STATE OF WORLD POPULATION 2008
Culture is and always has been central to development. As a natural and fundamental dimension of people's lives, culture must be integrated into development policy and programming. This report shows how this process works in practice.
The implementation of the recommendations contained in the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development is the sovereign right of each country, consistent with national laws and development priorities, with full respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of its people, and in conformity with universally recognized international human rights.
— International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, Principles.
Legitimating human rights in local cultures and religious traditions is a matter of vital importance for the survival and future development of the human rights paradigm itself.
Cultures are neither static nor monolithicâ€¦. They adapt to new opportunities and challenges and evolving realities. What is seen as "the culture" may in fact be a viewpoint held by a small group of elites keen to hold onto their power and status. The tensions and diverging goals inherent in every culture create opportunities for UNFPA to promote human rights and gender equality, particularly when UNFPA can partner with local agents of social change and challenge dominant views from within the same cultural frame of reference.
Reproductive rights derive from the recognition of the basic right of all individuals and couples to make decisions about reproduction free from discrimination, coercion or violence. They include the right to the highest standard of health and the right to determine the number, timing and spacing of children. They comprise the right to safe child-bearing, and the right of all individuals to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Sustainable development decreases poverty and inequality and promotes socio-economic inclusion for all groups. Unequal distribution of the products of economic growth increases both the extent and the depth of poverty. Poverty and inequality limit access to resources and opportunities. In this reality, cultural components such as family relationships, patterns of human activity, coping strategies and prescribed and unsanctioned behaviours are important and consistent features. Poor health and low levels of education make it more difficult to translate additional income into improved well-being, preventing people from establishing or reaching personal goals.
Since the end of the Cold War, most armed conflicts have been within rather than between States. Between 1998 and 2007, there were 34 major armed conflicts — all but three internal — and about four times that many armed conflicts in total. Far more civilians than soldiers become casualties in these conflicts, many of them women and girls.
The starting point of this report is the universal validity and application of the international human rights framework. Understanding how values, practices and beliefs affect human behaviour is fundamental to the design of effective programmes that help people and nations realize human rights. Nowhere is this understanding more important than in the area of power relations between men and women and their impact on reproductive health and rights. Development practice is firmly located at this nexus of culture, gender relations and human rights. It is from this point that creative and sustainable interventions emerge.
The statistical tables in this year's report give special attention to indicators that can help track progress in meeting international development goals in the areas of mortality reduction, HIV prevalence among young people, and access to education and reproductive health services, including family planning. Technical notes for the indicators and their rationale for selection follow.