Executive Director Says Slowing Population Growth Rate Is Tribute to Success of Cairo Conference

  • 02 April 2002

The fact that the world's population has not grown as fast as previously projected is an affirmation of the vision and success of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo 1994). That decline in fertility was due to improved levels of schooling, higher survival rates of children, and better access to contraceptives, Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), told the United Nations Commission on Population and Development.

"The slowdown in population growth does not mean we can slow down efforts for population and reproductive health-quite the contrary," she cautioned in a statement during the opening of the thirty-fifth session of the Commission at the United Nations Headquarters on 1 April. The theme of the session is reproductive rights and reproductive health, with special reference to HIV/AIDS.

"If we want real progress and if we want the projections to come true, we must step up efforts to provide reproductive health services because demand is growing," stated Ms. Obaid. "Over the next 25 years, the world would add as many people as it did the past 25 years. And while people are ageing, the world has more young people than ever before."

"Today there are more than 120 million women who want to space the births of their children or stop having children altogether but they do not have access to family planning services. And demand for contraception is expected to increase by a further 40 per cent in the next 15 years," she continued, adding, "the condition that would allow the decline in population (growth rate) over a long period of time is dependent on the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action, especially the availability of choices for women to determine the number and spacing of their children. This is a fact that needs to be clearly remembered by all concerned."

The Executive Director said that the world was faced with a paradox: The need for reproductive health services was great and growing but, at the same time, funding for such services was declining. So far, governments had contributed about $11 billion of the $17 billion that was agreed at the ICPD. Developing countries had reached about 80 per cent of their target of $11.3 billion, but the developed countries had not met even 50 per cent of the $ 5.7 billion that was needed from them. It was time for the developed countries to act on their commitments and raise development assistance in line with their Cairo commitment.

"Commitments to fight poverty and inequality must be matched by resources," she said. "Failure to meet agreed financial targets is derailing the achievement of international development goals, especially in the poorest countries. And the consequences are tragic."

Reproductive rights, as defined by the ICPD, are basic human rights, she said. If further progress was to be made, reproductive health and rights must be placed high on the agenda of upcoming global meetings, such as the World Assembly on Ageing, the Children's Summit and the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

On HIV/AIDS, she noted that despite increased awareness and commitment, the pandemic continued to spread. Most poor women and adolescents still did not have the education and health services they needed.

The UNFPA had spearheaded a global campaign for reproductive health essentials, such as condoms, she said. The funding need for contraceptives for family planning and condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS would double in the next 15 years to $1.8 billion, but despite that growing need, donor support for contraceptives was at its lowest level in five years.


The UNFPA is the world's largest international source of population assistance. Since it became operational in 1969, the Fund has provided about $5.6 billion in assistance to virtually all developing countries.

Contact Information:

Obi Emekekwue
Tel.: +1 (212) 297-5043

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