International Conference on Population and Development

Overview

Today, it is globally recognized that fulfilling the rights of women and girls is central to development. But if one were to trace the origins of this realization, many threads would lead back to Cairo in 1994.

There, at the International Conference on Population and Development, diverse views on human rights, population, sexual and reproductive health, gender equality and sustainable development merged into a remarkable global consensus that placed individual dignity and human rights, including the right to plan one’s family, at the very heart of development.

A quarter of a century later, the world has seen remarkable progress. There has been a 25 per cent increase in global contraceptive prevalence rate around the world. Adolescent births have declined steeply, and the global maternal mortality ratio has fallen. But progress has been slow and uneven. Hundreds of millions of women around the world are still not using modern contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and global targets on reducing maternal deaths have not been met.

In November 2019, governments, advocates, health organizations, women’s and youth activists and others will gather in Kenya for the Nairobi Summit. There, they will seek clear commitments that will advance the goals of the ICPD and secure the rights and dignity of all.

Principles of the ICPD

The ICPD Programme of Action, adopted in 1994 by 179 Member States, lays out a far-sighted plan for advancing human well-being that places the human rights of individuals, rather than numerical population targets, at the centre of the global development agenda.

It emphasizes the value of investing in women and girls, both as an end in itself and as a key to improving the quality of life for everyone. And it affirms the importance of sexual and reproductive health, including family planning, as a precondition for women’s empowerment. It calls for an end to gender-based violence and harmful traditional practices, including female genital mutilation.

Further, the Programme of Action highlights the crucial links between sexual and reproductive health and rights with almost every aspect of population and development, from urbanization, migration and ageing to changing family structures and the importance of addressing the rights of young people. It calls attention to the ways in which investing in women and youth, especially in their sexual and reproductive health, can impact environmental sustainability and population dynamics.

UNFPA generates annual assessments of the levels of national resources and international assistance required for implementation of the Programme of Action, which governments agreed to make available. Initially considered to have a 20-year time horizon, the Programme of Action was extended beyond 2014 by the General Assembly.

Sustainable Development 

In 2015, world leaders unanimously adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, a historic set of goals to eliminate poverty, achieve gender equality, and secure the health and well-being of all people. The 17 global goals, also called Agenda 2030, call for collective effort across a wide range of areas – including environmental action, public health, human rights, education, and much more – to usher in a new era of development around the world.

At the 2019 Commission on Population and Development, government representatives agreed that the principles of the ICPD Programme of Action are essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, taking place in November, will seek additional commitments from governments, organizations, advocates and others, to accelerate efforts to realize the goals of the Programme of Action at last.

 

ICPD publications

Sex Imbalances at Birth
This report offers an updated review of the various facets and the latest trends and differentials in sex selection in Asia.
Population Matters for Sustainable Development
This report provides key messages on the relationship between population dynamics and sustainable development. It was prepared in the lead-up to Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development,...
ICPD at 15 - Report
After more than a decade and a half, the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development remains a visionary, holistic and pragmatic blueprint for countries seeking to address many of...

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ICPD updates

New mothers in David, Panama. Women's sexual and reproductive health, and their rights during childbirth, took centre stage at the 2016 UN Population Awards. © UNFPA/Guadalupe Valdes
24 June 2016 Carmen Barroso and Childbirth with Dignity Foundation win 2016 UN Population Award
Women's health and rights took centre stage at yesterday's United Nations Population Award ceremony, held at UN Headquarters in New York. The UN honoured Brazilian social scientist Carmen Barroso and the...
Over the last 70 years, there has been remarkable progress in sexual and reproductive health. Women learn about family planning at a clinic in Tunisia in 1987. © UN Photo/John Isaac
23 October 2015 Five of the greatest sexual health advances since the birth of the UN
The United Nations was founded 70 years ago. In that time, the world has seen enormous advances in sexual and reproductive health. These changes have helped policymakers recognize that healthy and empowered women are...
15 April 2014 Harnessing the potential of Africa’s youth
UNITED NATIONS, New York – The growing number of young people in Africa could offer enormous potential gains to the continent, but only if their needs are met and their rights are fulfilled. This was the central message...

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ICPD Programme of Action

Videos

The ICPD in Cairo opened a new chapter by placing the needs and rights of the individual at the heart of development policies and programmes. Watch this video to see why the commitments made then are as important today as they were 20 years ago.