UNFPAState of World Population 2004
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State of World Population
Population and Poverty
Population and the Environment
Migration and Urbanization
Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment
Reproductive Health and Family Planning
Maternal Health
Preventing HIV/AIDS
Adolescents and Young People
Reproductive Health for Communities in Crisis
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Putting People at the Centre
From Words to Action
Countries Report on Progress
National Ownership and Culture
Birth of a New Global Consensus
Wide-ranging Impact
Long Way to Go
The Way Forward

Long Way to Go

The progress countries have made to date in putting the ICPD’s recommendations into practice has laid the groundwork for further advances in ensuring reproductive health and rights. But the challenges remaining to be addressed are daunting:

RESOURCES FALL SHORT. In the face of these challenges, the response of the international community has been inadequate. After an initial surge following Cairo, resource levels have remained static.

Donor countries have made available only about half of the external resources that the ICPD agreed would be needed to implement the Programme of Action. Donors agreed to provide $6.1 billion a year for population and reproductive health programmes by 2005, a third of the total resources needed. Between 1999 and 2001 their contributions stayed at around $2.6 billion; in 2002 they increased to $3.1 billion.(8)

In the face of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, there are additional needs, particularly for a reliable and sufficient supply of reproductive health commodities, including male and female condoms.


Global population, now 6.4 billion, is still growing rapidly—currently by 76 million persons per year. By 2050, the United Nations projects the world will add some 2.5 billion people, an amount equal to the world’s total population in 1950.

Growth has slowed since it peaked in the mid-1990s at around 82 million annually. The average family size has declined from six children per woman in 1960 to around three today, as family planning has become more accessible and widely used. Projections suggest total population will start to level off by the middle of this century, as fertility drops to replacement level or lower.

But some countries will reach that point much later than others. Those with young populations (due to high fertility in the recent past) will continue to grow for decades even with small families as the norm. The number of adolescents, aged 10-19, is at an all-time high of 1.2 billion.

And in the poorest countries, where fertility and mortality remain high and access to family planning is limited, the transition to smaller families is only just beginning. The 50 least-developed countries are expected to grow by 228 per cent, to 1.7 billion by 2050.

Countries where fertility has fallen sharply will see a dramatic ageing of their populations in the decades ahead, a trend already well under way in developed countries and a major policy concern.

Ninety-six per cent of the projected growth will be in developing countries. The populations of Europe and Japan are now declining and the pace of decline is projected to double by 2010-2015; North America continues to grow at about 1 per cent annually, mostly because of immigration.

Today’s population estimates and growth projections are lower than those made a decade ago, largely because the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa has been worse than previously projected and growth in the developed countries has declined faster.

The 38 African countries most affected by HIV/AIDS are projected to have 823 million people in 2015, 91 million fewer than if no AIDS deaths had occurred but over 50 per cent more than today (without HIV/AIDS they would have grown by 70 per cent).

The United Nations’ projections of slower population growth assume that more couples will be able to choose to have smaller families; this will require greater investments to ensure wider access to reproductive health information and services, including family planning. See Sources

Figure 1: World Population, 1950-2050 (projected)

Click here to enlarge image

Click here to enlarge image

Source: UN Population Division
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