International Conference on Population and Development


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.

Twenty years later, the comprehensive ICPD Beyond 2014 Review overwhelmingly supported the consensus that investing in individual human rights, capabilities and dignity ‒ across multiple sectors and through the life course ‒ is the foundation of sustainable development.

In September 2014, a Special Session of the General Assembly endorsed the findings of the 20-year review, and governments committed to intensified efforts to address gaps and emerging challenges.

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.

The ICPD Beyond 2014

The insistance of the Cairo Programme of Action that individual dignity and human rights are the foundation of a resilient, sustainable future was groundbreaking in 1994, but has been validated by a series of in-depth reviews. 

The most ambitious of these culminated in 2014. At the 20th anniversary of the Cairo Conference, the General Assembly, in a special session, called upon countries to fulfill the commitments they made in Cairo twently years earlier and address widening inequalities and emerging challenges, as outlined in the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report (formally, the Framework of Actions for the follow-up to the Programme of Action of the ICPD), which was launched by the United Nations.   

The report draws on the findings of a global survey, consultations with stakeholders and partners, and the outcomes of the regional and thematic conferences and meetings. The review substantiates the central premises of the ICPD and points to significant progress in some areas, for some people. However, it also finds that little has changed for the poorest and most marginalized. It also provides governments with evidence-based guidance on how to realize the unfinished ICPD agenda, including by prioritizing the rights of young people -- in terms of education, sexual and reproductive health, and decent work. It also proposes ways to accelerate implementation of the Programme of Actuion in support of countries' development objectives. 

The timeline in this section provides details on the major conferences leading up to the ICPD Beyond 2014, as well as the regional and thematic conferences that took place during the recent extensive review process of the ICPD Programme of Action. 

ICPD Beyond 2014, the MDGs and the future development agenda

The ICPD principles and benchmarks informed the Millennium Development Goals, especially MDG5. With the endpoint of the MDGs approaching (at the end of 2015), the United Nations conducted the most comprehensive and far-reaching consultative processes in its history to inform the subsequent global development agenda. It drew from national, regional and international conferences and thematic consultations that included governments, civil society organizations and other stakeholders, as well as an online survey, The World We Want , which garnered the opinions of more than 5 million individuals. This United Nations process to reach a collective vision for the future overlapped with the parallel stream of consultations related to the ICPD.

At the launch of the ICPD beyond 2014 report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged Member States to use the information it provides in their deliberations on the UN development agenda that will follow the Millennium Development Goals, and urged the international community to build on the successes it documents by giving priority to reproductive health and reproductive rights for all.

The ICPD beyond 2014 report provides specific recommendations on steps Member States can take to realize the unfinished agenda of Cairo.



ICPD publications

Focus on 5
These briefing cards outline why decision-makers should prioritise saving mothers’ and newborns’ lives and key investments they should make in order to achieve that goal.
Cairo to 2015: The Road to Success
Findings of a global survey of parliamentarians undertaken in 2006.
World Reaffirms Cairo
UNFPA, in cooperation with the relevant agencies, published in early 2005 a compendium of the official outcomes of the ICPD at Ten, entitled "The World Reaffirms Cairo: Official Outcomes of the ICPD at Ten Review". The...


ICPD updates

3 October 2013 Participants in ICPD review meeting make recommendations in key areas to improve sexual and reproductive health, accelerate development.
MEXICO CITY — Experts participating in a key meeting on women’s health in Mexico have put forward their recommendations for the future development agenda, centred on the need for equality, quality and accountability in...
2 October 2013 Empowering women, girls and the marginalised will power African development
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Representatives from 52 African countries, UN agencies, civil society, and youth organizations are gathered at the Regional Conference on Population and Development Beyond 2014 to review the...
30 September 2013 Participants in a meeting convened in Mexico this week want bold, concrete recommendations for the development agenda
MEXICO CITY — The expert meeting on women’s health is the third and last in a series of thematic discussions aiming to supplement the review process of the International Conference on Population and Development and...


ICPD Programme of Action


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.