD saw as inseparable from addressing population concerns.
“You have crafted a Programme of Action for the next 20 years, which starts from
the reality of the world we live in, and shows us a path to a better reality,”
Dr. Nafis Sadik, UNFPA Executive Director and Secretary-General of the
conference, told delegates at the closing session. “The Programme contains
highly specific goals and recommendations in the mutually reinforcing areas of
infant and maternal mortality, education, and reproductive health and family
planning, but its effect will be far widerranging than that. This Programme of
Action has the potential to the change the world.”
Ten years into the new era, it is time to take stock:
A WIDE MANDATE
The 1994 Conference was explicitly given a broader
mandate on development issues than previous population conferences,
reflecting the growing awareness that population, poverty, patterns of
production and consumption and the environment are so closely interconnected
that none of them can be considered in isolation.
—ICPD Programme of Action, para. 1.5
But the Cairo conference radically changed the international community’s
approach to the interlinked challenges of population and development, putting
human beings and human rights, rather than population numbers and growth rates,
at the centre of the equation.
At the heart of this paradigm shift was the move away from a perception of
population as essentially a macro-economic variable for planning and policy, to
a rights-based approach in which the well-being of individuals is key. The ICPD
Programme of Action called for policies and programmes to take an integrated
approach— linking population action to human development, women’s empowerment,
gender equality, and the needs and rights of individuals, including young
The ICPD Programme of Action recognized that investing in people, in broadening
their opportunities and enabling them to realize their potential as human beings,
is the key to sustained economic growth and sustainable development, as well as
to population levels that are in balance with the environment and available
As part of this shift, the ICPD grounded family planning, once the main focus of
population policies and programmes, within a broader framework of reproductive
health and rights, including family planning and sexual health. It recognized
reproductive health as a human right for all people throughout their life cycle,
and urged countries to strive for universal access to comprehensive reproductive
health services by 2015 (see Chapter 6).
The ICPD consensus recognized that enabling couples and individuals to freely
determine the number, timing and spacing of their children would speed progress
towards smaller families and slower population growth, contributing to economic
growth and reducing poverty, at both the household and macro levels. Conversely,
it understood that not addressing needs and major gaps in reproductive health
services would help perpetuate high fertility, high maternal mortality and rapid
population growth, undermining poverty reduction prospects (see Chapter 2).
Empowering women was recognized as an important end in itself, as well as a
key to improving the quality of life of everyone. Without the full and equal
participation of women, there can be no sustainable human development. The
Programme of Action stressed the importance of reproductive rights to women’s
autonomy, as a complement to education, economic empowerment and political
participation (see Chapter 5).
Important breakthroughs were made in facing up to urgent but sensitive
challenges including adolescents’ sexual health, HIV/AIDS and unsafe abortion.
Unprecedented attention was given to underserved groups, including the rural
poor, indigenous peoples, urban slum dwellers, and refugees and internally
- Participation and Partrnership
The Cairo agreement also envisioned a participatory and accountable
development process, actively involving beneficiaries to ensure that programmes
and policy goals are linked with personal realities, and to building broad
partnerships between governments, international organizations and civil society.