The basic international agreement on population and development is the Programme of Action, the final document of the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994.
The Programme of Action, the consensus of 179 countries at ICPD, says (in a nutshell) that countries have the right to make their own population policies; and that men and women equally have the right to make their own decisions on family size. Coercion of any kind has no part to play.
The ICPD consensus contributed to the Millennium Development Goals. Gender equality is one of the Goals. Education and health care, including reproductive health and rights, are also part of the Goals.
Part of the ICPD agreement in 1994 is a schedule of international assistance to help poor countries meet the agreed goals.
Women with their children at a clinic at the Grafton camp for displaced people, located in Freetown, Sierra Leone, 2002.
Photo: © Teun Voeten/UNFPA
On the tenth anniversary of the Millennium Summit, Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, along with the private sector, foundations, international organizations, civil society and research organizations, kicked off a major concerted worldwide effort to accelerate progress on women's and children's health.
There have already been many successes – death in childbirth is down by 40 per cent since 1990; but the goal is 75 per cent. Nearly two-thirds of women have access to modern family planning – but the goal of universal reproductive health care coverage is far off. Most of the gains are concentrated in 12 big emerging and developing countries. For poor women in most developing countries, nothing has changed. An estimated 200 million women would use family planning today if they could, but they don’t have the option.