UNFPA - 2008 Annual Report

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Poverty, population and development

Using population data and gaining insights into population dynamics to make sustainable development a reality

Years of civil war left Liberia with much to rebuild, but too little reliable information to decide on priorities. UNFPA assisted with two demographic and health surveys, which contributed to national capacity to collect and analyse data and established a database for socio-economic development planning, in the lead-up to the country's first population and housing census in 24 years in March 2008. UNFPA helped the country plan and mobilize resources for this monumental event, which was kicked off by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. The official results of the census, expected in 2009, will enable Liberia to evaluate progress toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals and aid local, national and international development efforts.

To eradicate poverty, governments must be able to design and implement policies and programmes based on reliable population data on changing age structures, geographic mobility, fertility and mor-tality. UNFPA uses data to help governments make sense of what is happening in their countries and to guide them in making better investments in the areas of reproductive health, education and gender equality.

UNFPA's mandate remains central to poverty reduction and the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 1, especially in view of the projected population growth in the developing world, where nine tenths of this growth will occur in the poorest of these countries.

One of the main goals of UNFPA's Strategic Plan for 2008–2011 is to make use of analyses of population dynamics to guide increased investments in gender equality, youth development, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS for improved quality of life and sustainable development and poverty reduction. UNFPA is already playing a critical role in helping the international community understand population trends and devise the best solutions for achieving sustainable development. But before trend analysis, data must be collected reliably, accurately and comprehensively. To this end, UNFPA began assisting countries in 2008 with preparations for 2010 censuses, which will include the gathering of data to assess progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals as well as the goals of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development. In anticipation of the upcoming 15th anniversary of the conference, UNFPA convened a meeting of experts in 2008 to revise the cost estimates to implement the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action. The new estimates are included in a report of the Secretary-General to be presented at the Commission on Population and Development in 2009. The report points out that without political will, renewed commitment and sufficient resources to meet current needs, it will be impossible to achieve the goals of the International Conference on Population and Development or those declared at the Millennium Summit.

Drawing on Population Data to Support Development

Governments need high-quality data to establish or refine national development plans and other policies to overcome poverty and address inequities. Using the latest tools and technology, UNFPA helps countries develop the capacity they need to collect, analyse and use data to improve people's lives.


Under extremely challenging conditions, Sudan, with extensive help from UNFPA and stakeholders, successfully conducted "field enumeration" for its fifth population and housing census. Field enumeration refers to the actual collection of data from households. UNFPA played leadership and coordinating roles by offering technical support that ensured the census met international standards and yielded complete and credible information.

The International Census Advisory Board, established by UNFPA to aid the census in Afghanistan, provided technical assistance in 2008 to aid the censuses in Mongolia and other countries.

UNFPA developed two instruments to contribute to the planning and mobilization of resources for 2010 censuses: a census-costing instrument to enable country census offices to develop budgets, and a census database to provide donors and technical assistance agencies with overviews of countries' census activities.

Malawi and Chad prepared effective resource mobilization strategies for their censuses, raising $18 million and $9 million, respectively.

Addressing Urbanization and Migration

The year 2008 marked the first time in history that more than half of the world's population lived in towns and cities. Urban growth is increasingly the result of internal growth, rather than the result of migration from rural areas, even though rural-to-urban migration is still an important force in some regions. Urban growth creates opportunities but also presents challenges, particularly for women and young people. Though urban growth has the potential to boost economic growth, most cities lack the capacity to take advantage of all the opportunities that new dwellers may offer. UNFPA works with cities and countries to tackle the challenges presented by urbanization and to realize the benefits that come with it. UNFPA encourages governments to consider urbanization an inevitable process and to develop policies in advance that will create opportunities for the urban poor. The Fund advocates for the inclusion of policies and programmes that take urbanization into consideration in the context of national and local development plans. By 2030, almost 5 billion people will inhabit cities.

International migration has important implications for demographic dynamics, gender and young people, and is therefore relevant to the core mandate of UNFPA. An increasing focus on interlinkages among migration, poverty reduction and development also has significant implications for UNFPA programmes in social and economic development, gender, youth and human rights. UNFPA's work in this arena continued to focus in 2008 on improving data, research and institutional capacity for formulating, monitoring and evaluating migration policies and programmes; promoting policy dialogue on migration issues; and advocacy.


UNFPA prepared the Report of the Secretary-General on the Monitoring of Population Programmes Focusing on Population Distribution, Urbanization, Internal Migration and Development. The report examined the unprecedented transformation of world population from rural to urban brought about by migration from rural areas and by the natural increase of the urban population, as well as the reclassification of settlements that were previously considered rural. The report described UNFPA's assistance to countries in addressing the challenges of rapid urban growth.

UNFPA chaired the Global Migration Group from January to June 2008. Under UNFPA's leadership, all 14 member agencies of the group collaborated on a joint publication, International Migration and Human Rights. The report was presented to delegates attending the Global Forum on Migration and Development in October, and at a special event commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights during the 63rd Session of the General Assembly in December. In his foreword to the publication, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised UNFPA for initiating the project. The report states that migrants have rights, which States have an obligation to protect even when they exercise their sovereign right to determine who enters and remains in their territories. Cooperation between governments in countries of origin, transit and destination and among NGOs, civil society and migrants themselves is essential to ensure that international human rights instruments are implemented and that migrants are aware of their rights and obligations.

Facing the Challenges of Ageing Populations

The world's population overall is growing more slowly than in previous years, but the share of the population that is 60 years or older is increasing faster than any other age segment. By 2050, there will be two elderly people for every child in developed countries. The percentage of older people is expected to rise from 10 per cent in 2005 to 20 per cent by 2050 in developing countries. Many countries, however, lack the policies and resources to adequately respond to the needs of the growing numbers of older persons. UNFPA focuses on building national capacity and sharing knowledge that will facilitate the formulation of public policy to face the social, economic and health challenges of ageing populations. The Fund continued to promote the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, a commitment made by governments in 2002 to address the needs of older persons.

World Population Day: Making Family Planning a Reality

World Population Day in 2008, with its theme, "It's a right, let's make it real," called attention to the importance of family planning. "When a woman can plan her family, she can plan the rest of her life," UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said in her statement on the day. "Information and services for family planning allow individuals and couples to realize their right to determine the number, spacing and timing of their children." Despite its significance, many people, particularly those in developing countries, go without contraception and family planning information, mainly because of insufficient funding for programmes.

Nepal marked the day with a student song competition on the theme of family planning and an essay competition at the Asian College for Advance Studies. Guyana followed an official observance of the day with dissemination of information on the importance of family planning to marginalized communities. In Burkina Faso, Muslim leaders agreed to engage in a vast effort to promote family planning throughout the country.


UNFPA collaborated with the United Nations Programme on Ageing to enhance governmental capacity to design and monitor the implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. The first of several planned regional training workshops on this topic was attended by more than 40 participants from 12 countries of the former Soviet Union.

UNFPA convened two special sessions at the World Ageing and Generations Congress in St. Gallen, Switzerland: one on women, health and emerging care-giving needs in developing countries, the other on building capacity to implement the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.

Linking Population Issues to Climate Change

Without a sustainable environment, it will be impossible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Population size and growth rates and population composition and distribution affect the amount of natural resources consumed and determine prospects for development. The problems that come with climate change often wreak the most havoc in developing countries, where large increases in population are generally accompanied by fragile environmental conditions. UNFPA helps governments better understand the links between population trends and dynamics and the environment. The Fund also assists governments in developing national strategies, particularly in the area of adaptation, to enable them to minimize the effects of climate change.


UNFPA contributed to Acting on Climate Change: The UN Delivering as One, the climate change action framework of the Chief Executives Board for Coordination. The framework was presented at the 14th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Poznan´ in December. As a result of UNFPA's efforts, the framework articulated the importance of incorporating census data collection and analysis into adaptation strategies for climate change.

As part of an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, UNFPA—for the first time—had all of its World Population Day resource materials printed locally. Country offices reduced paper and printing costs and greenhouse-gas emissions by printing only what was needed, and because materials did not have to be shipped long distances, less fuel was consumed.