UN Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
with support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)
INDIA HOSTS EXPERT GROUP MEETING The Government of India recently hosted the Expert Group Meeting on Family Planning, Health and Family Well-being in Bangalore from 26 to 29 October 1992. The meeting, an integral part of preparations for the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, focused on operational issues in family planning and health, such as how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of family planning programmes, how to reach larger segments of the population, how to devise innovative approaches to new or existing problems and how to obtain the funding to satisfy the ever-increasing demand for family planning services. In opening the Expert Group Meeting, India's Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Mrs. D.K. Thara Devi Siddhartha, called for shifting the emphasis in family planning programmes from the "quantitative" to the "qualitative" and stressed the need for an integrated approach to family planning services. Dr. Nafis Sadik Secretary-General of the 1994 Conference and Executive Director of UNFPA, highlighted the vast unmet demand for family planning -- the 300 million couples in developing countries who still lack access to modern family planning services -- and recalled the goals agreed upon at the International Forum on Population in the Twenty-first Century held in Amsterdam in November 1989, which would raise contraceptive prevalence in developing countries from 51 per cent to 59 per cent by the year 2000. She also emphasized the need for increased involvement of local communities in family planning services. Mr. Shunichi Inoue, Deputy Secretary-General of the Conference and Director of the UN Population Division, in addressing the opening session, stressed that the freedom of individuals to make their own reproductive choices should be the cornerstone of all policies and programmes in family planning. The more than 60 participants included experts, representatives of United Nations regional commissions, specialized agencies and organizations, and representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. Mr. Peter Sumbung (Indonesia) was elected chairman. Mr. Japhet Mati (Kenya), Mr. J.P. Gupta (India) and Ms. Elizabeth Maguire (United States) served as vice-chairmen. The Recommendations Committee was chaired by Ms. Maguire. Mr. John Cleland (United Kingdom) served as the Meeting's rapporteur. Participants argued for a more integrated approach to family planning policies and programmes. Family planning, they stressed, should be a major component of development strategy, and should not be seen as simply a matter of limiting births. The Group voiced its support for incorporating reproductive health and STD/AIDS prevention activities into maternal and child health/family planning programmes. The Group noted that while political commitment was very important, many well organized family planning programmes had been successful even in the absence of political support. However, the increasing demand for family planning services could not be met without substantial increases in resources from both donor and recipient countries. In discussing national family planning goals and targets, the Group noted that goals and targets should not be converted into service provider quotas. The best way of meeting national goals, the Group agreed, was to respond to the unmet needs of individuals and couples through the provision of high quality services. Participants recommended that Governments and international organizations give more support to non-governmental organizations (NGOs). NGOs were encouraged to coordinate their activities and emphasize their areas of comparative advantage. The Meeting adopted 35 recommendations which will be forwarded to the Preparatory Committee of the 1994 Conference.