International Conference on Population and Development

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The United Nations coordinated an International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Egypt, on 5–13 September 1994. Its resulting Programme of Action is the steering document for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).


Some 20,000 delegates from various governments, UN agencies, NGOs, and the media gathered for a discussion of a variety of population issues, including immigration, infant mortality, birth control, family planning, the education of women, and protection for women from unsafe abortion services.

Context and history

The first World Population Conference, organised by the League of Nations and Margaret Sanger, had been held at the Salle Central in Geneva, Switzerland from 29 August to 3 September 1927.

The first World Population Conference sponsored by the United Nations was held in 1954 in Rome, a second in 1965 in Belgrade, a third in 1974 in Bucharest, a fourth in 1984 in Mexico City.

Advocacy and criticism

The conference received considerable media attention due to disputes regarding the assertion of reproductive rights. The Holy See and several predominantly Islamic nations were staunch critics, and U.S. President Bill Clinton received considerable criticism from conservatives for his participation, considering the fact that president Ronald Reagan did not attend or fund the previous conference held in Mexico City in 1984. The official spokesman for the Holy See was archbishop Renato Martino.


During and after the ICPD, some interested parties attempted to interpret the term 'reproductive health' in the sense that it implies abortion as a means of family planning or, indeed, a right to abortion. These interpretations, however, do not reflect the consensus reached at the Conference. For the European Union, where legislation on abortion is less restrictive than elsewhere, the Council Presidency has clearly stated that the Council's commitment to promote 'reproductive health' did not include the promotion of abortion. [1] Likewise, the European Commission, in response to a question from a Member of the European Parliament, clarified:

"The term 'reproductive health' was defined by the United Nations (UN) in 1994 at the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development. All Member States of the Union endorsed the Programme of Action adopted at Cairo. The Union has never adopted an alternative definition of 'reproductive health' to that given in the Programme of Action, which makes no reference to abortion." [2]

With regard to the US, only a few days prior to the Cairo Conference, the head of the US delegation, Vice President Al Gore, had stated for the record:

"Let us get a false issue off the table: the US does not seek to establish a new international right to abortion, and we do not believe that abortion should be encouraged as a method of family planning." [3]

Some years later, the position of the US Administration in this debate was reconfirmed by US Ambassador to the UN, Ellen Sauerbrey, when she stated at a meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women that: "nongovernmental organizations are attempting to assert that Beijing in some way creates or contributes to the creation of an internationally recognized fundamental right to abortion". [4] She added: "There is no fundamental right to abortion. And yet it keeps coming up largely driven by NGOs trying to hijack the term and trying to make it into a definition". [5]


According to the official ICPD release, the conference delegates achieved consensus on the following four qualitative and quantitative goals: [6]

  1. Universal education: Universal primary education in all countries by 2015. Urge countries to provide wider access to women for secondary and higher level education as well as vocational and technical training.
  2. Reduction of infant and child mortality : Countries should strive to reduce infant and under-5 child mortality rates by one-third or to 50–70 deaths per 1000 by the year 2000. By 2015 all countries should aim to achieve a rate below 35 per 1,000 live births and under-five mortality rate below 45 per 1,000.
  3. Reduction of maternal mortality : A reduction by 1/2 the 1990 levels by 2000 and 1/2 of that by 2015. Disparities in maternal mortality within countries and between geographical regions, socio-economic and ethnic groups should be narrowed.
  4. Access to reproductive and sexual health services including family planning: Family-planning counseling, pre-natal care, safe delivery and post-natal care, prevention and appropriate treatment of infertility, prevention of abortion and the management of the consequences of abortion, treatment of reproductive tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases and other reproductive health conditions; and education, counseling, as appropriate, on human sexuality, reproductive health and responsible parenthood. Services regarding HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, infertility, and delivery should be made available. Active discouragement of female genital mutilation (FGM).


Nairobi Summit on ICPD25

The 2019 Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 was held in Nairobi in November. [8] It marks the 25th year of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). The government of Kenya, Denmark and UNFPA are co-convening the summit. It is a platform for all interested in the pursuit of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) which includes duty bearers, civil society organisations (CSOs), private sector organisation, women group, youth networks, faith base organisation etc. to discuss and agree on the actions to complete the ICPD Programme of Action. [9] [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

United Nations Population Fund United Nations organization

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, is a UN agency aimed at improving reproductive and maternal health worldwide. Its work includes developing national healthcare strategies and protocols, increasing access to birth control, and leading campaigns against child marriage, gender-based violence, obstetric fistula, and female genital mutilation.

Family planning Planning of when to have children, and the use of birth control and other techniques to implement such plans

Family planning services are “the ability of individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births. It is achieved through use of contraceptive methods and the treatment of involuntary infertility.” Family planning may involve consideration of the number of children a woman wishes to have, including the choice to have no children and the age at which she wishes to have them. These matters are influenced by external factors such as marital situation, career considerations, financial position, and any disabilities that may affect their ability to have children and raise them. If sexually active, family planning may involve the use of contraception and other techniques to control the timing of reproduction.

Maternal death

Maternal death or maternal mortality is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes."

Reproductive rights are legal rights and freedoms relating to reproduction and reproductive health that vary amongst countries around the world. The World Health Organization defines reproductive rights as follows:

Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.

Nafis Sadik, currently Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General with additional responsibilities as Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia, and former executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) from 1987 to 2000. She retired from this job in December 2000.

Reproductive health

Within the framework of the World Health Organization's (WHO) definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, reproductive health, or sexual health/hygiene, addresses the reproductive processes, functions and system at all stages of life. UN agencies claim sexual and reproductive health includes physical, as well as psychological well-being vis-a-vis sexuality.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is a global non-governmental organisation with the broad aims of promoting sexual and reproductive health, and advocating the right of individuals to make their own choices in family planning. It was first formed in 1952 in Bombay, India by Margaret Sanger and Lady Rama Rau at the Third International Conference on Planned Parenthood with support of an expanding population with limited resources. Presently, it consists of more than 149 Member Associations working in more than 189 countries. The IPPF is highly developed and organised into six regions. The organisation is based in London, England.

The World Population Foundation (WPF) was founded in 1987 in the Netherlands by Diana and Roy W. Brown. Their purpose was to create an organisation to draw attention to the effects of high birth rates and rapid population growth on maternal and infant mortality, communities and the environment, and to raise funds for population projects and programmes, with the ultimate aim of reducing world poverty and improving the quality of life of the world’s poorest people.

The Sandbæk Report was a report authored by Ulla Sandbæk that after being passed by the European Parliament is now a European Union regulation titled Aid for Policies and Actions on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights in Developing Countries.

Reproductive justice is "the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities," according to SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, the first organization founded to build a reproductive justice movement. In 1997, 16 women-of-color-led organizations representing four communities of color – Native American, Latin American, African American, and Asian American – then launched the nonprofit SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective to build a national reproductive justice movement. Additional organizations began to form or reorganize themselves as reproductive justice organizations starting in the early 2000s.

Population Action International (PAI) is an international, non-governmental organization that uses research and advocacy to improve global access to family planning and reproductive health care. Its mission is to "ensure that every person has the right and access to sexual and reproductive health, so that humanity and the natural environment can exist in balance with fewer people living in poverty". PAI's headquarters is in Washington, D.C.

Family planning in Pakistan

Even though there is considerable demand for family planning in Pakistan, the adoption of family planning has been hampered by government neglect, lack of services and misconceptions. Demographics play a large role in Pakistan's development and security since the recent change from military rule to civilian leadership. Challenges to Pakistani's well-being, opportunities for education and employment, and access to health care are escalated due to the country's continuously-growing population. It was estimated in 2005 that Pakistan's population totaled 151 million; a number which grows 1.9 percent annually, equaling a 2.9 million population growth per year. Though Pakistan's fertility rates still exceed those of neighboring South Asian countries with a total fertility rate at 4.1 and contraception use is lower than 35 percent, approximately one-fourth of Pakistani women wish to either delay the birth of their next child or end childbearing altogether.

Valerie DeFillipo is the President of Friends of UNFPA. She was appointed to this position in July 2011. As President at Friends of UNFPA DeFillipo leads efforts to mobilize funds and action for UNFPA's work.

Womens Global Network for Reproductive Rights

Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) that advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide. Based in the Global South, they are a membership-driven organization that "works within the rights, justice and feminist frameworks." WGNRR works towards the realization of the full sexual and reproductive health and rights. WGNRR has consultative status with ECOSOC.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights or SRHR is the concept of human rights applied to sexuality and reproduction. It is a combination of four fields that in some contexts are more or less distinct from each other, but less so or not at all in other contexts. These four fields are sexual health, sexual rights, reproductive health and reproductive rights. In the concept of SRHR, these four fields are treated as separate but inherently intertwined.

Reproductive rights in Latin America

While feminist movements became prevalent in Europe and North America in the 1960s and 1970s, the women of Latin America were gathering to oppose dictatorships and civil wars. As democracy began to spread across the region, feminist movements gradually began to push for more reproductive rights.

Frederick Torgbor Sai, was a Ghanaian academic and family health physician who co-founded the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana in 1967. A gender and reproductive health advocate, he was known for his campaigns and education drawing attention to the food and nutrition problems of Africa, particularly of women and children. He served as the Chief Physician for Nutrition and the Director of Medical Services at the Ghana Health Service and Professor of Community Health at the University of Ghana, Legon. He was also a nutrition advisor to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Africa Region as well as the coordinator for the World Hunger Programme of the United Nations University and a Senior Population Advisor to the World Bank. He was the President and Honorary Secretary of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. In professional circles, he was known as the “Godfather or Father of Family Planning” and sometimes as the “Grandfather of Maternal Health”.

International Family Planning and Development

International family planning programs aim to provide women around the world, especially in developing countries, with contraceptive and reproductive services that allow them to avoid unintended pregnancies and control their reproductive choices.

Mabel Bianco Argentine physician

Mabel Bianco is an Argentine physician who has devoted her career to fighting for women's access to improved health services and sex education. In 1989, she established the Foundation for Studies and Research on Women, and has continued to serve as its president. She has been an activist in Latin America and the world, introducing policies addressing breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, reproductive rights and gender reform in the UN.

My body, my choice Feminist slogan

My body, my choice is a feminist slogan used in several countries, most often surrounding issues of bodily autonomy and abortion.


  1. European Parliament, 4 December 2003: Oral Question (H-0794/03) for Question Time at the part-session in December 2003 pursuant to Rule 43 of the Rules of Procedure by Dana Scallon to the Council. In the written record of that session, one reads: Posselt (PPE-DE): “Does the term 'reproductive health' include the promotion of abortion, yes or no?” – Antonione, Council: “No.”
  2. European Parliament, 24 October 2002: Question no 86 by Dana Scallon (H-0670/02)
  3. Jyoti Shankar Singh, Creating a New Consensus on Population (London: Earthscan, 1998), 60
  4. Lederer, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 1 March 2005
  5. Leopold, Reuters, 28 February 2005
  6. "Report of the International Conference on Population and Development", UNFPA, 1995
  8. "Nairobi Summit on ICPD25".
  9. "ICPD25".
  10. "UNFPA".